November 9, 2009
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Houston Metro’s Quickline: Changing the Art of Travel
A 20-ton bus and a soft, furry bunny are hardly a match in most people’s minds, but they’re a perfect fit for a new bus service now on the streets in Houston.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County’s (Houston Metro) Quickline, which entered operation in the summer, combines elements of bus and light rail service, operating with limited stops, high-end bus stations, and high-tech, hybrid-diesel coaches sporting distinctive wraps for easy identification. The Quickline is the first of several “Signature” services the agency plans to launch in the next few years.
The weekday, rush-hour-only service makes eight stops along its nine-mile route, shaving 15 minutes off the commute of existing service on the corridor. It moves, in other words, as quickly as a bunny—and all for the same $1.25 fare as Houston Metro’s local routes. Within a few weeks of its introduction, Quickline reported boarding levels at nearly 60 percent of the agency’s first-year goal of 1,000 boardings per day.
The Quickline runs on a heavily traveled corridor that serves several west Houston neighborhoods and the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world.
Patrons board at upgraded bus stations equipped with digital next-bus arrival signs and such other amenities as additional lighting and better seating. The buses are very quiet with padded seats and improved climate control.
In preparation for introducing the service, Houston Metro branded the Quickline with a blue curbside line that runs the length of the route and in-pavement bunnies at key transit stops. In keeping with the theme “Changing the Art of Travel,” the agency promoted the line with a marketing campaign of bus cards, kiosk posters, and ads that combined bunnies with iconic paintings like the Mona Lisa. Staff distributed bunny squeeze balls along the line, and a cluster of topiary bunnies at the Texas Medical Center Transit Center has become a favorite backdrop for bus photos.