- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city needs more public transportation to stay competitive against other jurisdictions, according to Houston Public Media and others.
- In his annual State of Mobility speech last week before the city’s Transportation Advocacy Group, Turner urged better links to downtown and the airports, as part of what he called a “transit grid.”
- He also promised to ask local group Bike Houston to identify the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians and bicyclists and explore whether high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes be open all day, rather than just during business hours.
Houston has made waves in recent months with a bevy of new initiatives and announcements, including an autonomous shuttle pilot program, a plan to become a top city “for startups and imaginative endeavors” and a new partnership with Chinese city Suzhou on trade and biotechnology research. This is in addition to the city’s ongoing efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, which includes a 20-year downtown redevelopment plan.
But the city’s transportation needs still weigh heavily on Turner’s mind, especially for economic development purposes, as he called for better connections to “economic centers.” Without adequate transportation options in cities, it is more difficult for people to get to jobs in other areas, and it runs the risk of isolating some neighborhoods, especially traditionally poorer ones that have suffered from neglect from city planners.
Turner’s emphasis on keeping Houston competitive comes just months after it failed to make the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2. The e-commerce giant noted in its specifications that a good public transit system is necessary to move people to and from the expected 50,000 new jobs in the winning city. A plan to put part of Interstate 45 underground could also encourage more transit, especially if the city explores new ways to use that aboveground land. With more cities vying to be as attractive as possible and move away from their dependency on cars, Houston is the latest to take part in this trend.