Skip to main content

Greater Houston Partnership Supports $3.5 Billion METRO Bond Election

Published Aug 22, 2019 by A.J. Mistretta

HOUSTON – On Wednesday, August 21, the board of directors of the Greater Houston Partnership, the region’s leading economic development and business organization, voted to support the ballot item on the November 5, 2019 general election authorizing the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) to issue up to $3.5 billion in bonds to finance the implementation of a subset of projects contained in its METRONext plan. 

In the months before the board’s vote, the Partnership’s Transportation Advisory Committee, chaired by Mark Cover, CEO Southwest Region at Hines, and vice chaired by Walt Mischer, partner at Mischer Investments, studied the proposed routes and services, ridership projections, cash-flow analyses, and transit modeling forecasts. 

In particular, the committee worked to ensure the plan was fiscally responsible, contains a proper multi-modal balance, includes the flexibility to adapt to technological advancements, and structured in a manner that is responsive to the future availability of matching funds and the feasibility of implementation.

Combined with a potential match of $3.5 billion in federal funds and $500 million in other available local funds, the $3.5 billion bond will allow for up to $7.5 billion in transit network development – projects, that according to the Partnership, will be crucial for the growth and mobility demands of the Houston region for the next several decades.

“We thank METRO officials for their willingness to sit down with us to discuss the bond proposal and the METRONext plan,” said Mark Cover. “The ability of Houstonians to more efficiently move around our region is essential to our continued economic success – both for our businesses and our employees and their families. The METRONext plan directs our transit plans between now and 2040. It is critical that we get this right, and I think we are on a good path.”

The plan includes 75 miles of bus rapid transit (BRT) service, called METRORAPID, connecting major business districts along with George Bush Intercontinental Airport. BRT projects are expanding around the world for their more cost-efficient, high-speed movement of riders when compared to other modes of public transportation.

In addition, the plan calls for approximately 110 miles of new or improved HOV lanes to support regional express bus service and carpooling. The funds will also be used to upgrade Park & Ride facilities across the region and enhance service on 16 of the region’s most frequently travelled routes.

The committee was pleased with the transit authority’s decision to modify the original light rail plan that proposed to extend both the Purple and Green lines to Hobby. Instead, the new plan connects the two lines and looks to a future extension of a single line to Hobby. This modification resulted in $350-400 million in savings that will be reallocated to enhance other services that will benefit the broader community.

The Partnership’s Transportation Advisory Committee worked to understand the significant cost differences between developing BRT and other services compared to extending light rail service. The Committee’s discussions with METRO stressed the importance of maximizing efficiencies to focus on serving the broader community.

 “When taken in its entirety, the METRONext plan will help keep our region moving,” said Walt Mischer, “We appreciate the importance they have placed on maintaining fiscally responsible practices while enhancing mobility. We are pleased to support the projects and the funding package to bring them into reality.”  

Registered voters within the METRO service area, which includes 14 cities in the region and major portions of unincorporated Harris County, will vote on the bond item as part of the November 5, 2019 general election. 

The ballot item will also include the continuation of the General Mobility Program (GMP) through 2040, which is funded by a 25 percent allocation from METRO's one percent sales tax revenue.  The GMP provides funds for the construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure and related drainage improvements throughout the City of Houston, Harris County and 14 surrounding local jurisdictions. The GMP has provided approximately $180 million in FY 2019 and $3.2 billion since the program’s inception. It's estimated to contribute an additional $5.4 billion through 2040.

Greater Houston Partnership 
The Greater Houston Partnership works to make Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. As the economic development organization for the region, the Partnership champions growth across 11 counties by bringing together business and civic-minded leaders who are dedicated to the area’s long-term success. Representing more than 1,000 member organizations and approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, the Partnership is the place companies come together to make an impact. Learn more at Houston.org. 

