Is Houston Serious About Becoming a Multi-Modal City?

There’s been a fair amount of fanfare recently about the news that Houston is likely to surpass Chicago sometime soon as America’s third largest city. You can debate whether the comparison is very useful, due to variations in land area. But there’s no denying that Texas is growing fast. The Lone Star State is attracting two-and-a-half times more new households from other states than the next biggest gainer: Florida.

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Will Houston adapt its transportation infrastructure to accommodate its growing population? Despite smart long-term goals, regional planners are still dumping the vast majority of funding at their disposal into highways, Caitlin McNeely at Houston Tomorrow reports:

The Houston – Galveston Area Council Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has approved recommendations to spend 90% of regionally discretionary transportation improvement funds on roadway projects mostly for cars.

$783,265,000 is being allocated by the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council (TPC) and the TAC as part of the 2015 Call for Transportation Improvement Projects (TIP). Current recommendations propose the region spends roughly $700,000,000 of that on highway and roadway projects. $86 million, or about 11%, of funds will be spent on pedestrian, bike, livable centers and transit projects. These allocations could be decided by the TPC on Friday, Sep 25.

The vision of H-GAC’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan is that “In the year 2040, our region will have a multimodal transportation system through coordinated investments that supports a desirable quality of life, enhanced economic vitality and increased safety, access and mobility.”

It is unclear how funding cars and highways at 90% over pedestrian, bike and transit infrastructure achieves this goal and whether this proposed decision would make the region’s TIP and RTP out of sync.

With $185 million worth of pedestrian, bike, livable centers and transit oriented projects on the table, the TPC could fund all of these projects at 23% of the full budget.

You’d expect an agency that was serious about building a “multimodal transportation system” to at least fund the walking, biking, and transit projects that are shovel-ready. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of leadership from Houston’s regional transportation planners.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Wash Cycle reports that DC will release its Vision Zero plan, aimed at eliminating traffic deaths by 2024, this month. Sustainable Cities Collective explains the forces at work shaping the streets of Cincinnati. And Streets.mn tracks the growth in ridership on Minneapolis’s bike-share system, Nice Ride, over the years.

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