Woodlands Township transit plan focuses on improving Town Center parking, mobility

With a mobility plan underway in south Montgomery County and a countywide thoroughfare plan on the horizon, The Woodlands has maintained its focus on the community's transit issues.

The Woodlands Township Board of Directors approved the goals of a transit plan with the Houston-Galveston Area Council at a township board meeting Nov. 20. Director Jeff Long, member of the ad hoc transportation committee, said he hopes the plan will find creative ways to address the lack of parking in Town Center.

"We're looking for some real creative and interesting ideas to increase our parking capacity in the downtown area, because there's been an increased demand and there are periods of time where it's difficult to find a parking spot," he said. "It might not necessarily be more parking spots, but a way to more effectively use what's available."

Long said the study also needs to find ways to move people more effectively within Town Center to and from shopping and their jobs. He said solutions could include bike lanes or more pedestrian walking options.

He also emphasized the need to move people between The Woodlands and the ExxonMobil campus and the Springwoods Village development to the south, as well as other employment centers around the region.

"We're looking for these ideas, and some of these are going to be short-term, some are going to be midterm and some are going to be very long term, because we are still growing," Long said.

Carlene Mullins, transportation planner for H-GAC, said the study would also examine the effectiveness of The Woodlands' park and rides, as well as possible expansion of the trolley system in The Woodlands. Reverse commuters have also been an area of concern as more Houston residents begin to commute north to The Woodlands area for work.

"There's been a lot of requests from people coming from Houston to The Woodlands," she said

Mullins said the consulting firm, Steer, Davies & Gleave, has begun the data gathering process, which should take about a month. The firm already has some data, including ridership information, demographic data and traffic counts, which is also being used by other firms for the concurrent mobility studies within Montgomery County.

After the data has been gathered, several alternatives will be identified and then narrowed down as the process continues, Mullins said.

She said the study should be completed in August or September of 2014. Projects will be identified in time to be placed on H-GAC's Regional Transportation Plan, which prioritizes transportation and transit projects to receive state and federal funding.

The public input process could begin as soon as January, Mullins said, as an update from the firm will be presented at a Jan. 22 township board meeting.

She said a website—www.montgomerycountymobility.com—could go online by mid-December and will provide links and information to all three H-GAC studies.

A survey for the transit plan will be on the website sometime in January.

The transit plan is estimated to cost $300,000, Mullins said. H-GAC is funding 80 percent of the study, while the township is funding the remaining 20 percent, or $60,000.

She said Steer, Davies & Gleave was selected by the H-GAC Board of Directors based on a recommendation by the proposal review committee that included a Woodlands Township representative. Mullins said Steer, Davies & Gleave has extensive transit experience and worked on the Denton County commuter rail project. The firm's Denver office is in charge of the transit study.

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