CONTACT:    A.J. Mistretta                    Maggie Martin 
                     (o) 713-844-3664              (o) 713-844-3640
                     (c) 504-450-3516              mmartin@houston.org 
                     amistretta@houston.org             

Related News

Education

5 Houston City Council Members Talk Resiliency, Education

1/31/20
Providing opportunity for all and a great quality of life through quality city services was top of mind for five Houston City Council Members at the Greater Houston Partnership on Friday. They addressed a sold-out room at a Future of Texas event and included:  •    Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Castex-Tatum, District K •    Council Member Amy Peck, District A •    Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, Ed.D., District D •    Council Member Tiffany Thomas, District F •    Council Member Edward Pollard, District J Here are highlights from the discussion: Opportunity for All: Providing high-quality education to Houston students The panel answered questions regarding the city’s role in supporting education in the city and collaborating with regional partners to improve opportunity for all. Council Member Evans-Shabazz, a former Houston Community College Board of Trustee Chairwoman, discussed the importance of the city’s role in supporting education. She said that it is important for the city to help ensure school safety, including cleaning up communities around schools to foster a safe environment for students. Council Member Evans-Shabazz also discussed workforce development as a priority for residents in the area she represents, District D.  Council Member Thomas agreed. As a former member of the Alief ISD Board of Trustees, she said that as a business community and a city, we need to think differently about leveraging our efforts in workforce development to address Houston’s workforce gap. You can read more about the Partnership’s efforts to strengthen the region’s talent pipeline, here. Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Castex-Tatum addressed public education in Houston. She said that it is incumbent upon the city to support all school districts in the region, and it is incumbent on city leaders to work closely with school districts, including Houston ISD, to support those districts. Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Castex-Tatum concluded, that great communities have great schools, and quality of life within communities is strongly tied to education.  Great Quality of Life: Building a more resilient Houston after Hurricane Harvey Council Members also discussed the city’s response to Hurricane Harvey and how to build a more resilient Houston. Council Member Pollard said that the city’s response to severe weather events needs to be multi-pronged. He called on city leaders to go into each impacted community to talk with residents and learn how flooding affects them and to learn from them how Houston should improve its mitigation efforts. He emphasized that city leaders need to convene experts from Harris county as well as the private sector to mitigate flooding issues. Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Castex-Tatum also agreed that city leaders should look to residents and engage them for input and solutions to Houston’s flooding challenges. She urged residents and businesses to consider the members of Houston City Council as allies in finding solutions. Quality City Services City Council Members discussed their priorities for 2020 and improving city services. Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Castex-Tatum established a clean district as a baseline of what the city offers. She said that combating illegal dumping is a priority in her district, District K, which has launched the #CleanStateofMind campaign. She discussed her district’s efforts to curb illegal dumping, including adding regular patrols around 22 chronic dumping spaces.  Council Member Evans-Shabazz discussed city services more broadly, and she urged residents to utilize the 3-1-1 app to report issues in real time to city services. Homelessness in Houston During Mayor Turner’s inaugural address, he announced plans for an initiative to continue to address Houston’s homeless challenge. During the Future of Texas panel discussion, Houston City Council Members also discussed their priorities for housing and supporting Houston’s homeless. Council Member Evans-Shabazz focused on the homeless population that has been previously incarcerated. She outlined a priority for compassionate second chances for housing, employment and other supportive services to help Houston’s homeless.  Council Member Thomas said that homelessness goes hand-in-hand with Houston's housing crisis. She said that city leaders need to develop a more comprehensive housing plan to address this issue as well as wraparound services to move people from the streets into permanent housing.  Next Month: Future of Texas On February 21st, the Partnership will host a second Future of Texas panel featuring Houston City Council Members.  The Future of Texas series, which is a part of our Business Resource Group (BRG), features elected officials shaping our state's future, giving Partnership members the opportunity to engage with these leaders and hear their perspectives on our city and state's most pressing issues. Learn more here.  
Read More
Economic Development

