The Citizens’ Environmental Coalition presented its plan, ‘Visions for a Greener Houston Summit Proceedings,’ to city council members and the public Thursday, June 7.
The report, presented at the city’s Green Building Resource Center, outlines short-term and long-term proposals the city can execute to be more environmentally friendly, including a goal of creating a mass commuter system for the Houston-Galveston 13-county region.
The city of Houston and Galveston both currently have a transit line already in place, but does not extend beyond their respective city limits. Houston’s METRO transit system has a light rail and bus system that travels throughout the city, while Galveston has their Island Transit system that runs a fixed rail trolley.
Christi Borden, Realtor with Prudential Gary Greene in Katy, Tex., explains that Houston and its surrounding suburbs are used to being car dependent. She explains that the best way, and oftentimes only mode of transportation, people can take to get to the Houston area is through the roadways, and that they are used to the commute.
“We are a commuter city. Traffic is just a fact of life [in Houston],” said Borden, explaining the mentality of Houston commuters.
Borden explained that she can see the benefits of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s mass transit line, in that it will “alleviate travel time,” and connect those in the suburbs to the urban culture and activities that are only available in the downtown area.
But while she likes the idea of this mass transit line, she questions how the project will be funded and how actual ridership will be, considering residents’ mentality of being a “commuter city.” One big factor Borden is considering is how the construction will affect current residents.
She explained that residents may face the problem of losing parts of their yards, which she says is an issue she and the Houston Association of Realtors fight against. ”We have fought for private property rights,” said Borden. ”
“Even if you had a rail line along I-10, where would the stops be?” said Borden. “They’ll like [the mass transit line] if it’s not in their backyard.”
One factor affecting Realtors in the coalition’s goals would be including a property’s walk, energy and transit scores within its listing.
“Realtors can certainly use that score, but I don’t want it mandated as a listing requirement,” said Borden. She explained that while a home close to the city may have a high walkability score, it oftentimes will be a home that’s older and in need of repair, and has a low energy score.
“I would love to sell them a better commute, but there’s always going to be a compromise,” she said.
Despite the area’s wishes for a mass transit line to alleviate commute times, Borden has noticed one trend.
“We’re seeing employers building away from the downtown area,” she said. Borden explained that companies like Exxon Mobil have moved into Woodlands to alleviate the commute for its employees that live close to the area.
What do you think of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s mass transit line? Will you break your habit of driving to consider public transportation? Sound off in our comments section below!