In the extreme south of Texas there exists a region known as the Rio Grande Valley. This is a generalized term for a collection of smaller towns all aligned on the border of Mexico and who for the large part, have border driven economies. My work sent me to one of the larger (but certainley not the largest) communities this past week. I stayed in Brownsville, TX on the American side, and travelled across to Matamoros, MX every morning and back in the evening.
I would be remiss to not have brought my camera so you KNOW that I started researching even before I got there. What I found, was a thriving transit system operating in Brownsville, a town of 140,000 and a metro area (for lack of better description) of over 300,000 people. They havent crossed that barrier that puts them on the light rail transit side of the stick, but they do have a robust bus system in place.
Known locally as B.U.S. (Brownsville Urban System) it is a system consisting of 15 routes, and 3 major hubs. I made a visit to two of the hubs while I was there. The one on the northside, aptly named the Northside Transfer Station, was not far from my hotel. I found in my research that this place was funded by a $10 million government grant. When I got there, I was impressed to find a multi slotted bus depot, decorated with many pieces of local art. The artowk itself was quite unique in that it looked like they inlisted the school system of the area to draw on ceramic tiles that were then finished off and placed at the station. The depot itself was in good condition and was visually a pretty modern structure. You can see from my photos that it was raining the night I stopped there, but I did my best to keep the lens dry (umbrella) and represent the place as good as I could.
According to the wikipedia page, and the only real place I could find good numbers, "in 2002, BUS served 1,631,349 passengers in its fixed-route bus service." Not bad for a smaller south Texas town.
When I visited the downtown station, located in old Brownsville, I found a much sleepier looking, but having of character, depot. It looked like a MUCH MUCH older structure that had been converted for use. It was late in the evening, so there were not many people around. However, the area was dark and for an outsider such as myself being so close to the border, I didnt stick around long to find out who hides in the shadows. This was in stark contrast to the northside station which was well let, and located in a much more "modern" and travelled part of town.
While I was there, I found an old issue of "The Business Times of the Rio Grande Valley". I aligned this as the RGV versoin of the IBJ. The issue was dated from July 2008 but it was the cover that caught my eye. "Valley Transportation-Year 2020". Inside was a long article describing privatley funded toll ways crossing the abyss between San Antonio and the RGV. Also, it was written that a State Representative in 2007 passed legislation opening the door for light rail in 13 border counties. It appears that this is just a step in the direction but when you look at all the small towns along the border of this area, there is a lot of people moving back and forth. The larger town of McAllen (and Reynosa, MX) about 30 miles up the border should be leading the push in this area as time moves on.
For now though, it is nice to see that even down on the border where there are much larger issues with drug trafficing and immigration issues that the metro areas still lend some thought to public transportation. Enjoy the photos, I had a lot of fun taking them.
Public Appearance Notice: If you have read this far down, then you care enough to know that I will be on hand at the Crowne Plaza @ Union Station, Illinois Street Ballroom on Wednesday this week @ 10am. Those of you who know the significance of this day and time, know what is up!