By “long-term” I mean by 2050 or so.
For an agency that’s spent decades guiding freeway expansion, it was a stark admission for members of the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s transportation policy council.
“Future growth and the resulting travel is expected to surpass our ability to meet regional mobility needs by relying solely on increased roadway capacity,” the agency’s staff wrote.
Facing a future in which 14.2 million people will live in the eight-county Houston area in 2050, transportation planners are proposing a special task force that will work on the region’s long-range transportation plan so that high-capacity transit can start to gain a foothold after years – perhaps decades in some cases – without traction in car-crazed Houston.
The regional transportation plan is updated every five years, for a 25-year period. The current plan, approved in 2015, covers until 2040. The next version will reflect plans for highway, transit, bicycle and maritime projects for 2020 to 2045.
Though plans always have some bold transit components – ranging from commuter trains to major expansions of Metropolitan Transit Authority’s light rail system – they rarely proceed in earnest.
“Some of them have been in three or four editions of our plan and they are no farther along than they were 15 years ago,” said Alan Clark, director of transportation planning for the area council, which acts as the local metropolitan planning organization responsible for doling out federal transportation funds.
On the one hand, it’s very encouraging to see official recognition of the reality that road capacity is a finite thing, and that expanding transit in the greater region is going to be vital to meeting our mobility needs. On the other hand, I’m going to be 79 years old in 2045, so my expectations are necessarily modest. Gotta start somewhere, I guess.