Questions & Answers: About METRO

On this page, you can get answers to common questions about projects, doing business with METRO and more, all in one place.

Overview

This project is part of the METRONext Moving Forward Plan, to create faster, more reliable and more frequent service. The project will:

Deliver on voter-approved plan

The Gulfton Corridor project was a key component of the plan, which was approved by nearly 70% of area voters in 2019.

Increase mobility

The Gulfton Corridor is home to some of the region's highest transit demand and the most congested streets. Currently, buses in the corridor operate in mixed traffic. This reduces the efficiency for METRO customers and impacts motorists as they wait for buses to load and unload passengers in a shared lane.

METRORapid is a transit service that combines elements of light rail and bus to deliver faster connections and a smooth, convenient ride.

It features:

  • Modern design offering 100% accessibility, with wider doorways and level boarding
  • Outstanding customer amenities such as station-like platforms at every stop
  • Dedicated, transit-only lane to move through traffic
  • Convenient schedule for easy trip planning

The METRORapid Gulfton Corridor project will provide:

Frequent service to key destinations

Universally accessible service to multiple residential, business and education centers.

More reliable trips

Transit-only lanes will help reduce travel time and improve schedule reliability for riders.

More connectivity

The line would connect with:

  • Various local METRO bus routes
  • METRORapid Silver Line in Uptown / Galleria
  • Multiple METRO transit centers

More access

  • Expands access to transfer opportunities at the Westpark / Lower Uptown Transit Center and the Northwest Transit Center
  • Accommodate expected population growth in the region
  • Improve access to jobs and economic opportunities

Route / Connectivity

The line will offer a continuous ride from Gulfton to northwest Houston. It will serve the following communities and more:

  • Gulfton
  • Sharpstown
  • Uptown / Galleria

No, the route has not been determined at this time. One of the goals of public involvement is to identify and incorporate the needs and priorities of the community into the process of selecting a preferred route.

The METRORapid Gulfton Project is a separate project being developed by METRO. It will be designed to connect with the METRORapid Silver Line at the Westpark / Lower Uptown Transit Center and enable you to reach the Northwest Transit Center. Once there you can transfer to downtown Houston.

Project Management

The METRONext Moving Forward Plan was approved by Houston area voters in November 2019. Planning for the METRORapid Gulfton Corridor Project began in 2022. Public meetings and input opportunities occur in early 2023, after which the preferred alignment (route) will be selected and conceptual design and environmental work will be completed. In 2024, METRO anticipates receiving federal funding and completing the final design. Construction is anticipated to last about two years.

METRO is currently in the planning phase, evaluating the features of the project. Detailed cost estimates have not yet been developed. Once an alignment (route) is determined, we will have more information.

METRO is exploring federal funding opportunities and other grant programs.

Environmental

The study will look at the potential impact of this project on air quality, noise, traffic, land use, historic and cultural resources, and water quality, among many other factors. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

METRO is also exploring possible use of zero emission vehicles.

No significant property impacts are anticipated. Additional information will become available as the planning and designing phases progress. Further study will help determine the final alignment. METRO will adhere to all federal requirements in the event property needs to be acquired.

METRO knows that trees and a "Greener Gulfton" are important to the area. Our intent during the design process is to protect and preserve existing trees.

Overview

METRORapid is a transit service that combines elements of light rail and bus to deliver faster connections and a smooth, convenient ride.

It features:

  • Modern design offering 100% accessibility, with wider doorways and level boarding
  • Outstanding customer amenities such as station-like platforms at every stop
  • Dedicated, transit-only lane to move through traffic
  • Convenient schedule for easy trip planning

This project is part of the METRONext Moving Forward Plan, to create faster, more reliable and more frequent service. The project will:

Increase connectivity

Downtown and Uptown are two of Houston’s largest employment and activity centers. Although METRO provides local bus service on city streets, there’s no rapid transit connection between Downtown and Uptown.

Reduce congestion

The Inner Katy Corridor is one of the most heavily congested roadways in the Houston area. This affects both motorists and METRO’s Regional Express buses, which operate in mixed traffic where there’s no HOV lane.

The new METRORapid Inner Katy line will provide:

Fast and frequent service

Universally accessible service for all between Downtown and Uptown throughout the day, at night and on weekends.

