Lucas Wall has left the building

Since we haven't seen an actual Lucas Wall-authored story in the Chronicle for a couple of weeks now (his Move It! columns could have been prepared before he left), curiosity got the better of us. So I sent an email question to Lucas and this is the email I received:

Lucas Wall
Lucas Wall is no longer employed with the Houston Chronicle. You have reached an inactive e-mail account.

If this address is on your mailing list, please REMOVE it promptly. This e-mail account will soon cease to exist.

If you are trying to contact the Chronicle about a transportation issue, you may forward your e-mail to [email protected]

If you are trying to find Lucas Wall, he is now (as of 6-1-05) the transportation reporter for The Boston Globe.

We still can't believe Lucas would rather go to Boston than stay in Houston, where he's left quite an imprint. After all, Houston's light rail should make Houston world-class, right? (I wonder if Rad Sallee is on the transportation beat temporarily or permanently? We'll have to inquire.)

Perhaps Lucas' greatest impact here was in the world of Houston blogs. It was his story on the death of Leroy Sandoval Jr. in Iraq, that led to the creation of Chronically Biased. Chronically Biased inspired blogHOUSTON, in a round-about way, and then Chronically Biased itself transitioned into Lone Star Times.

That's quite a legacy he leaves behind!

His other big impact was in championing Houston's light rail. Metro couldn't have asked for a greater light rail supporter than it had in Lucas. We can only imagine how excited he must be, moving to Boston, where there is a much greater appreciation (and usage) of mass transit. Will Lucas take Boston's subway to work? Probably!

And now, a look back at some of our favorite Lucas moments:

In June of last year Lucas reported that bus riders weren't too happy with Metro's route alterations that herded them onto the light rail, and Lucas wrote that one route change was "mostly designed to beef up ridership on MetroRail." That startling bit of truth-telling disappeared in the online story before too long. (Here's another story Lucas wrote around the same time that has some good quotes from bus riders who were being fed to MetroRail. This type of story became more rare as time went on.)

Next up was the time Lucas let slip that the Chronicle was no longer going to report every light rail collision, saying that the paper doesn't "report on every fender bender car crash." He said the decision was due to space constraints. Riiiight.

Within a couple of days, Lucas was encouraging readers to speed on Houston freeways, chastising those who would dare to go the posted speed limit in the fast lane and slow him down.

Right after that Rob Booth caught Lucas using Texans press release quotes in his column. Then the Press' Rich Connelly questioned him about it and we had an early taste of Lucas' petulance:

He said the story he filed included a reference to the press release, but the reference apparently was taken out for space reasons.

"I did not make a stink about the reference not appearing [in] the Texans rail story," he said by e-mail, "because I have a lot more important things to be concerned about."

Ah yes, important things.

Next, Metro committed the ultimate sin -- it upset Lucas:

Metropolitan Transit Authority officials also would be smart to improve their relationship with millions of their constituents, some of whom have written me in recent weeks with various complaints. And I have gripes of my own.

In October, Lucas was in one of his moods again and posted a missive on a Yahoo group website:

As I have learned, comparing light rail crash data is not as simple as it seems.

[snip]

Be careful with your statistics before you go proclaiming anything.

The group moderator responded to Lucas:

...Prior to the Metro decision to build this line, many of us had written and called them to question the use of at grade rail in our community. Safety and efficiency as well as reductions to congestion and pollution were key elements of our questions. Metro side stepped them and ignored them. The Chronicle was a joke (excuse my contempt...nothing personal) and acted as a partner with Metro.

Personally, it is the advertisers and income that drive any news media anymore rather than factual reporting. How much does Metro contribute in advertising to the Chronicle?

Yikes! And that was the end of that.

Until Lucas decided to experiment with blogging:

I'm on vacation this week. And for the first time all year, I've decided to stay put on my days off rather than make a planned trip to Big Bend National Park.

After some 16 out-of-town trips so far this year for work and pleasure (I'm starting to lose count), my weary body decided it was time to enjoy being here for a week.

We hope he makes it to Big Bend Park before he says adios to Texas.

In February Lucas devoted much column space to blaming Reps. Tom DeLay and John Culberson for sinking Metro's light rail expansion plans, except that a month later he had to write a story saying that Metro's application had been approved after all. It was vintage Chronicle.

And finally, Lucas was inconvenienced by Metro again and gave us one of his greatest columns ever:

I spotted a Route 1 bus and figured that would do, waving my hands to indicate "please stop." The bus whizzed right by us, and hit a red light at the next intersection. I decided to make a dash for it.

Before the light changed, I made it on the bus. I asked the driver, who declined to give his name, why he drove past us.

"Did you not see us waving?" I inquired. "Do you not know the train is shut down?"

The man responded with an attitude, "I don't know anything about the train. You were not waiting at a number 1 stop, so I did not stop. You need to wait at the correct bus stop."

He obviously did not understand the situation or the need to be a little more accommodating during an atypical operating condition.

There's no word on whether or not that poor bus driver still has a job.

It was shortly after that column we received the bad news that Lucas was leaving for Boston.

It's just a crying shame -- he's been so good to us.

And if you have a favorite memory of Lucas, be sure to share it with us.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 05/02/05 09:47 AM | Print |

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