The mission of the Mobility Response Team is to keep traffic moving on major thoroughfares throughout the city of Houston despite traffic accidents or intersection lights not working properly. The team members ride on mopeds, although the shiny blue bikes could be mistaken for small motorcycles.Houston Police Department Lt Jeff Rosenthal says the team will be focusing on some key areas in the city.
"Through our partnership with public works we're told the Medical Center often has congestion issues, Galleria, Uptown, Greenway Plaza, Downtown, Westheimer, etc, so we're going to have our units be in those areas and respond if and when something occurs in those locations, but otherwise be available for response elsewhere."
The team will go beyond responding to problems as they come up. Public Works Assistant Director Jeff Weatherford says the team will be proactive as they patrol the streets looking for trouble spots. For example, Weatherford says the team will help them keep track of the 2,500 traffic signals the department is responsible for.
"Using them as our eyes and ears helps us a lot. We spent a lot of time with them in the classroom talking to them about how to recognize problems and then took them out in the field and actually have them identify problems. OK, what do you see here, what do you think is going on. Teaching them so they can identify things for us and let us know about them."
After working for different departments in the city for the past six years, Jason Rodriguez decided to apply for the Mobility Response Team. He went through two week training at the police academy. It can be intimidating standing in the middle of an intersection with cars coming from all directions.
"A lot of cars, they want to get home or to their destination and they don't want to be stopped by somebody or wait in traffic. They are already waiting in traffic as it is or already tired so a lot of times we get people who don't, we try to tell them to stop and they keep on going or they honk the horn, or they get frustrated. But then yesterday we got a lot of response from people applauding us or telling us thank you."
One of Rodriguez's first assignments this week was to direct traffic at an intersection where the power was out because of the rain. The hope is to get traffic moving as quickly as possible, but reminds everybody patience will still be called for.
"Believe me we'll get you to your destination as safely as possible for the driver and for us."
The city was hoping to hire 24 team members. Three slots remain open. The Mobility Response Team is a part of the Houston Police Department so the same hiring standards for an officer apply to the mobility team. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.