Faster and more reliable trips

The project will accommodate all of METRO’s Regional Express trips along the I-10 West and Hwy. 290 NW freeways that currently get bogged down in traffic between I-610 and Downtown. Transit-only lanes in both directions will help reduce travel time and improve schedule reliability for thousands of current riders.

More connectivity

At Northwest Transit Center:

  • Create direct connection with METRORapid Silver Line so you can ride from Downtown to Uptown without having to transfer
  • Link with several METRO local and Regional Express routes – increasing connectivity to destinations like Texas Medical Center, Greenway Plaza, Memorial Park and Westchase

The project will also provide a fast connection between the METRORapid Silver Line and the METRORail Green and Purple Lines.

More access

  • Serve current riders
  • Accommodate expected population growth in this area
  • Improve access to jobs and economic opportunity

Significant property impacts are not anticipated. METRO expects determinations to be made during the final design phase. As always, we’ll adhere to all federal requirements regarding potential property acquisition.

Route / Connectivity

The METRONext Moving Forward Plan identified a general alignment within the Inner Katy corridor. With input from community stakeholders, METRO conducted a detailed evaluation of the corridor and potential alignment options. The recommendation for the locally preferred alternative (LPA) was presented to the public for feedback in January 2022. METRO’s Board of Directors approved the LPA in March 2022.

The METRORapid Inner Katy Project is a separate project being developed by METRO. It will be designed to connect with the METRORapid Silver Line at the Northwest Transit Center and enable you to connect between Uptown and Downtown without transferring.

During the planning phase, METRO evaluated potential station locations between Northwest Transit Center and downtown Houston. We assessed the following locations identified in the METRONext Moving Forward Plan, which were ultimately included in the locally preferred alternative (LPA) approved by the METRO Board in March 2022:

  • Shepherd Street/Durham Street
  • Studemont Street
  • Theater District
  • Central Station
  • Convention District

We also evaluated additional potential station locations suggested by the community. Based on this input along with planning studies, the project’s LPA also proposes stations at:

  • Memorial Park
  • Franklin Street / Bagby Street
  • St. Emanual Street / East Downtown

Based on input from the community, METRO is evaluating how existing and future pedestrian, bicycle and local bus route connections will be integrated with stations.

The METRORapid Inner Katy Corridor Project is planned to provide daily rapid transit service during the day and night. The frequency is expected to be similar to METRORail.

The first phase of the Inner Katy Corridor Project is between Northwest Transit Center and downtown Houston. Planning and design of a connection to the high-speed rail line will be conducted at a later date depending on the progress of the high speed rail project.

Project Management

The project began in late 2020. The planning phase occurred from late 2020 through early 2022. Environmental studies occurred from early 2021 through late 2022 and will be followed by design. Construction is expected to begin about a year after design is complete. It’s anticipated that construction would last about three years. Public and stakeholder engagement are ongoing and will continue throughout the timeline.

METRO is currently in the planning phase, evaluating the features of the project. Once an alignment (route) is determined, we will have more information.

This project is funded via the Houston-Galveston Area Council's Transportation Improvement Program.

Environmental

After it begins, the study is expected to be completed in 2022.

METRO doesn’t expect an increase in air pollution. Any reduction in automobile travel as a result of having new transit options generally has a positive effect on air quality.

Overall, noise impacts are expected to be minimal compared with existing freeway noise. However, a noise analysis will be conducted. If it finds that any actions are needed, they’ll be conducted in accordance with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) guidelines on noise and vibration.

METRO will look for ways to accommodate new technologies for the project.

Overview

METRORapid is a top-of-the-line service that operates like light rail to deliver faster connections and a smooth, convenient ride.

It features:

  • Modern design offering 100% accessibility, with wider doorways and level boarding
  • Outstanding customer amenities such as station-like platforms at every stop
  • Dedicated, transit-only lane to move through traffic
  • Convenient schedule for easy trip planning

The maximum capacity of a METRORapid vehicle is estimated at 126.

This project is part of the METRONext Moving Forward Plan, to create faster, more reliable and more frequent service. The project will:

Deliver on voter-approved plan

The University Corridor project was a key component of the plan, which was approved by nearly 70% of area voters in 2019.

