This article is over 7 years old

Houston Matters

What Will Houston Be Like in 30 Years?

MORE: Your Predictions for the Houston of 2045 30 years ago this past weekend, Back to the Future opened in theaters here in Houston and across the country. The film, and its subsequent sequels, tells the tale of Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveling back and forth through time in a tricked-out DeLorean. First, Marty […]

Houston of the Future Banner


To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

MORE: Your Predictions for the Houston of 2045

30 years ago this past weekend, Back to the Future opened in theaters here in Houston and across the country. The film, and its subsequent sequels, tells the tale of Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveling back and forth through time in a tricked-out DeLorean.

First, Marty travels 30 years back to 1955; then they both travel forward 30 years to 2015 (not our 2015 — because in their future the Cubs beat Miami in the World Series, which can’t happen, because they’re both in the National League). Finally, they head back a century to the old west, before returning home to their original time.

Throughout the year, there have been discussions about what the Back to the Future films got right and wrong about the future, which is now our present.

So, in honor of our collective arrival at the future portrayed in Back to the Future, today we discuss what depictions of the future in film and literature can tell us about the eras in which they were created, and what generations past thought the future would have in store for them. We then turn to Greater Houston and consider whether life here has become what previous generations of Houstonians may have envisioned.

Then we turn to you for a special project – we're going to create an audio time capsule for the Houstonians of 2045 and ask you to look 30 years ahead and make your best predictions about what life will be like here, from inventions to infrastructure, from culture to science, from industry to politics. What will Houston be like in 2045?

Today, we’ll share your predictions and then hang onto them for the next 30 years. Yes, really — we're saying it now. Houston Public Media will present a program in 2045 in which we'll unearth your predictions and share them with Greater Houston.

It's a Houston Matters program 30 years in the making! And you can email your predictions anytime to

Our guests for this discussion are: Andy Hines, coordinator of the Master’s program in foresight at the University of Houston; David Bush, deputy director at Preservation Houston; and KJ Russell, a Houston science fiction writer and instructor at Writespace.


I just got back [from the future] and JJ Watt is Mayor.

Houston will be a multicultural Mecca and by embracing this will be a leader in transportation, politics, science and education.

I think Houston would have had a series of foriegn nationals as mayor, especially from the Asian countries.

There will be individualized personalized medicine for most of the diseases including cancer.

I would expect that many more consumer and industrial products will be made with nanomaterials to improve a variety of their properties.

Montrose will be one big mattress store.

We will still be working on I-45 South.

Houston of the future will resemble Houston of the past! In 1937, 85 percent of the population of Houston used public transportation in the future. Most Houstonians will use a dense network of light rail and high speed commuter trains. In Houston past, before the advent of mechanical air conditioning, downtown Houston relied on covered sidewalks like the one at the Rice Hotel to cool its citizens. In the future all of downtown will have covered sidewalks with natural cooling plants and water misters incorporated. In 1963 Houston, the structural steel framing of the Astrodome was completed and it stood for a brief moment as a masterpiece of engineering and design! In the future the Astrodome will be restored to its former transparent structural glory and filled with living plants even more spectacular than the hanging gardens of Babylon!!!

In the future, the city of Houston will be under a climate-controlled dome, administered by a cyborg version of Ed Emmett.

By 2045 Houston will have close to 6.2 million people. We will all have to shift to xeriscaping because water will be a huge issue, and we will not have planned for mass water shortages. We will all still be complaining about roads because we will be the only city in the country that has yet to realize that cars as primary transport is not sustainable in such a densely populated area. Average temperatures in the Summer will be 115, and we will still be in denial that Global Climate Change has happened or that we have anything to do with it. We will still hate on San Antonio. We will still wait in line at House of Pies for Thanksgiving.

I can see self-driven cars and more public transportation available, but traffic will still a big issue for the city. People will be working remotely in a lot of cases. There might be offices shared by multiple companies in the different suburbs. The city has to allow people work from a place different than home.

A question: Will what happened to Detroit with the auto industry happen to Houston with the oil & gas industry?

In thirty years, I predict the Metro rail will have expanded to two more streets! All jokes aside, I think Houston’s inner loop will rival Portland and Austin in means of public and non-automobile forms of transportation, and Houston will also become socially one of the most progressive cities in the world given our diversity and current stance on gender and sexual equality.

I believe the majority of Houston/major city populations will be traveling by Google or Smart cars in groups of nearby people heading to similar areas at similar times. Also shopping, fast food, banking and many other monotonous tasks will be performed by robots and few if any humans leaving our civilization to hopefully focus on education and important mathematic, scientific and everyday common discoveries and problems.

I see the future of Houston as covered in double-decker highways, dense three-story corrugated metal-sided condos and potholed streets throughout. They will still be arguing the 4th & 5th light rail path for downtown. Parking will have New York City prices. I am not optimistic for the future of Houston. The politics are too tough. NPR will be a bright light.

The demographics will be quite different. My guess is that Houston will continue to be more diverse than ever with new communities forming across the city. And, as for infrastructure, I think the local government will find a way to expand the rail across the major districts in the city. And, for technology, I think the Internet will be ubiquitous from smart homes to perhaps inside our bodies since biomedical engineering will exceed our expectations by then but will be highly restricted since it’s ethical issues will change a bit by then. And, finally for entertainment, I think on-demand services will be vastly used but as a device I think virtual reality will be the next platform in which we play video games and watch our funny videos, etc.

I predict that Houston will be energy independent, primarily through solar and wind energy. That we will find a way to contain and sell that energy to the rest of the country. I also predict that our way of transportation will change so that there will be a need for less cars on our highways. Oh Lord, also hear my Prayer! Amen.

My only message to our future selves is to congratulate them on the completion of the work being done on 290 which will probably coincide with the opening of this time capsule.

Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

More Information