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Houston Area Survey Finds The Biggest Problem Facing Houston

It’s not the local economy, crime, or immigration. It’s the one thing that often keeps us from getting to places we want to be when we want to be there.


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For the second time since 2013, people who took part in the Houston Area Survey said traffic is this area’s biggest challenge.  The survey is the brainchild of Rice sociologist Steven Klineberg. He started asking people what’s on their minds back in 1981.

This year, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research found that, among those who’ve been here at least three years, 65 percent say traffic has gotten worse. That’s up nine points in two years.

In an appearance on Houston Matters, Dr. Klineberg said people are ready for a change.

“The central solution, throughout all of our history, is ‘build more roads.’ That’s the last choice of Harris County residents,” Klineberg said.  

He says the favored solution, by 43 percent, is to improve transit. That’s followed by creating more communities where people can live closer to where they work and shop, at 27 percent. Only 21 percent say build bigger and better roads.” 

Of course, one reason for more traffic is a healthy economy. And despite the thousands of layoffs in the oil indsutry, Dr. Klineberg says nearly 70 percent surveyed believe local job opportunities are good to excellent. 

“The sobering part, of course, is, the last time it was this high was in 1982, just before the total collapse of the oil boom economy, and the worst regional recession of any part of the economy since World War II that developed by 1985,” Klineberg said. 

But Klineberg says the local economy is much more diversified now it was than thirty years ago, so another recession isn’t likely. Klineberg adds the job losses in the oil industry haven’t yet filtered down to affect the daily lives of most people in Houston.

This year’s survey came out the same week the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could pave the way for same-sex marriage in all 50 states. More people in the Houston area have warmed up to the idea of same-sex marriage. Fifty-one percent say marriages between two men or two women should be given full legal status. That’s a 20 percent jump since 1993.

“And the key factor in all this is a question we’ve asked in alternating years — ‘do you think homosexuality is something people choose, or something they cannot change?’ The percent saying it’s something they cannot change has gone from 25 percent to 55 percent,” Klineberg said.

When it comes to another contentious social issue, abortion, Klineberg says opinions have barely changed over the years. However, it appears people in Houston have a nuanced view of terminating a pregnancy. Fifty-eight percent said they believe abortion is “morally wrong.” But 63 percent say they’re opposed to laws that would make getting an abortion more difficult. 


Houston Area Survey


2015 Kinder Houston Area Survey (PDF)

2015 Kinder Houston Area Survey (Text)

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David Pitman

David Pitman

Host & Announcer

David was HPM's local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 — when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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