Construction of the Southeast Line of the Metro light rail along UH property sparked a dispute between the University and the Metropolitan Transit Authority that was recently settled.
The placement of the rail in close proximity to various UH properties was a major part in the disagreement, which shed light on a big problem the University will be facing while trying to beef up their Tier One credentials: real estate.
Once the rail is completed, scheduled for 2014, it will undoubtedly give way to a completely new form of transportation for students, commuters and residents. The problem with this ambitious project is that the construction is taking place on a sliver of land, which will cause an increase in traffic flow along the area. Although UH has vastly expanded the quality and sheer size of their on-campus facilities, nothing but a bottleneck effect can come out of the rail’s location.
As with most UH construction, the southeast line is a double-edged sword. On one side, the line gives students access to a variety of nightlife and social scenery in the city while also providing commuters with an alternative way to get to classes. On the other side, urbanization brings an array of problems regarding safety and public image.
There’s no question that UH is a very urban campus, but it has maintained a fairly spruced-up look. The rail has already changed the scenery of once less-utilized areas of campus for commuters. The elephant in the room is that the Third Ward has going through a rapid gentrification period for the past couple of years. Several businesses and houses have been torn down in the surrounding neighborhood because of the METRORail.
So while the rail is drawing a line between what is UH and residual Third Ward zoning, they’re making UH its own urban center for population flow and losing the small amount of surrounding land they had in the first place. The rail is opening a Pandora’s box that will give UH’s public-representative staff headaches in the years to come.
The introduction of the Southeast Line will allow people who are not UH students, to access buildings such as the residence halls and the childcare center. UH’s access was never exclusive, but its parking and ease of access was highly regulated.
After 2014, UH will no longer have any semblance of a neighborhood environment, which judging by the businesses that were weeded out and those that consequentially took their place, seemed to be the city’s plan the entire time. UH must decide if it wants to be a metropolitan campus or not, because the once-seamless transition between campus and the tree-filled neighborhoods outside is starting to disappear.
Nick Bell is a media production senior and may be reached at email@example.com.