Skip to main content

How Houston has Evolved to Embrace Multimodal Transportation

Published Oct 28, 2022 by Brina Morales

People riding bikes in Houston

Bike riders in Houston (Courtesy: Houston Bike Plan)

Houston often makes lists of some of the nation’s most sprawling, car-centric metros. But, the city has evolved over the years to include more light rail and other multimodal transportation options as it looks to become more climate-friendly. As of 2021, Houston has more than 400 miles of trails and bike lanes with the goal of constructing a total of 500 miles by 2025. And the city is on track to meet that goal. 

As of 2021, Houston has reached 87% of its Resilient Houston goal to build at least 500 miles of high-comfort bikeways or lanes that are safe for all ages, according to Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. The Resilience and Recovery Tracker shows the city needs to build at least 16 miles more per year to reach the milestone.

In recent years, the City of Houston, Harris County, nonprofit organizations, the cycling community and other entities have come together to improve Houston’s bike infrastructure and build safer roads for all travelers as the city continues to expand. 

Houston BCycle, the city’s bike share program, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month. The program, which is operated by nonprofit organization Houston Bike Share, started in 2012 with only three stations downtown and 18 bikes. Today, there are more than 150 stations across Houston and more than 1,100 bikes. The bike share program has seen tremendous growth every year since its founding, growing more than 700% in the last five years, according to the nonprofit.

“The success of the Houston BCycle program is cause for celebration and a great source of pride for the City, and would not be possible without Houston Bike Share,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a recent press release. “The City of Houston is committed to making Houston more walkable and connected to biking and transit, and the availability of these bike stations across the city, including in Complete Communities, [which] furthers that commitment and supports our goal to provide equity and accessible multimodal transportation options.”

In 2017, the city adopted the Houston Bike Plan with a goal to create roughly 1,800 miles of high-comfort bikeways with a vision to be a gold-level bicycle-friendly city by 2027. Seven projects have been completed under the plan, in addition to eight that are in the design or construction phase.

Earlier this year, the city announced a $25 million plan to transform Telephone Road between Lawndale Avenue and South Loop 610, an underserved area, with improved sidewalks, protected bike lanes, safer crosswalks and converted traffic lanes. According to Chron.com, the city won a $20.1 million federal grant under the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program. The goal is to combine the project with two other projects already underway along other stretches of Telephone Road, which “will help create a five-mile multimodal stretch of the thoroughfare between the Hobby area and Houston’s East End when all is done.” 

Efforts to create a more bike-friendly city are not going unnoticed. Houston recently ranked 29 out of 50 among the top bike-friendly cities, according to an analysis by Anytime Estimate. Compared to other Texas cities, Houston came second only to Austin. 

Despite the significant progress Houston has made, concerning challenges remain. The annual total of cycling deaths has risen each year since 2017 in Harris County except for a slight dip in 2018, according to an analysis of TxDOT roadway crash data by the Houston Chronicle. So far in 2022, 11 people riding bicycles have died compared to last year’s total of 24. 

But there are signs that efforts to improve bike infrastructure and safety are working. A Chron.com analysis shows the number of overall cycling crashes has been steadily declining since 2017 except for a slight uptick in 2021. 

Investing in multimodal transportation is critical to building a healthier population and economy, and it’s evident the city and county are making the investment. The Nov. 8 midterm election includes a $1.2 billion bond election for Harris County voters that includes $900 million for roads, drainage and multimodal transportation. 

Learn more about living in Houston.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Houston had more than 800 miles of trails and bike lanes with the goal of constructing an additional 500 miles by 2025. The correct amount is more than 400 miles with a goal of reaching 500 miles total by 2025.

