Starting a few weeks ago on June 11, a new free bus service began operating in Downtown Houston. It’s called Greenlink.
Greenlink features busses that can carry 28 passengers, all of which run on Compressed Natural Gas. The busses basically make a loop around the central business district running west on Walker with a dog leg running south on Smith Street. The route then turns around on Jefferson, returns on Louisiana and rolls on towards the convention center on Dallas. There are a total of 18 stops, with two of them being at the George R. Brown Convention Center itself.
Getting around Downtown Houston can often be a little difficult. Let’s face it, no one wants to walk more than a few blocks (if that!) when its 97 degrees out and the humidity dictates we’ll be soaked when we reach our destination. This can be especially regretful when we’re trying to conduct business. According to Houston METRO, more than 50% of downtown workers are without a car during the day.
Those who do commute with their own car can be hesitant to give up their parking space. Finding quick and convenient parking at many destinations downtown isn’t always a picnic either. Greenlink promises to make our journey away from the office a bit easier – and maybe a little less sticky.
I work at a hotel that’s not convenient to the Tunnel System so I decided to give Greenlink a try. Some of my friends were gathering at Guadalajara del Centro Restaurant in Houston Pavilions on July 3rd – a fairly slow day downtown. This seemed like a good opportunity.
I dutifully walked the 2 blocks from my hotel to the closest stop, which is at Walker and La Branch – listed as Stop # 14. The walk took 5 minutes. Greenlink claims riders won’t have to wait more than 7 – 10 minutes for the next bus. In my case, the wait was 3 minutes – not bad at all.
So far, when I tell people I rode Greenlink, the first question they have is, “Were there a lot of homeless people on the bus?” I’m not certain what prompts this question and I’m not sure if the Independence Day holiday finds homeless people scurrying to other parts of our city, but in my case, no, there weren’t.
One rather friendly-looking lady was getting off the bus as I got on and there were only two people on the bus besides me for the first few stops. A woman who looked like she could be an office worker or a hotel guest got on at one stop and then an older gentleman who appeared of moderate means, carrying probably a little too much stuff, got on at a Smith Street stop. Its possible he was homeless but he wasn’t dirty or threatening – just maybe, umm…a little eccentric looking. He didn’t ask anyone for money or give anyone any uncomfortable looks.
Things got rolling as we traveled down Louisiana. A decent sized group got on across the street from the Hyatt at the stop located at Louisiana and Dallas. All these people appeared to me to be middle class.
The Houston Pavilions stop – Stop # 10 – came up at Dallas and San Jacinto, right next to III Forks Restaurant and across the street from Guadalajara. Perfect.
Amazingly, it was only 10 minutes from when I had gotten on at Stop # 14. The bus had gone 14 stops and the driver had made at least a momentary stop at each one. I asked the driver if the bus ever gets busy and he said it gets pretty busy between 11am and 1pm most days of the week. It sounds like people really are using it to go to lunch.
My entire trip – including walking, waiting and riding – had taken me 18 minutes. This is roughly the same amount of time it would’ve taken me to walk. It was certainly more comfortable than walking – especially considering most days I wear a suit and tie. The bus was clean and air-conditioned, the driver was friendly. While I wouldn’t say it was a luxurious ride, it certainly wasn’t uncomfortable in any way.
It will be interesting to see how it is during peak ride periods and to see how many people take advantage of this service. So far, this looks like a pretty good way to get from one side of downtown to the other.
Convention guests should find Greenlink to be a very handy way of getting back and forth from the GRB Convention Center to their hotel without being tied to a rigid schedule or calling and waiting for a hotel shuttle. This may give some of our convention guests more freedom to explore and spend money at establishments that may have previously been off limits.
The Greenlink service is, as previously stated, free of charge and runs from 6:30am to 6:30pm, Monday through Friday.
Funding for Greenlink is provided courtesy of BG Group, the Downtown District and Houston First Corporation. It is operated by Metro.
More information can be found at www.downtownhouston.org or by calling 713-635-4000.