The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council (TPC) is comprised of transportation leaders reflecting a variety of cities, counties, and transportation modes in the Houston region.
This body is perhaps the most important long-term planning and decision-making body in the region, but many citizens and even elected officials throughout the region don’t know about the TPC and what it does. All regionally significant transportation projects must be approved by TPC as part of H-GAC’s duty to address major regional issues such as air quality.
Houston Tomorrow interviewed a number of TPC members over the summer of 2009. Some of the members were unable to schedule interviews but instead answered our questions in writing. On July 30, Brandon Capetillo, a Baytown City Council Member who also sits on the H-GAC Board of Directors, submitted a written statement. The full text appears below.
Could you tell me about TPC’s role in the region?
The Transportation Policy Council (TPC) provides policy guidance and overall coordination of the transportation planning activities within the region. The TPC consists of 24 members representing cities and counties, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) and three at-large members appointed by the H-GAC Board of Directors.
Do you view our projected growth as an opportunity, crisis, or both?
I believe our projected growth forecast presents the Houston-Galveston region with an opportunity to evaluate current traffic concerns and take effective action to meet future growth needs.
One of the Houston myths is that we all drive SUVs and will never walk or ride rail, even though many Houstonians do not drive. Do you think that walkability and bicycle safety are regionally significant transportation concerns?
Several solutions may be available to reduce traffic challenges in our region. The TPC is exploring several programs or concepts to provide alternative transportation options to include ride-rail, bicycle-ride capabilities in partnership with METRO and creating livable center communities to reduce lengthy commutes.
Many leaders in the Houston-Galveston area support the creation of the Grand Parkway, yet many organizations believe that its construction will be detrimental to citizens and contribute to sprawl. How is this project objectively better for people in the Houston area than other uses of transportation funds?
Urban sprawl is already happening in our region; the Grand Parkway may relieve and help control congestion we currently experience within our Beltway 8 & 610 Loop system. The creation of the Grand Parkway will provide an alternate route for heavy/hazardous vehicle traffic and an option for local commuters to access major interstates more easily.
Is it important for you to consider social and environmental issues (i.e., quality of life, obesity) when making transportation decisions?
Absolutely, I believe that future mobility projects should consider environmental, quality of life and lifestyle issues. There are many means of resolving negative transportation development impact such as noise and light pollution.
How do you maintain a balance between maintaining current roadways and expanding them?
This task is very challenging; officials should ensure the public has safe existing roadways. Expanding roadways or constructing new thoroughfares should consider the most effective use of tax dollars and relief of current traffic congestion.
METRO plans to have 37 miles of light rail implemented in 2012-13 connecting the three largest activity centers in the Houston region. Could you talk about the effect you think this will have?
I hope the effectiveness of METRO’s light rail system will surpass expectations. I believe these new lines once operational will provide a good alternative to vehicular mobility in the Houston area. At that point officials can evaluate the need to expand any future light-rail projects.
How would you like the public to be involved in transportation planning?
Public input is very important in traffic planning and I urge citizens to attend public meetings held across our region.
How would you improve long-term transportation planning for the Houston region if you had every planning resource at your disposal?
The TPC and associated staff are very effective and knowledgeable regarding transportation planning. I would suggest we also explore how other cities and countries address their transportation challenges and integrate proven solutions in to our plans.