Related News

Living In Houston

Downtown Houston's Newest Park Increases Green Space Access

12/5/22
The official opening of downtown Houston’s newest park will mark a key milestone in the ongoing effort to improve the city’s prime commercial district – everyone living downtown will be within walking distance of a park.   Trebly Park is expected to celebrate its official opening early next year, but you may find some activity right now since the fencing is down and holiday installations are up. The park, located at the corner of Leeland and Fannin Streets near Toyota Center, is the Downtown Redevelopment Authority’s (DRA) latest project. The highly anticipated L-shaped green space has been under construction since last year and will include lush garden zones, a central lawn that will be used for events, dog runs, BCycle stations, a bike repair station, and a Tout Suite café. Visitors will also find an inaugural gateway installation by Quintessenz and a playscape titled “Whale Bone Dinner Party,” a six-piece, 7-foot-tall sculpture that will be the centerpiece of the park. Holiday decorations at Trebly Park (Courtesy: Downtown Redevelopment Authority) View of Trebly Park (Courtesy: Downtown Redevelopment Authority) Trebly Park's dog run (Courtesy: Downtown Redevelopment Authority) The new park comes as the southern zone of downtown experiences an increase in residential buildings. In 2021, The DRA said the new park would support the more than 1,700 new residential units developed in that area since 2012.  “Trebly Park implies that the park has much to offer those who visit it in terms of experience with ‘three times as much’ fun, play, interaction, relaxation and deliciousness,” Curtis Flowers, DRA board chair, said in a press release in March 2021. “We also hope the grounds will serve as a ‘third space,’ or communal space, for area residents, students, workers and visitors.” @ghpartnership #houston #htx #houstontx #houstontexas #park #downtown ♬ original sound - Greater Houston Partnership   Trebly Park isn’t the only exciting green space project underway in downtown. Jones Plaza in the Theater District is being transformed into the Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts after the eponymous philanthropist’s $10 million donation. The reimagined block will include a new performing space, a restaurant and a shaded lawn with numerous gardens. Once completed, leaders behind the redevelopment hope it will attract new businesses to the area and reinvigorate the Theater District. Click to expand Rendering of Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts Downtown Houston has come a long way since it set on a journey to increase green space. It all started with Discovery Green in 2008, which has since welcomed more than 20 million visitors. You can find events, public art installations, two restaurants and more at the 12-acre urban park.  In 2010, the Houston Downtown Management District, Downtown Redevelopment Authority and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department redeveloped Market Square Park in the Historic District. It was transformed into a destination for visitors and residents with dog runs, central lawn, a plaza for performances and a Houston food staple, Niko Niko’s.  Other downtown parks include Sesquicentennial Park and Allen’s Landing along Buffalo Bayou. Allen’s Landing is named in honor of the landing of the Allen brothers, August Chapman and John Kirby, in Houston in 1836.   Together, these ultra-urban parks and green spaces are helping create a more dynamic downtown district that stretches well beyond the once business-only identity of the city’s core. Downtown today is a destination for the city’s diners and nightlife enthusiasts as well as a more attractive place to live for high-rise dwellers. A recent Houston Chronicle interview with Central Houston President Kris Larson promises more changes are on the horizon.  Learn more about living in Houston.  
Read More
Economic Development

Potential Development Could Spur More Economic Activity in The Woodlands

11/18/22
Two new hotels and more shopping could be headed to The Woodlands as the area continues to see growth.  The Woodlands Mall wants to expand with a minimum of 80,000 square feet of new retail space in an open-air, mixed-use commercial area that would also include a full-service hotel with at least 200 rooms, a select-service hotel with at least 125 rooms and a multi-level parking garage. The mixed-use project would be located south of Macy’s near the movie theater and be developed in two phases. The total area encompasses 15 acres. Concept renderings of The Woodlands Mall expansion (Courtesy: The Woodlands Township)   The Woodlands Township recently entered into an economic development agreement with The Woodlands Township Economic Development Zone and The Woodlands Mall Associates, LLC. The project would be in an economic development zone, which spurs economic growth and job creation.   According to documents from The Woodlands Township, depending on the scale of the project, it is estimated to generate anywhere from $180 to $275 million, based over a 30-year term. The range is based on whether the developer decides to build a smaller or larger parking garage. The township would receive more than 70% of the generated revenue and the mall would receive the remainder. The agreement also calls for the reimbursement of the parking garage costs up to $80 million. The developers have not announced when construction on the project would begin. The Woodlands Mall will decide if and when they will move forward with the plan. The Woodlands area has recently seen more economic development wins. Cellipont Bioservices recently broke ground on its new headquarters and manufacturing facility in the Research Forest area after announcing earlier this year it was moving from California to Texas. SI Group Inc. also announced earlier this year that it’s moving its global headquarters from New York State to the Hughes Landing complex. The Woodlands area has seen substantial population growth over the past decade. From 2011 to 2021, Montgomery County’s population grew more than 37% to 648,886 people.   Learn more about Montgomery County's rapid growth, business developments and future plans during the Partnership's Future of the Houston Region event on Dec. 13.
Read More

Related Events