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September 2017

News  

In The News

Filling the Gaps for Suburban Commuters

03/29/2016

More than a century-and-a-half after author Horace Greeley may or may not have coined the phrase, “Go West, young man,” people are flocking to new neighborhoods west of Houston in places like Katy, Cypress and Fulshear. 

Indeed, the center of Houston has been shifting west for years now as companies land in employment centers like The Energy Corridor and home-seekers find master-planned neighborhoods like Cinco Ranch. Case-in-point: Fort Bend County is among the nation’s 20 fastest-growing counties, according to the latest U.S. Census data – while The Energy Corridor is now home to 96,000 employees.

With the greater Houston metropolitan area leading the nation in population growth, there’s little sign that the westward migration to once-rural communities here will slow.

Going west has been great for jobs growth and sought-after housing, but it’s left a profound gap in commuter transit, leaving few options for commuters outside of METRO Star vanpools.

METRO – with one of the most effective and popular park and ride systems in the nation – is still a downtown-centric transit system.  The Addicks Park and Ride in the heart of The Energy Corridor primarily serves people working downtown or in the Medical Center, but not in what is now Houston’s second-largest employment center, one that straddles the Katy Freeway like a big “T” between Kirkwood and Barker Cypress roads.

Filling the suburban transit gap is one of The Energy Corridor District’s transportation mobility priorities for the next decade.

One idea: create a new express commuter transit service. It’s a daunting project requiring extensive coordination with public agencies and substantial financial resources that are beyond The District’s budget.

Still, The District and Fort Bend County have begun discussions for Ft Bend County’s Transportation Department to operate a new express commuter service partially financed by federal grant funds. Planned for an early 2018 start, the service would originate at a Park and Ride Ft Bend County will be constructing at FM 1093 and Mason Road, where commuters could grab a direct transit route to reach major employers in the Energy Corridor.

A new commuter transit service could connect The Energy Corridor to some of Houston’s fastest-growing suburban areas, where the majority of its employees live, according to CDS market research. And the vision springs directly from The District’s long-range master plan principles that include:

  • Enhance circulation networks
  • Integrate transit service
  • Invest in transit infrastructure

Filling a suburban commuter transit gap is no lightweight project. And so we want to know:

  • Would you utilize this type of service to get to and from work? Why or why not?
  • Developing and implementing additional transit service is a major priority for The District over the next 10 years; it comprises over 40 percent of our budget. Is that the right amount? Keep in mind that commuter services like the Fort Bend project would consume most of that 40 percent.

Please share your thoughts and comment on MobilityHouston. You can become more than part of the conversation. You can help lead The Energy Corridor District and other entities like the City of Houston and METRO to fill the need for viable suburban transportation options.

The Energy Corridor District alone does not have the resources required to start this type of service. But with public support, federal grant funding and other transit agencies’ involvement, perhaps we can help alternative transportation options “go west.”