The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, or “METRO” for short, is the public transit authority in Houston. Buses, trolleybuses and, since 2004, a light rail are available. The light rail serves the busiest relationship in the city between downtown and the Texas Medical Center and has 45,000 travelers a day. Two new short routes were put into operation in 2015. To compensate for the lack of an urban rail network, METRO has many express buses that run from the HOV -lanes on the highways. The city has 101 bus lines served by more than 1,200 buses. About 600,500 people use public transport every day, which amounts to more than 5% of the population. In 2003 there was a referendum that was narrowly won by proponents of expanding the light rail system. The intention is to add 104 kilometers of light rail, including rail connections to the airports. There must be a total of 5 light rail connections.
Intercity rail traffic is of marginal importance. Houston Central Station only has intercity service to San Antonio (5 hours) and New Orleans (9 hours 45 minutes) through Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, which serves Houston three times a week. Approximately 20,000 travelers use the station every year, an average of 55 per day. Intercity train traffic is hardly taken seriously because of the long travel times and the congested track by freight trains that have priority. Distances to the nearest major cities are often more than 500 kilometers, making the plane a better option.
According to ejiaxing, Houston’s freeways are characterized by so-called “transitways”, separate infrastructure for buses, carpoolers and solo drivers for a fee, so-called HOT lanes. Although HOT lanes in the United States also exist elsewhere, the system is nowhere as extensive as in Houston, especially because the managed lanes often have their own connections. The best known of these are the variants of the Texas T. Some interchanges have separate flyovers for HOT and HOV lanes, which are called transitways. The most impressive complex of these is the confluence of I-10 and I-45 on the north side of Downtown Houston. Freeways with separate bus/carpool facilities are I-10 (Katy Freeway), I-45 (Gulf Freeway and North Freeway), US 59 (Southwest Freeway and Eastex Freeway and US 290 (Northwest Freeway). The transitways are mainly constructed as alternating lanes.
The first bus lane opened on August 28, 1979 on the North Freeway. This was a contraflow lane. One lane of the opposite direction was used, separated from oncoming traffic only by 1,300 cones that were installed and removed twice a day. It was a test project and was stopped on November 23, 1984 and a safer freestanding structure was chosen, namely an alternating lane. The first of these opened on October 29, 1984 on the Katy Freeway, converting the two left hard shoulder lanes to bus alternate lanes. During the reconstruction of the North Freeway Between 1983 and 1988 an alternating lane was also constructed, but much more advanced than the alternating lane on the Katy Freeway, separate connections were built (Texas T) and large P+R areas were built along the highway. In the late 1980s and 1990s, more alternate lanes were built on the Gulf Freeway and Northwest Freeway. The transitway opened on the Eastex Freeway in March 1999, and is one of the most extensive transitways to date, with a large number of separate connections in the median strip.
By the end of 2002, the network of transitways had grown to 141 kilometers. However, the use of the transitways – measured by the number of vehicles per hour – was very low, and a number of transitways were soon opened to carpoolers. In 2002, 120,000 people used the transitways every day, two-thirds of them as carpoolers and one third as bus passengers. Measured by the number of vehicles, however, use was still well below that of the other lanes. As a result, in 2012 a start was made on converting a number of transitways into a managed lane, the Texan name for a HOT lane, whereby solo drivers can use the transitways for a fee in order to make better use of the existing road capacity and reduce congestion.. This one tolls are variable, so in principle the transitways can always be driven at a minimum speed of 55 mph.