In the 11th-worst area in the U.S. for traffic congestion, where 80 percent of drivers ride alone, the Houston-Galveston Area Council is using the month of August to promote commuting.
Through the rest of Commute Solutions Month, H-GAC, which is made up of several governmental entities in Harris County and 12 surrounding counties, will encourage commuters to research and use alternative ways to get to work.
“It will benefit everyone. It will benefit your community,” H-GAC outreach coordinator Isaac Perez said.
Commuting options include carpooling, renting a Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County STAR van with co-workers to pool commuting costs, taking a bus or the METRORail, biking or even walking.
“By joining a vanpool, commuters can save money on costly car maintenance expenses, and, instead of spending time behind the wheel, passengers can prepare for the work day or relax,” METRO STAR Commuter Services Manager Dezra Nauls said in a press release. “It's easy for professionals to enroll, and, in many cases, employers receive a tax benefit by covering a portion of the cost.”
Carpooling or taking public transportation also allows commuters to save money on gas, vehicle maintenance and parking; reduce stress; and reduce vehicle emissions, resulting in better air quality, Perez said.
“There’s very tangible benefits,” he said.
The Greater Houston area is the sixth-most stressful area in the U.S. when it comes to commuting. The average worker arrives 7.4 minutes late to work per week, which clearly indicates a traffic problem, Perez said.
“If you live in Houston, you have dealt with traffic at one point or another,” he said.
And it’s going to get worse. By 2045, the Greater Houston area is expected to be home to 10.8 million people, Perez said.
“If there’s congestion already, imagine what it’s like when there’s 66 percent more people living here,” he said.
Some commuters who drive to work every day as they have for the past 10 years might not realize there are other options available. H-GAC encourages commuters to research how they might be able to more efficiently get to and from work, Perez said.
Not everyone can carpool or take public transportation to work, but if those who can do, congestion will be reduced for those who have no other commuting options, he said.
H-GAC will host five events promoting Commute Solutions Month at Park & Ride stops across the Greater Houston area. Those who use METRO’s STAR vanpool program can enter a “race to win” challenge and be eligible to win prizes, such as a Kindle, a GoPro video camera and Fitbit fitness products.
Jake has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper. Today, he covers everything from aerospace to transportation to flood mitigation.