The Houston region is expected to grow from roughly 6.5 million people to 10 million by the year 2040, according to experts. This means a lot of extra commuters and slower traffic.
“The more we grow, the worse our traffic is going to get,” commuter John McDermott said.
The Houston Galveston Area Council recently calculated future drive times for all of the major corridors around Houston, and the commute in every single area is expected to grow over the next 20 to 30 years.
2018 to 2045
Pasadena: 25 minutes to 31 minutes
Cypress: 59 minutes to 71 minutes
Tomball: 74 minutes to 96 minutes
Kingwood: 52 minutes to 67 minutes
Baytown: 40 minutes to 56 minutes
Clear Lake: 48 minutes to 56 minutes
Pearland: 39 minutes to 40 minutes
Sugar Land: 43 minutes to 50 minutes
Katy: 62 minutes to 77 minutes
Woodlands: 67 minutes to 93 minutes
Galveston: 67 minutes to 81 minutes
Studies show that the drive from Katy to downtown Houston will go from 62 minutes today, to 72 minutes by 2045. Even with the 290 remodel, the Cypress commute will increase in time by 12 minutes.
Also, the dreaded I-45 Woodlands commute will take 26 minutes longer. The average commute time of 67 minute will jump to 93 minutes, which is over an hour and a half each way.
HGAC say they took population, employment growth and road projects into account when they calculated the commute times.
Commuters like Michelle Loden says she has already ditched the drive and started riding the METRO. Loden says her bus rides gives her the chance to work and relax while someone else is behind the wheel.
“I think a lot more people are going to be doing public transportation instead of driving their own cars,” Loden said.
METRO is developing a plan to recruit more riders like Michelle, and promote any mode of transportation that could help remove cars from the road.
“We carry an average occupancy of 1.1 person per car. That bus that carries 45 people or that train that carries 200 people is taking 45 vehicles or 200 vehicles off the road,” METRO President and CEO Tom Lambert said.
METRO has several ideas to help ease congestion including, working with the city to give buses traffic light priority, increasing park and ride options, utilizing the HOV lanes being built on the I-45 downtown remodel, and even creating light rail extensions to the airports.
METRO is also looking into alternative modes of transportation instead of just buses and light rails.
In January, METRO will start testing a self-driving shuttle on the Tiger Walk at Texas Southern University. The idea is to eventually be able to use crash avoidance technology to platoon self-driving buses together, giving METRO the ability to move a lot of people at a high rate of speed.
This is a concept that could be used along with the new dedicated Post Oak bus lanes, HOV lanes, and even corridors.
“It’s all about walk-ability. It’s all about cycling. It’s all about what’s the technology of the future to make it easier for people to spend more time with their family,” Lambert said.