Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, known as METRO, is currently gathering public feedback to help direct its initiative to build a comprehensive long-range plan for regional transit in the greater Harris County area.
The METRONext campaign launched this summer with a listening tour to engage communities on their vision for transportation. As this is an incredibly important issue for our area, the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce is partnering with METRO to solicit feedback from businesses and residents on their transportation needs. METRONext.org is home to the METRONext survey where citizens can submit ideas, concerns and comments about the future of transit. I highly encourage everyone to take a couple of minutes to participate in the survey so the voice of Lake Houston Area residents will be heard.
METRO currently provides a range of multi-modal transportation services in the Houston region. These services include an extensive local fixed-route bus network; park & ride service on a network of shared high-occupancy vehicle/high-occupancy toll (HOV/HOT) lanes; a three-line, 23-mile light rail network; shuttle services; METROLift demand response service; and a variety of other services to support improved mobility for a broad range of customers.
As they look to the future, METRO is researching and exploring a range of possibilities and partnerships to connect people and businesses through transit. Ideas such as partnering with on demand transportation services such as Uber or Lyft to connect citizens with METRO’s park and rides and other amenities. Driverless vehicles such as Personal Rapid Transit (pod cars) and self-driving mini-busses, which are already being used in other American cities, are also options being researched. Although there are no guarantees the region will employ such forward-thinking modes of transportation, the Lake Houston Area needs to get in the game when it comes to advocating for public transportation.
Since METRO’s service area does not cover the entire Lake Houston region, Chamber leadership recently met with METRO executives. It was encouraging to hear their willingness to help connect the METRO service area with the outlying area – but this is heavily dependent on the feedback received from local residents. The “need” and the “want” of the community must be evident.
As everyone knows the population boon is projected to continue in the greater Houston area. With the Lake Houston Area projected to be a major contributor to this growth over the next 10 years, it’s common sense that public transportation can help mitigate traffic congestion, but there are also other considerations:
• Public transportation is major determinant for a region’s ability to attract, grow and retain jobs. Employees who are accustomed to living in areas with public transportation are less likely to relocate with their company to an area where purchasing a car is necessary. When faced with losing employees and the cost associated with hiring and training new employees, many companies will choose to relocate to a similar community that offers public transportation.
• Access to education, work and medical care is greatly increased. This trifecta not only enhances the economy but also the quality of life in an area.
• According to the American Public Transportation Association’s 2016 Transit Saving Report, a two-person household can save, on the average, more than $9,823 a year by downsizing to one car.
If we don’t voice our needs, wants and ideas for public transportation, other communities that we compete against for jobs will.
Visit METRONext.org and give Lake Houston a seat at the table.
The Mission of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce is a cooperative effort of business people to attract new business, support and strengthen the business environment, serve the needs of the members, and cooperate with civic leaders and other interested parties to promote community growth.
Jenna Armstrong, IOM
President & CEO