Facts and figures about the country’s fourth-largest city.

To really get an accurate picture of the Houston region, you need to have a sense of how truly large it is. The city of Houston encompasses approximately 655 square miles, and the metropolitan area covers more than 9,444 square miles. Houston is located in three counties: Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery. The Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area has 6,177,035 residents, making it the fifth-largest metro area in the country.

Getting Around.

The Houston region’s light rail service delivers safe, reliable, affordable and convenient public transit and mobility services. METRORail Red Line is a 7.5 mile light rail service running from the University of Houston–Downtown to south of Reliant Park along the streets of Main, Fannin and San Jacinto. METRORail features 16 conveniently located Rail Stations, with a total of 18 vehicles, which provide access to many of the city’s major employment, cultural/entertainment, education and medical centers. METRORail hours of operation are 4:30 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday; 4:30 am to 2:20 a.m., Friday; 5:30 a.m. to 2:20 a.m., Saturday, and 5:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m., Sunday. Visit ridemetro.org to view existing and planned light rail and bus routes. The METRO Bus System has 1,230 buses. With an extensive network of bus routes and convenient park-and-ride facilities helping to ease rush-hour commutes, the METRO Bus System keeps the Houston region moving.

Airports.

The Houston area is served by two major airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).

IAH is located approximately 23 miles north of downtown Houston, and currently ranks 11th among U.S. airports with scheduled non-stop domestic and international services. More than 650 departures leave daily from IAH, which offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other U.S. airport, as well as 70 non-stop international cities, including Beijing, China. IAH was named the best airport in the country in a 2013 Executive Travel magazine poll.

Hobby Airport is located approximately seven miles south of downtown, and offers non-stop flights to more than 48 destinations throughout the United States. It is also a regional center for corporate and private aviation.

A third site, Ellington Airport (EFD), is a joint-use civil and military airport serving the needs of the U.S. military, NASA and general aviation. Check individual airlines to see which airports serve a particular carrier.

Living Well is Easy in Houston.

The Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index for the third quarter of 2013 shows that Houston has the third lowest cost of living among the nation’s 20 most populous metro areas.

Houston’s housing costs are 34 percent below the average for the 20 most populous U.S. metros, and its overall costs are 16.9 percent below the average for this group. If one excludes the five most expensive housing markets—San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and San Diego—which tend to skew the average, Houston’s housing costs are still 18.8 percent below the major metro average.

The C2ER Cost of Living Index for the third quarter of 2013 also shows that Houston’s overall after-taxes living costs are 5.3 percent below the average for all 306 urban areas participating in the survey, largely due to housing costs that are 7.9 percent below the national average.

Texas does not have a state personal income tax. The city, the state and METRO charge a sales tax. The Harris County Appraisal District provides the appraised value of property, and each jurisdiction sets its own property tax rate. The city and county charge fees for franchises, licenses and permits to pay for services. Some taxing authorities such as school districts can collect taxes independent of the county tax assessor-collector. In certain instances, taxing authorities offer tax exemptions for residents, people over age 65, veterans, and people with disabilities. For more information, log on to statelocalgov.net.

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