Increase mobility

The University Corridor is home to some of the region's busiest and most congested streets. Currently, buses in the corridor operate in mixed traffic. This reduces the efficiency for METRO customers and impacts motorists as they wait for buses to load and unload passengers in a shared lane.

The new METRORapid University line will provide:

Frequent service to key destinations

Universally accessible service to multiple residential, business and education centers.

More reliable trips

Transit-only lanes will help reduce travel time and improve schedule reliability for riders.

More connectivity

The line would connect with:

  • Various local METRO bus routes
  • METRORail Red, Green and Purple Lines
  • METRORapid Silver Line in Uptown
  • Multiple METRO Park & Ride facilities
  • Multiple METRO transit centers

More access

  • Serve current riders
  • Accommodate expected population growth in the region
  • Improve access to jobs and economic opportunity

Route / Connectivity

The line will offer a one-seat ride from Westchase to northeast Houston. It will serve the following communities and more:

  • Westchase
  • Gulfton
  • Sharpstown
  • Uptown
  • Greenway / Upper Kirby
  • Montrose
  • Midtown
  • Greater Third Ward
  • Greater Eastwood
  • Second Ward
  • Greater Fifth Ward
  • Denver Harbor
  • Kashmere Gardens
  • Eastex / Jensen

The line will run past or nearby to:

  • Houston Community College (West Loop and Central Campuses)
  • University of St. Thomas
  • Texas Southern University
  • University of Houston (Main Campus)

At the Westpark / Lower Uptown Transit Center, you can transfer to the METRORapid Silver Line. That line runs along Post Oak Blvd. through the Galleria area before ending at the Northwest Transit Center.

Along the University line, you’ll also be able to connect with:

  • Various local METRO bus routes
  • METRORail Red, Green and Purple Line
  • 377 Kashmere Late Night - curb2curb
  • Multiple METRO Park & Ride facilities
  • Multiple METRO transit centers

Environmental

The study will look at the potential impact of this project on air quality, noise, traffic, land use, historic and cultural resources, and water quality, among many other factors.  It is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

METRO is also moving towards procurement of low emission to zero emission vehicles by 2030. It's expected there will be a mixed fleet with low-no emission buses such as electric fuel cell and CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) buses.

The environmental process through the federal National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) is currently underway. The study will help determine the final alignment and the project alignment’s interaction with surrounding need for property. Currently, we're proposing to operate as much as possible in existing right of way and minimize property impacts.    

METRO has conducted a tree assessment for all the trees in the right of way. Our intent is to save as many trees as possible during the design process. METRO will develop a tree mitigation plan for any tree removals to be replaced along the corridor and in the vicinity of the project limits.

Overview / Benefits

The current Rail Operations Center is located seven miles south of the METRORail hub in Downtown Houston. With its end-of-the-line location, this facility isn’t centrally located.

To support and improve operations on all three light rail lines, METRO is planning to construct a new centrally located maintenance facility.

The facility is planned for a location near the intersection of Keene Street and Trentham Place. This is near the Burnett Transit Center / Casa de Amigos rail station.

It will be a two-story building designed to blend in with the neighborhood. The building will not block views of the Downtown Houston skyline.

In addition, sidewalks will be installed with the reconstruction of portions of Brooks and Keene Streets.

Benefits include:

  • A meeting room available for community use
  • Camera-monitoring, with METRO Police patrol
  • Sidewalk and street improvements on Brooks and Keene Streets
  • Improved drainage on Brooks and Keene Streets

Yes, because the facility will be monitored by cameras and it will be part of the METRO Police Department’s patrols.

Access / Environmental

The project calls for a traffic signal to be relocated from Brooks Street to Trentham Place / Burnett Street along North Main Street. This offers two benefits:

  • Address the frequent unprotected turns that take place to and from Burnett Street
  • Mitigate the minimal traffic impacts from the new facility

It will not impact the White Oak Bayou trail or access to the trail system.

METRO is adhering to a federally-mandated environmental clearance process to ensure the facility has no substantial impacts onsite or to the surrounding community.

Most activities will occur in enclosed spaces within the building. The equipment laydown yard will only be used for storage, with minimal noise-generating activity. No substantial impacts to air quality are anticipated.

