When Metro trains are broken, they chug into the rail operating center on West Bellfort to be fixed. But today inside the vast concrete warehouse, repairs of a different sort were first on Metro's mind.
Metro president and CEO George Greanias is on a mission to mend the company's wrecked reputation in the community, beginning with a group of local bloggers he wooed with a lunch and Q&A today. (We at the Houston Press got some V-day foreplay yesterday when Metro sent us a cookie cake iced with the words "We Wuv You," a gesture that apparently warranted the consideration of Metro's highest ranking officer. Today, Greanias asked the Press if we got our cookie.)
But Metro's got a lot of wuv to give, and they're trying their damnedest to get you to wuv them, too. If yesterday's Valentine's Day Metro-Massacre didn't melt your heart, they've got plenty more plans to make nice. At the discussion, they said they were gunning to restore all kinds of fractured relationships: with the medical center, with downtown and with counties outside of Harris. "That's going to take a lot of collaboration that historically hasn't taken place," Greanias said.
Greanias knows you've been burned before by Metro. But within the next two years, he says, things are going to be noticeably different. Metro's counting on a $900 million dollar Federal Transit Administration grant to remove the eye roll that accompanies every utterance of its name.
Greanias is optimistic that all of that money will come through, and said that the government advanced $50 million of the grant to Metro this year. That, he said, showed a different attitude than in the recent past, when the feds were looking into spending allegations and withholding cash
"During the investigation, they wouldn't even talk to us," Greanias said.
His goals for the new Metro include unrolling daily, weekly and monthly passes, improving downtown bus service, and expanding Metro's service areas outside of the Loop.
"It's going to take time for people to realize we're serious about this," Greanias said. "There are some people who we'll never convince. There are some people who to their dying day swear we're evil and stupid. If we can get that number down to a reasonable level, that's all we can hope for."