Partnership Members Drive Powerful Impact

12/19/19
The Greater Houston Partnership works alongside our 1,100 members to make the greater Houston region one of the best places to live, work and build a business. When companies and organizations join the Partnership, they invest in making Houston greater.  In January 2019, the Partnership launched Houston Next, a strategic plan to advance Houston as a great global city, one that centers around driving a strong, diverse, 21st century economy; ensuring a great quality of life; and offering opportunity for all.  Beyond investing in the Partnership’s mission, much of the Partnership’s efforts are made possible by the active engagement of members in our work.  Below is a snapshot of the impact made possible by our members in 2019.  Driving a Strong, Diverse, 21st Century Economy In 2019, the Partnership and its regional allies assisted in more than 50 economic development projects, which resulted in $1.1+ billion in capital investments and the creation of approximately 3,158 jobs. Along with business and civic leaders including Mayor Sylvester Turner, the Partnership led four major business recruitment trips to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, New York City and London. Participants attended 33 company prospect meetings and networked with nearly 200 business leaders. The Partnership also extended global ties, welcoming 133 delegations from more than 4 countries. Partnership Economic Development and Public Policy Committees, which are comprised of hundreds of members, also guided and assisted in the recruitment of targeted companies across key verticals and addressed policy issues carrying tax and fiscal consequences. Ensuring a Great Quality of Life The Partnership took tremendous strides toward improving the quality of life of Houstonians in 2019, particularly when it comes to building a more resilient Texas. During the 86th Legislative Session, the Infrastructure and Resiliency Advisory Committee helped advocate for recovery and resilience funding, which resulted in the passage of Texas' first flood planning, recovery and resilience package. That legislation secured $2 billion in state funding, which will draw down approximately $5 billion in federal funding for statewide recovery and resilience.  The Transportation Advisory Committee also worked to improve local transportation infrastructure by advocating for voters to approve METRO’s bond referendum. The approved measure grants METRO $3.5 billion in bonding authority, which when combined with a potential match of $3.5 billion in federal funds and $500 million in other available local funds, will allow for up to $7.5 billion in transit network development. These projects will be crucial for the growth and mobility demands of the Houston region for the next several decades. Supporting Opportunity for All Human capital is the greatest asset our region possesses. As the Partnership works to support a strong, diverse economy, it is paramount that the growth we achieve is powered by Houstonians who are seeking opportunity to improve their own lives and that of their families. Significant achievements were made in 2019 on the forefront of improving our region’s public education system and pipeline for our future workforce.  Prior to the 86th Legislative Session, the Public Education Advisory Committee developed five school finance reform principles that the Partnership believed were important to any school finance reform legislation this session. Guided in part by those principles, the Legislature passed the most consequential public school finance reform since 1993 with the passage of House Bill 3. The measure unlocks more than $400 million in new state funding for the Houston region, provides funding specifically for economically disadvantaged and English language learner students, increases funding aimed at improving third grade literacy rates, and significantly reduces the local burden of funding public education. It should be noted that House Bill 3 included most of the Partnership’s principles in the final reform legislation.  The Partnership is also advancing efforts to increase the talent pipeline for the skilled workers needed to fill positions that require education and skills beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. On this front, UpSkill Houston worked to engage 130 employers and more than 65 education, community, and workforce organizations over the past five years to offer effective career guidance and coaching at key decision points and to connect workers with skills-based education and hiring platforms. Member Engagement In addition to investing in making Houston greater, Partnership members have many opportunities to convene, learn, do business, and make an impact with other members. In 2019: 10,250 business and community leaders attended 20 major events featuring high quality thought leader expertise  4,216 members were brought together for 75 Program sessions, delivering enriching conversations, educational workshops and valuable content 1,460 members participated in 28 Council meetings across 10 key topic areas 1,529 members convened for 83 Committee meetings making an influence in 19 areas critical to the region’s growth Click here to read the full Partnership Impact Report. Click here to see the Partnership’s Membership Directory.  To learn more about membership with the Greater Houston Partnership click here, or contact membership@houston.org.
Read More

Related Events

Executive Partners