Public transit provides green options
Gas prices and green advocates have pressured consumers to embrace public transportation. Houston is admittedly a car-centric city, but those who don’t have that choice have other options.
Houston’s public bus line, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, serves 300,000 riders a day.
Student commuters may also be enticed by a 50 percent discount on Q Fare Cards, a bus pass that Metro riders can load money on.
Metro carries a reputation among Houstonians and UH students. Most rides throughout downtown, midtown, north Houston and the Third Ward are uneventful and usually safe, despite an occasional loud passenger.
Metro Police Cap.Michael Raney has some tips for the worried rider.
‘If you’re in a high crime area, you’re a potential target, especially at night,’ Raney said.
Raney advised students to protect themselves by hiding expensive possessions such as iPods or cell phones and to avoid loitering alone at bus stops by learning the bus schedule and arriving close to pick-up time. However, Metro authorities do take action against crime.
‘If we see that any particular area or corner or particular stop has shown some increase in criminal activity … we use plain clothes officers, we use surveillance cameras. That’s what makes the crime really decrease,’ Raney said.
Metro’s main problem is its confusing bus schedule. It isn’t difficult to take five minutes to look up routes online.
Imagine how much easier it would be to have larger light rail that consistently runs every 10 minutes. Right now, guessing the location of bus stops, and what time they pick up is pointless.
The Greater Houston Transportation Company is Houston’s taxi giant. Yellow Cab marketing and sales manager Amanda Stecker said the GHTC owns Yellow Cab, Fiesta Cab, Super Shuttle, United Cab, Airport Taxi and a town car service.
Yellow Cab services Houston and outlying cities such as Sugarland, the Woodlands and Clear Lake and runs for 24 hours every day.
Teresa Delemos, an undeclared freshman, took a Yellow Cab taxi from downtown Houston to UH this summer. She enjoyed the experience, but not the price.
‘I think it was $12, from downtown to (UH),’ Delemos said. ‘I just wish the prices were cheaper, or (that there was) a discount for students.’
Fiesta Taxi offers Yellow Cab’s hours with the addition of bilingual dispatch operators and drivers.
‘All of our Fiesta drivers – they’re bilingual. They target the Hispanic population of Houston, but they’ll go anywhere in the city,’ Stecker said.
Shuttle company REV Houston appears to be a promising addition to Houston’s transportation options. REV uses a fleet of non-emission electronic cars to take customers anywhere in the downtown or midtown area. Instead of charging fares, the drivers only request tips for their service.
Unfortunately, REV’s hours are a little more restrictive than other options. Instead of Yellow Cab’s 24-hour service, REV Houston only provides rides from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
REV cannot pick up students from UH, because UH falls outside their boundaries.
The e-mail address listed on their Web site has been defunct for at least a month, but the company regularly tweets and invites feedback to their Twitter account, GoREVGo.
Another drawback to REV is its size. Eric Ibarra, one of REV’s co-founders, revealed that they have a fleet of only three vehicles, so frustrated callers may be more inclined to catch a bus or call a cab.
Despite these pitfalls, watching the growth of this environmentally friendly service will be interesting.
Although Houstonians have options besides their cars, they are limited.