There will be an onsite storm water detention for the facility. Plus, portions of Brooks and Keene Streets will be reconstructed and the drainage will be improved along those streets.

Overview

METRO is seeking to improve the customer experience by replacing the existing transit center and building a new garage facility near the existing property.

Facility Enhancements:

  • Parking for approximately 500 vehicles in a multi-level garage
  • Full-service transit center seamlessly linking METRO services for the Northside community
  • Attractive landscaping

Service Enhancements:

  • Modern facility design to move buses easily in and out of the transit center
  • Covered bus bays
  • Convenient connections to Downtown, Texas Medical Center, and other locations with service options

Safety Enhancements:

  • Reduced walking distance for customers
  • Camera-monitored facility with METRO Police patrol
  • Traffic signals to maintain consistent traffic flow

METRO will provide project costs during the final design stage and METRO Board approval. Further, the Federal Transit Administration has agreed to contribute to the project and there may be opportunities for private partners to participate in the project through Transit Opportunity Development.

Community

METRO has contacted property owners that may potentially be affected by the project and will continue to keep them informed as we go through the design process. METRO’s Real Estate department will follow all policies and procedures relative to notification, negotiation, and purchase of any property in the area.

No, that has not been done. However, historically, transit investments have tended to increase property values by improving access and connectivity. METRO relies on qualified and recognized property appraisers who have the expertise to value property and analyze market trends. As an example, from 2014 to 2018, the Harris County Appraisal District found a 40-60% growth rate in areas closest to the METRO Red Line corridor.

Traffic Flow

The proposed parking structure would hold approximately 500 vehicles. METRO proposes a new traffic signal at the transit center entrance that would be coordinated with the other traffic signals on Fulton Street. Further, METRO will work with the City of Houston to improve traffic flow in the area.

Initially, no new bus routes are proposed for the area. However, METRO regularly evaluates bus service and makes modifications as needed. It’s METRO’s practice to engage the public prior to any new service proposal or change to existing service and provide opportunities for input.

METRO will take existing and potential traffic patterns into consideration. We’ll work with the City of Houston and/or other regional partners to improve traffic flow by installing traffic signals and making other necessary improvements.

Facility Design

The proposed sky bridge is currently planned to extend to the Northline / HCC rail station platform. The concept will be further refined during final design stages.

Conceptual plans include an enclosed space for a variety of possible uses.

Overview

In 2005, METRO completed construction on transit street improvements throughout downtown. The right-most or “curb” lane is for buses and vehicles turning right. The second-to-right lane is for buses, vanpools and other High Occupancy Vehicles (HOVs). METRO is updating these lanes on Travis and Milam with new red paint, striping and signage that clearly designate these as bus-only or carpool-only lanes.  

The benefits are safer and smoother traffic flow, and faster and more reliable transit trips.

At METRO, safety is our No. 1 priority.

The red pavement markings, improved striping and better signage promote safety. These enhancements create greater visibility and awareness for all road users.

Based on nationwide research, the Federal Highway Administration has concluded that red pavement markings promote compliance with transit priority lanes.

Phase 1:

Travis Street, from Gray to Leeland
Completed

Phase 2:

Travis Street, from Leeland to Commerce
July 2022 – October 2022*

Phase 3:

Milam Street, from Commerce to Pierce
September 2022 – January 2023*

*Schedule subject to change

Traffic Flow

No. The bus and HOV lanes have been in operation since 2005.

Based on the traffic models developed during design, we expect a reduction in bus travel times, more efficient public transit service and minimal impacts to single occupancy drivers.

No. Garage entrances and exits will not be blocked. You’ll be able to enter as you normally do.

Using the Lanes

You can use the lanes when making a right-hand turn or accessing parking.

There’s no parking allowed in the transit lanes. Off-peak parking will continue to be allowed on the left side of both streets, with minor changes.

There’s no idling allowed in the lanes – so pickups and dropoffs aren’t permitted.

Operation / Enforcement

Lanes are in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

METRO will continue maintaining the lanes.

METRO Police Department (MPD) is responsible for enforcing compliance.

How it Works

Companies are invoiced for all activity during the first week of every month. Invoices are payable in full within 30 days from the date of the invoice.

