I lived in Houston while their rail system was under construction [“A Great Big Bundle of Rail and Roads
,” News, Aug. 8]. Much of downtown was a huge mess from 1999 to 2004. Many businesses closed because customers had too much difficulty reaching them during construction. When the rail was completed, every bus that ran through downtown had to be rerouted to accommodate the rail. Trips that used to be possible on one bus now require multiple buses, or a bus and a train. Hundreds of collisions occur annually between cars and trains. When Houston voters later approved an expansion route on Westpark Drive, Harris County Metro ignored the ballot language specifying a route. Only massive public opposition stopped the new rail line from being built on Richmond Avenue instead of Westpark Drive. As someone who rides public transit daily, I think Houston was a better place to live before it had a rail system. Austin City Council now wants to force rail on us by structuring the ballot so that to oppose urban rail one has to vote against all transportation bond funding. They are cynically counting on the fact that because of Austin's traffic congestion problems, many people who are not rail supporters will support the bond package anyway. Capital Metro went from having $200 million to being too broke to pay its debts to the city of Austin mostly because of a relatively modest commuter rail. What do we expect to be the financial results of a much more ambitious urban rail system?