Research and discussion for citizens and decision makers

Dr. Carol Lewis

HOU need a transportation plan

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Year after year the annual surveys conducted by Dr. Steven Klineberg show transportation as one of the first, second or third most important concerns facing Houstonians.  By 2022 there should be a strategic approach to transportation by the city’s mayor and top administrators.  It is difficult to problem solve without a strategic plan designating a vision, goals and specific steps to reach the goals.  The Mayor should take the lead in making improved transportation a priority.  There are a myriad of ways to achieve this concept.  One thought, instead of being a component of Public Works, Traffic and Transportation (T and T) should be a Department in the city administration with a five year plan and annual program aimed at identified mobility improvements. (Historically, the structure had T and T separate, but was absorbed into Public Works a number of years ago.)

There should also be scheduled regular coordination meetings with other governments to address problems that overlap, designate low cost strategies that might have large advantages or identify where working jointly could have great benefits.  The mayor should take advantage of the mayoral leadership position to encourage transit ridership and flexible work arrangements to lessen demand on the roadways. METRO’s new bus system design, light rail system and coming Uptown bus rapid transit offer an opportunity to create a new paradigm for work and recreation trip making for Houstonians.  Programs for ridesharing and flexible work exist, but would benefit from the mayor’s Bully Pulpit encouragement of employers and businesses to incentivize reduction in single occupant trip-making. It is important that the mayor look to the future of transportation for our region, as well, identifying the city’s role and contribute, as appropriate, to the success of proposed projects like high speed, intercity and commuter rail.

In addition, the mayor must work to ensure the livability and affordability of Houston for people with a range of incomes.  The core of the city should not become an enclave for the wealthy; people who work in the city should not need to move to far away suburbs to afford a home.  The city will thrive if low and moderate income residents can spend a lesser percentage of their incomes on transportation leaving them more disposable dollars. According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) the average Houstonian spends 20% of income on transportation.  Affordable housing enabling these individuals to live closer to work and spend less on transportation would be very valuable. CNT reports living in a location where only one car per home is needed can lower the transportation expenditure to 9% of income*.

It is critical that the next mayor consider transportation as a priority item in his platform.  He should establish a strategic approach to the mobility problems, leverage the initiatives underway, take advantage of the solid base of support for more public transportation and less auto dependence shown through the Klineberg surveys and position the city to move forward beyond 2020.

* and

Dr. Carol Lewis will be a part of the panel at the second What Can We Do By 2022 Luncheon on Access & Mobility in the city of Houston. This will be Wednesday, August 5, 11:30 am - 1:30 pm with Geoff Carleton, Sam Lott, Kyle Shelton, and Christof Spieler joining him on the panel.


Dr. Carol Lewis is an associate professor in Transportation Studies and Director of the Center for Transportation Training and Research at Texas Southern University. Dr. Lewis spent 15 years as manager and director of planning at Metro. She serves on the Technical Advisory Committee of H-GAC and the Gulf Coast Rail District.

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