At a recent neighborhood meeting in the Heights, Houstonians asked questions about regional transportation.
(Resident asking a question)
The questions were directed toward Shaina Dezfuli, a transportation planner with the Houston-Galveston Area Council who had just given a presentation on the Council’s Regional Transit Framework Study. The study kicked off last September and aims to identify the long-term transportation needs of the greater Houston region.
“The study is designed to provide more of a blue-print or a strategy to move forward in the future.”
H-GAC is currently transitioning into phase two of the study, which will focus on cost projections and alternative transit options. Dezfuli says the H-GAC researchers and planners are assessing all modes of transit.
“We’re looking at everything to start out with.”
“Everything” she says includes HOV lanes, light rail, mono-rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, vanpools, the expansion of park and ride, and more. While the study isn’t addressing sidewalks and bike paths directly, Dezfuli says they will be discussing how these elements support and increase transit use.
Over the next thirty years, Houston is expected to gain three and a half million people, so looking at ways to reduce traffic congestion is a major priority of the study.
“As we’re looking at transit in the future, we need to be sure that we’re not suggesting only buses or only something that would run in the same places that cars are running. Because if the cars aren’t moving, the buses aren’t moving and there’s no incentive for individuals to ride transit.”
To get input from the public, the H-GAC has been giving presentations, like the one in the Heights. Resident Jana Vander Lee is concerned that minorities may not be properly represented.
“I wonder how they reach them, because in all the public meetings I’ve been to, I don’t see them.”
Dezfuli agrees that reaching minorities as well as low-income residents, the elderly and people with disabilities is critical. But she says they’ve been able to by going out to community centers, churches and by conducting focus groups and phone surveys.
Andrew Burleson is with Congress for New Urbanism, an organization that advocates neighborhood-based developments. He says that while the H-GAC study may not yield any immediate transit improvements, it is a step in the right direction.
“What we hope the results of the study would be is that it will provide more and more evidence to support multi-layered, redundant travel options where you’ve got your freeway corridors and hopefully some sort of bus corridors and rail corridors and so on.”
Dezfuli says the study’s findings will be used to offer recommendations to local policy makers. The study is slated to finish by September. For more information on the study and ways to give your input, go to h-gac.com/taq/transit_planning/framework_study/default.aspx.
From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Wendy Siegle.