  • Private employers
  • Nonprofits
  • Public agencies
  • Federal government agencies
  • Educational institutions

You can manage your employees’ METRO Q Fare Cards online. You have the option of setting up a monthly automatic reload called a subscription, or you can opt to do periodic manual reloads to the fare cards.

With our Emergency Guaranteed Ride Home service, riders can get a ride home in the event of a midday emergency, up to three times per calendar year. In addition, METRO guarantees a ride home if there’s ever an equipment failure that cannot be resolved within one hour. This free program is available to all bus patrons whose route does not offer midday service. They must be registered and it’s easy to apply.

Fare Cards

It functions like a debit card for riding METRO. Money is automatically deducted each time the user pays their fare. The card can be used on any of the following services:

  • Local bus
  • Park & Ride commuter express bus
  • METRORail
  • METRORapid
  • METRO curb2curb

For all services except Park & Ride bus service, the regular fare to board is $1.25 and the discounted fare is 60 cents. For Park & Ride bus service, the regular fare to board ranges from $2-8 depending on your location. The discounted fare is half price.

Cards are provided free of charge to Corporate RideSponsors, for distribution to employees. We encourage employees to register their card. This protects its account balance if the card gets lost. To register a card for free, employees can visit any METRO RideStore location or contact Customer Service at 713-635-4000.

Businesses like yours can offer no-cost transit benefits to employees through our Distributor program. Providing on-site access to METRO Q® Fare Cards is completely free and requires minimal effort. You provide the METRO fare cards and your employees can load funds onto them when ready to ride.

The maximum amount is $500 for each wallet on the card.

Registering Cards

Both options are possible. You can request that all cards initially be registered to the company, or you can choose to have each employee register their own card and allow them to add money to a second wallet belonging to the employee. This option would allow two wallets on one card; the employer and employee.

Yes. Corporate RideSponsor-issued cards are automatically registered to the company, unless the Corporate RideSponsor elects to have the cards registered to their employees.

Managing Cards

All registered cards can have the value transferred to a replacement card by METRO at the 1900 Main Street location.

Yes. You can make it a policy that all cards are company property, which means that employees would need to procure a second card strictly for personal use.

Eligibility

If you’re outside the service area but have customers who use METRO services, you can participate.

No. All discounted fare cards have to be obtained online or at a METRO RideStore.

Managing the Program

Call us at 713-739-4806 for phone tech support, available from Monday-Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and outside these hours when availability permits. If we’re not able to resolve the issue over the phone, we will schedule an in-person tech support visit at your location.

Yes. You can choose any minimum reload amount you want, including no minimum.

Rewards & Redemption

The program is free except for the discount you need to honor when a customer shows a valid fare item. It’s up to you what discount to offer. Typical discounts are:

  • 10-15% off
  • $1.00-2.00 off
  • Free drink or side item
  • Buy one, get one free

The program operates under the assumption that anyone presenting a valid METRO fare item gets the discount. Riders can show the cashier one of these valid fare items:

  • METRO Q Card
  • RideMETRO app ticket
  • METRO Day Pass
  • METRO Money Card
  • METRO Student Q Card
  • METRO Veterans Pass
  • Jury summons
  • Paper ticket
  • METRO Convention Pass

Benefits & Updates

We’ll feature your business logo, address and discount offer on our website, in social media posts and in email newsletters, giving you increased visibility to a broad audience.

Though we can’t predict how much additional business you may have, our goal is to increase awareness of your business among our riders.

Agreements are for a minimum of one year. You have the option to end your participation after one year, or renew the agreement for another year.

You can make changes to your Rider Rewards offer anytime. Just notify us at RiderRewards@RideMETRO.org at least two weeks prior to the effective date.

Corporate RideSponsor

No capital investment is required to become a METRO Corporate RideSponsor. You choose your benefit allocation, and the subscription process is automated. A METRO representative will train your company administrator and will always be available to assist and answer questions.

Both employer-paid and employee-paid benefits are exempt from payroll taxes. So, everyone can save on payroll taxes.

Employers can offer employees the option of exchanging up to $300 per month in taxable salary for a tax-free transit or vanpool benefit.

Employers can allocate up to $300 per month for employees to commute using public transit or vanpool. This is a tax-free transit benefit for employees.

