Houston’s public transit is insufficient and detrimental
The great city of Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States that is home to NASA and has been dubbed as the energy capital of the world, is facing a major internal issue that larger cities before it have all appeared to have resolved. Houston’s public transit is awful and needs to be fixed.
While the Metro Rail system and bus routes in place provided rides for millions of people annually pre-pandemic, it is very limited in terms of accessibility.
With the rise of gas prices currently plaguing the country, it is imperative now more than ever to provide ample transportation for lower-income citizens who cannot afford to fill up their tanks weekly.
Getting around is not easy for some people, especially in a city that is 665 square miles. Its metropolitan area comprises 2.3 million people. Of this large population, roughly 21.2 percent of it lives well below the poverty line.
For such a big area, however, there are only three Metro Rail lines that stretch across about 23 miles of the inner-610 loop. The red line barely reaches outside of this loop, missing many vital communities such as Sunnyside, whose average median income of $28,000 renders it one of the most impoverished area of Houston. This keeps communities from being able to use this more affordable option.
Adequate public transportation can provide a plethora of new job opportunities within the city, as well as make it easier for people to carry out daily tasks that could benefit them in the long run. Those who are primarily lower-income, as well as college students who struggle financially, may find the rail a more reliable mode of transit.
The buses in Houston suffering from delays could mean being late to an interview and not getting the job, or missing vital classroom instruction that could contribute to their future.
“I live an hour away, and I have to go to school almost every day,” said psychology junior Angie Moe. “I would much prefer to spend my money on food than on gas. I only spend about $15 on the Metro compared to $80 or more weekly on gas if I were to drive to school.”
Fortunately, this issue is being addressed at the federal level. The Biden administration’s recent strides to improve the country’s infrastructure has put forth provisions to improve public transit systems in many major cities.
In addition to the $137 million being granted to the Houston Metro system in order to rejuvenate its day-to-day operations after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration plans on distributing another $7.5 billion dollars to transit agencies. They hope to encourage these agencies to invest in more efficient, low-emissions electric buses.
According to Metro, there are future intentions to expand the rail by about 16 miles. It would extend south into the Missouri City and Sugar Land area, and north into North Shepherd. This project would cost the city about $2.10 billion.
This necessary extension would give thousands of people greater access to the inner city, which could help them build a better life. However, the project has not yet taken off, and there are no plans in discussion to add more lines east or west.
With the current state of the U.S. economy, access to public transportation should be near the top of the list of priorities. Not everyone has the privilege of owning an efficiently-running car and being able to maintain it, and it is time that the city of Houston’s public transit improves and the city moves away from its over-reliance on cars.
Michael King is a political science sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]