driving green

Electric buses are on track to roll into Houston

METRO is moving toward the purchase of only zero-emission buses by 2030. Image courtesy of NovaBus

Within the next year or so, you’ll see electric-powered buses buzzing around Bayou City.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) recently awarded a $22 million contract to Saint-Eustache, Canada-based Nova Bus for the production of 20 battery-powered electric buses. The contract includes an option for another 20 buses.

The first 20 buses, to be manufactured at the Nova Bus factory in Plattsburgh, New York, are expected to be on local roads sometime in in late 2022 or early 2023. They’ll run on the 402 Bellaire Express (Quickline) and 28 OST-Wayside routes.

METRO also plans to test three to five electric buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Furthermore, METRO is a member of the Automated Bus Consortium, a national organization of transportation agencies working toward development of a full-size, electric-powered automated bus.

METRO is moving toward the purchase of only zero-emission buses by 2030. It eventually wants to operate more than 1,200 electric buses throughout its system. All types of buses account for 1 percent of transportation-caused greenhouse gases in Houston, according to METRO.

Nova Bus, owned by Swedish automaker Volvo, says its electric vehicles reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also cutting maintenance costs.

“METRO is paying close attention to the climate assessments showing Houston will grapple with rising temperatures and more frequent weather events. It is more critical than ever that METRO map out a plan to not only prepare for these events but to mitigate the impact they have on our community as much as we can,” Carrin Patman, chairwoman of the METRO board, says in a recent presentation.

President Biden has tapped Patman, a Houston attorney, to be the U.S. ambassador to Iceland.

Patman has appointed METRO board members Chris Hollins, former Harris County clerk, and Terry Morales, an executive at Amegy Bank, to shepherd the agency’s efforts to combat climate change.

“The impact of climate change is a significant threat to the health and safety of our community,” Hollins says in the METRO presentation. “METRO can and will be a leader in helping the region respond to this challenge.”

“Beginning with the deployment of clean fleet technology,” he adds, “METRO will lead the way in green transit. METRO is taking a holistic approach — transforming not just our buses, but all our business practices — to increase sustainability, resiliency, and carbon emissions reduction.”

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Building Houston

 
 

A recent real estate report found that, following healthy gains, Houston's medical office market might see less action in the near future. Photo via Getty Images

Houston’s medical office market is on a roll.

A report from commercial real estate services company JLL shows net absorption and transaction volume saw healthy gains in 2022:

  • The annual absorption total of 289,215 square feet was 50.5 percent higher than the five-year average.
  • Transaction volume notched a 31.7 percent year-over-year increase.

Meanwhile, net rents held steady at $26.92 per square foot, up 1.3 percent from the previous year. The fourth-quarter 2022 vacancy rate stood at 15.9 percent.

Despite those numbers, the report suggests a slowdown in medical office rentals may be underway.

“Tenants who may have previously considered building out or expanding their lease agreements are now in a holding pattern due to increased construction costs and higher interest rates,” the report says. “These factors are having a direct impact on financial decisions when it comes to lease renewals, making it more likely that tenants will remain in their existing location for the foreseeable future.”

Still, the report notes “a number of bright spots for the future of healthcare in Houston.” Aside from last year’s record-high jump in sales volume, the report indicates an aging population coupled with a growing preference for community-based treatment “will lift demand even higher in coming years.”

The report shows that in last year’s fourth quarter, 527,083 square of medical office space was under construction in the Houston area, including:

  • 152,871 square feet in the Clear Lake area.
  • 104,665 square feet in the South submarket.
  • 103,647 square feet in Sugar Land.
Last fall, JLL recognized Houston as a top city for life sciences. According to that report, the Bayou City lands at No. 13 in JLL’s 2022 ranking of the country’s top 15 metro areas for life sciences. JLL says Houston “is poised for further growth” in life sciences.

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