Subsidy Options

Your company covers employee transportation costs when they commute via mass transit (bus or vanpool). Employees don't pay taxes on the value of this benefit.

Your company shares transit commuting costs with employees and everyone can receive valuable tax savings. Employers can provide a portion of the cost of taking transit or vanpooling as a tax-free benefit and allow the employee to exchange taxable salary for a tax-free bus or vanpool benefit.

Tax Matters

It's when you offer employees the option to “cash out” of their existing parking space. In other words, you can offer your employees their parking space cost in the form of taxable salary or tax-free transportation benefits.

No. When employees exchange taxable salary for a tax-free bus or vanpool benefit, the amount exchanged isn't subject to payroll taxes. Employees save money because this reduces their amount of taxable income.

Certification

The primary criteria for METRO’s SBE certification are company size and net worth of the owner(s). The size limits are determined by the SBA standards and the maximum net worth of the owner(s) is $1.32M.

METRO accepts only the following certifications:

  • Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Certification – METRO ONLY
  • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Certification – Any DBE certifying agency
  • 8 (a) Certification – Small Business Administration

Learn more about the Texas Unified Certification Program (TUCP) and see the list of DBE certifying agencies in Texas.

METRO Small Business Enterprise Certification is free of charge.

Compliance

During the solicitation process the following requirements are in place for primes responding to solicitations with small business goals:

  • All primes must submit their small business utilization plan
  • A Letter of Intent must be submitted for each certified and non-certified subcontractor and supplier
  • The prime must meet the minimum Small Business Participation goal in their response
  • Certified primes must subcontract a portion of their contract to other certified subcontractors and/or suppliers

After the award of a contract, the prime must:

  • Adhere to all compliance requirements of the Small Business/Disadvantaged Enterprise Programs
  • Get pre-approval from the Office of Economic Business Opportunity (OEBO) prior to removing or adding certified and non-certified subcontractors to the team
  • Replace the removal of a certified firm with another certified firm (determined on a case-by-case basis) • Involve OEBO in the dispute resolution process on SB-related matters
  • Adhere to the Prompt Payment Policy on contracts with small business goals: prime must make payments to subcontractors within five business days of receipt of funds from METRO
  • Receive payment from METRO within 15 days of issuance of a properly prepared invoice
  • Meet their Small Business Goal Commitment or risk a negative OEBO evaluation on a new solicitation

Contract Compliance staff monitor all Small Business/Disadvantaged Business Enterprise activity on all METRO contracts with Small Business goals and ensures compliance with all local and federal regulations.

If you need assistance in regards to Small Business Contract Compliance, please contact Otis Johnson, Director of Small Business Compliance, at 713-615-6112 or via email at otis.johnson@ridemetro.org.

Log in to the SB/DBE Contract Compliance System.

Solicitations

Detailed instructions for responding to a solicitation are included in the solicitation document(s). To facilitate the process, METRO recommends the following:

  1. Register as a Vendor for automatic email notifications of new solicitations and updates that are aligned with your company’s services.
  2. Check the METRO website for upcoming procurement opportunities.
  3. Attend METRO's pre-bid / pre-proposal conferences.

For additional procurement information, call 713-739-4881.

METRO’s SBE Business Assessment collects critical information to help craft the best recommendation on how your firm can effectively compete in the procurement process. This assessment is done via one-on-one sessions and the utilization of METRO's Online SBE Business Assessment Tool.

Yes. Through our business networking forums, you can get tips on doing business with METRO and connecting with decision-makers.

Costs

Permits and training are free.

Charges per hour are:

PositionHourly Rate
Certified Flagger/Rail Operator:$27.00 
Traction Power Maintainer:$38.55 (all Traction Power support services require two maintainers)
Supervisor:$41.31 
MTA Police Officer:$36.00 
Bus Bridge:$100.06 per hour per Bus Operator

METRO will prepare and send you an invoice within 30 days of completion of the work. Payment is due within 30 days of receipt of the invoice.

Terminology

A Red Tag is required to work within a ten-foot radius of the OCS necessitating a power down.

It’s the area within 15 feet of the centerline of any track.

The Work Zone is the area of work within defined limits, where movement of rail equipment is governed by the Flagger. The Safety Zone is the trackway, which may include other areas such as the street, shared poles on sidewalks and substations.

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