Hop On Board: METRO And Houston Mayor Celebrate Transit Innovation

Passengers on METRO’s FutureLink shuttle experience a demonstration of the vehicle’s autonomous technology. (Photo courtesy of METRO)

METRO and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner have unveiled the Authority’s all-new autonomous shuttle and provided an update on the agency’s move toward zero-emissions vehicles.

“The event marks a significant step toward transforming the region into a leader in innovative and eco-friendly transportation,” according to a press release.

“At METRO, we believe that innovation and sustainability are not just responsibilities, but opportunities to create a better tomorrow,” METRO Board Chair Sanjay Ramabhadran said. “We are passionate about building a thriving, livable, and equitable future for the Houston region, and we are working hard to make it a reality for generations to come.”

FutureLink, part of the second phase of METRO’s autonomous vehicle (AV) testing program, is a fully autonomous zero-emission shuttle that can operate on city streets, providing residents with first- and last-mile connections between Texas Southern University and METRO’s Eastwood Transit Center. The mid-size level 4 autonomous, zero-emission shuttle bus can seat 14 passengers and accommodate up to two wheelchairs.

“Today, we’re excited to share Houston’s shuttle of the future,” METRO Chief Innovation Officer Kim Williams said. “Once deployed, it will be one of the first mid-size autonomous transit shuttles in the country.”

“Also on display was METRO’s electric bus, part of the Authority’s growing fleet of zero-emission vehicles and an important piece of its ambitious Climate Action Plan, which outlines METRO’s path toward a greener future,” the release added.

Funding for the project was provided by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) through its Accelerating Innovative Mobility program. Phase 2 of the pilot program is expected to run through October 2024. A final report will be completed by March 2025.

“FutureLink represents the intersection of innovation and sustainability,” Mayor Turner said. “METRO continues to pioneer change and today, we celebrate METRO’s commitment to advancing our city’s vision for the future in which transportation is safe, equitable, and resilient.”

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