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Survey Says: 61% Houston area Support Mass Transit


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One of America’s most automobile-dependent large cities may be heading into a new era, according to the 31st annual Kinder Houston Area Survey conducted by Rice University. Among the findings in this year’s survey: Houstonians support mass transit, feel better about the economy and say relations between ethnic groups are better than ever.


Stephen Klineberg discusses the survey results at a luncheon hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership and Rice's Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Photo by Jeff Fitlow.

The survey results were released April 24 at a luncheon hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership and Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Mass transit and a preference for urban living.

A large and growing proportion of Harris County residents emphatically support improvements in mass transit, and majorities are now calling for more opportunities to live within walking distance of shops and workplaces. Fifty-six percent of the respondents in Harris County and 61 percent in surrounding counties said that the development of a much-improved mass transit system is “very important” for the future success of the Houston area. A majority (51 percent) of Harris County residents want more taxpayer money to be spent on improving rail and buses rather than on expanding existing highways.

“The romance with the automobile, which has been the essence of Houston for most of its modern history, is clearly fading,” Klineberg said. “The suburbs are more crowded, gas prices and traffic congestion are soaring, fewer households have children at home, and the lure of urban amenities, both in downtown Houston and in suburban ‘town centers,’ is generating a sea-change in area residents’ living preferences.”

In 1999, 52 percent of Anglos living in the city of Houston said they would someday like to move to suburbs, compared with 26 percent of those in the suburbs who were interested in moving to the city. This year, the figures are reversed: Just 28 percent of city residents said they want to live in the suburbs, but 33 percent of suburbanites are now interested in someday moving to the city.

What do you think? I mean, the numbers are in, but does that even matter? As in, Houston people may like mass transit, but not much has been done about it...

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Very interesting. While it's good to see that more people are getting behind investing more in mass transit and less in highways, I'm not sure much can be done about that.

There is no vote whether or not to expand or build a new highway, TxDOT just does it.

IIRC Grenias from METRO said that there will be a new referendum? Well I guess we will see if the citizens of Houston really back rail when they put it to vote again.

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What do you think? I mean, the numbers are in, but does that even matter? As in, Houston people may like mass transit, but not much has been done about it...

How were the survey questions worded? For instance what does "supporting transit" mean? Hell, I support transit even though I won't ride it. More buses and P&R services would be great! But I don't support too little or too much, and I also support other city services that have to be delivered within a realistic budget, as well as milking the state and federal governments for all they're worth on highway projects so that more affordable suburban land can be accessed and developed to keep the price of urban real estate at a level that is realistically attainable (and to keep suburbanites that are predisposed to living in suburbia given their budget function...living in suburbia and not anywhere near me). But yeah, they aren't going to capture that set of preferences in their survey.

And sure, I'd love to live in the city (by which I mean, a nice neighborhood in the urban core, not Denver Harbor). And I'd bet that a typical Denver Harbor respondent, regardless of how they'd answer, can't and won't ever be able to afford either option...unless they're young, and then its possible except that they can only choose one or the other and not both at various points in their life. The questions are just so open-ended and aspirational. It's hard to ascribe them meaning.

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