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Could you get to work if you didn’t have a car?

Lots of people in the Houston area could not easily get to work if their car were not available to them.

According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, only 57.8 percent of the jobs in the entire Houston metro area are in neighborhoods with access to public transit service.

When ranked against the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, Houston was No. 82 in terms of the share of jobs that were in reach of public transit service.


When compared to other cities, Houston fared better on its percentage of labor population that could use public transportation to reach their employer within 90 minutes. In the city, 22.5 percent of the working population could reach their office by using public transportation within 90 minutes, placing it No. 56 on the national list.

You can see a sorted list of MSAs here and the study itself here. For the most part, it’s the suburban areas that lack transit options, especially if you have to get from one suburb to another. I suspect one reason Houston has a mediocre score isn’t so much because bus coverage is inadequate but because bus trips can be time consuming, especially if you have to transfer. I’m just guessing, though.

At our house, Tiffany works downtown and takes the bus most days. I do kid dropoff and pickup and I work near the Astrodome, so I drive. Out of curiosity I went to Metro’s trip planner to see what a transit commute would look like for me. The shortest trip suggested, which involved taking the Montrose Crosstown bus to the Hermann Park/Rice U light rail stop and catching the train from there, was estimated at 42 minutes. If I’m still working in the same place when the North Line extension is finished, I could hie myself over to the Quitman station after dropping off the kids, and from there I’d estimate it would be about a 30 minute trip, assuming that the North Line continues on Main Street instead of requiring a transfer. I’d contemplate parking my car near school and riding my bike to Quitman, but I know from personal experience that you can’t bring your bike on board the train before 9 AM, which unfortunately makes commuting that way impractical. Ah well, maybe that will change by 2014. Anyway, at least I’d have options. WonkBlog has more on the Brookings study.

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  1. Bill Shirley says:

    I’m less interested about getting from the Woodlands to Katy, but whether there are affordable housing options within transit distance to low-skill/low-wage jobs.

    Or maybe our in-access to useful transit is something that Forbes thinks makes us “Cool”?

  2. Logan Ratner says:

    According to Metro’s website, the answer is no. Ther are no stops within 0.5 miles of where I work. I work in the 290 & Beltway 8 area, and the lack of Metro service here has always surprised me.

  3. Carey says:

    I’m curious what the % would be for Houston city limits.

  4. Mainstream says:

    My commute would be a fairly reasonable 30 minutes with one change of bus and a half-mile walk during peak hours, but non-peak could stretch to one hour. Not sure about walking around in a suit in this heat, though.

    I interact with a lot of tourists visiting Houston, and am always amazed at how difficult it is to get to airports, train and bus stations, NASA (on the weekends), to travel late at night back from the clubs, etc. by bus. Contrast to Chicago, where the rail goes to both airports.

  5. Evan says:

    I wonder if this takes into account times when the bus doesn’t show up for no reason.

  6. Robert Nagle says:

    First, Chuck, I don’t know where you live, but the Montrose 34 doesn’t run often enough (even during peak hours) to be practical for most people.

    The trick is to be near a bus that runs very frequently. At where I live (FountainView and Westheimer), the buses run every 5 minutes during rush hour. Don’t bother transferring buses except as a last resort. The only transfer that actually is practical would be bus-to-train or vice versa.

    Don’t overlook the option of using a bicycle to ride a mile or less to the nearest major bus route. (In addition to being slightly faster, having the wind in your face cools you off a bit). Just walking 15 minutes in Houston is unmanageable; the bike really helps.

    Another suggestion is to use to choose good places to live. It’s not a perfect metric, but it’s a good one for revealing which areas of town are totally car-dependent.

    Let me mention some overlooked advantages of using public transit (I know I’m preaching to the converted). A stress-free commute, the ability to be mildly productive on the way to work (I type documents on my ipad with my bluetooth keyboard), more exercise and occasionally the chance to meet interesting and strange people.

  7. […] no plan to deal with it. If I’m still in the same office, I’ll definitely be taking the train to work by then. Thomas has […]

  8. […] adds on to my recent post about getting to work in Houston if you didn’t have a car. In the comments of this Kuff […]