An equitable transportation network starts with strong regional and local transportation policies and decisions so that the benefits of transportation, as well as the burdens, are fairly distributed across the Houston region’s 6.9 million people. Equitable, affordable transportation will help the region pursue inclusive economic growth that further advances equity in incomes, education, and health outcomes rather than widening disparities between under-resourced communities and resourced communities.
LINK Houston’s LINKHouston_EquityinTransit2018_Report examines current transit services in Houston, who rides transit, and the equitable distribution of transit options for those communities that need it the most. The report aims to inform conversation and decisions to ultimately improve equity in the bus and rail network, such as the frequency of the schedule, reliability of the bus’s arrival, the hours of availability of services, and the rider’s ease of access. These factors improve the ability of under-resourced communities – communities for which transit provides a much needed, affordable transportation option – to access opportunity.
The report relies on the Transportation Equity Demand Index – TEDI, a metric developed by LINK Houston that combines 15 indicators of demographic, economic, and built-environment conditions to identify areas in Houston where safe, affordable transportation is most needed to improve quality-of-life. The darker areas in Figure ES-1 are locations where affordable transportation (i.e., transit, walking, rolling, biking) is most needed to improve equity in Houston. Figure ES-2, on the reverse side, contains information about the need for equitable, affordable transportation by super neighborhood.
Equitably improving the frequency, reliability, availability, and accessibility of public transit is not the sole responsibility of transit providers but is rather a collaborative effort involving current and future riders, government at every level, metropolitan planning organizations, as well as municipal management districts, Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, advocacy organizations, other stakeholders, and neighborhoods. To contribute to transit equity over the longer term, this report recommends that these stakeholders form and fund partnerships to systematically create more accessible infrastructure through policy and projects impacting TEDI high-need areas. To improve equity and quality-of-life across Houston in the near term, LINK Houston recommends specific operational changes to:
- Update 8 local bus routes so that the entire frequent network comes at least every 15 minutes all day, every day.
- Expand the frequent network by converting 10 specific 30-minute routes to 15-minute frequency.
- Make local bus routes come at least every 30 minutes, eliminating 60-minute wait times for local buses.
- Increase the frequency of all rail lines at night so that trains come at least every 15 minutes after 9 p.m.
SPAN OF SERVICE HOURS
- Extend service hours on 12 local bus routes connecting under-resourced communities to extended-hour centers (i.e., the airports, Convention Center, Galleria/Uptown, higher education institutions, and the Texas Medical Center.)
- Perform 90% of local bus trips on time (up from a target and reality of 75%).
- Eliminate schedules for routes/lines operating every 8 minutes or faster (e.g., Route 82).
- Post real-time next arrival/departure at all transit centers, transfer points, and heavily used stops (i.e., the top 4 %of boarding and alighting locations would impact 49% of all transit activity).
- Confirm schedules and frequency posted at stops match the information available on METRO’s website and apps.
- Fulfill commitments to universal accessibility so that stops are reachable regardless of age, size, or ability.
Prioritize construction of bus stop amenities (i.e., shelters, seating, lighting, trash bins, etc.) where off-peak service frequency is 30 minutes or longer (because the longer you wait, the more you need a place to sit).