Co-hosted by The Energy Corridor District and MobilityHouston, “A Conversation About Multimodality in Suburban West Houston” event drew several dozen concerned citizens June 7 to hear regional planners and commuter transit experts discuss the future of multimodal transportation in the region.
Moderated by Dug Begley, Houston Chronicle’s transportation reporter, the free event at BridgePoint Bible Church in The Energy Corridor featured panelists Maureen Crocker, executive director, Gulf Coast Rail District; Andrea French, executive director, Transportation Advocacy Group – Houston (TAG); Irma Sanchez, vice president of projects, Westchase District; and Clark Martinson, general manager, The Energy Corridor District.
“Real change means doubling up riders in cars,” Martinson told the audience. “That’s the real solution to traffic.”
Martinson also said that the middle of IH-10 has enough right-of-way to accommodate future high-capacity transit, such as rail or a Rapid Bus Transit system.
But the chief impediment to solving transportation congestion lies with funding, explained Crocker, a longtime expert on commuter rail solutions.
“The real challenge is that there is very limited funding for transit projects, and no money for rail,” said Crocker. “It’s a discussion that needs to start with elected officials.”
French agreed. “The way to change that is to grow the pot,” she said. “TAG is advocating for growing the pot. One of our biggest challenges is that people are working in silos. But more people are coming together and I think that’s what’s going to make the change in next five years. We all need to come together as one voice.”
Westchase District, explained Sanchez, is starting to allocate funds and coordinate with METRO Houston on a Bus Rapid Transit study for Westheimer, “which would be a total game-changer.”
“I think (in a few years) we’ll be in a different place,” Sanchez said. “Westheimer transit will connect to The Energy Corridor, something (our districts) have been planning for years.”
Begley asked the question that was on everyone’s mind at the event: “Where will mobility be in five years? The same as it is now? Wider roads and bigger cars?”
"I think five years from now the people going the furthest distances will change their habits," said a hopeful Martinson. “Take the Memorial Drive reconstruction. It’s going to have sidewalks and bike lanes, and that’s going to allow residents to take different ways to get to work. We’re trying to work together to encourage multimodal transit. I think over next five years it’s going to start to gel.”