Monday, August 8, 2011

Houston’s Highway Traffic Is Nation’s 4th Worst

As we noted Saturday, rail critic Cliff Slater uses Houston’s transit system as a predictor of failure for Honolulu’s rail project. His reasoning is that as a percentage of daily trips, transit’s share today is lower than 10 years ago, and if that’s true for Houston, Honolulu can't hope to hit its ridership targets. Mr. Slater ignores all factors that could explain this statistic, including Houston’s love affair with the automobile.

The map of Houston posted on Saturday shows it’s sliced, diced and surrounded by arterial highways, proof that Houstonians response to mobility issues was to build more of them. With so much highway concrete out there, residents opt to drive rather than ride.

We found another explanation that rings true – the dispersal of job centers throughout the greater Houston region. One website (unfortunately not bookmarked and now not findable) said only 7 percent of the region’s jobs are in the urban center; it listed numerous other employment centers and said Houston’s rail system can’t connect to them all. People simply drive.

How have the abundant highway choices served the city’s citizens?

Houston’s traffic congestion is the nation’s fourth worst, according to the latest Urban Mobility Report. Compared to what’s called “normal drive times,” drivers there on average waste 58 hours a year in traffic at a collective cost of billions of dollars in additional fuel expense and more than $1,300 individually.

Oahu jobs are concentrated in two places – downtown Honolulu and the island’s Second City on the ewa plain. That’s how the City’s General Plan has guided our growth for decades, and that’s why Houston is not a predictor of anything about Honolulu’s future rail line. It not only will connect our two employment centers and the other communities along its 20-mile route, Honolulu rail will deliver its passengers on time and congestion-free each and every time they ride.

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