Transportation

Metro Rail

There’s more to building a successful light-rail system than laying track and putting up stations. That’s why METRORail made an early commitment to not only serve and connect Houston communities, but also to maintain their culture and integrity. METRORail has added more than 17 miles of new sidewalks and 45 miles of 12-foot traffic lanes. The expanded light-rail system is an essential element of the city’s plans to meet the transportation and environmental challenges of today and tomorrow, easing our growing traffic congestion, improving our air quality and changing the way Houston moves.

METRO Bus System

METRO 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. METRO is paving the way for a cleaner Houston with 443 transit diesel-hybrid buses in operation. Since 2003, METRO has been actively working to improve the air we breathe with state-of-the-art technology that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 50 percent and offers substantial savings in fuel. Hybrid technology is METRO’s current choice for vehicles, and each year, as part of its fleet replacement plan, METRO purchases 100 buses.

METRO Lift

METROLift provides prescheduled, curb-to-curb, shared-ride transportation for persons with disabilities who cannot ride fixed-route bus service. Call METROLift customer service at 713-225-0119 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays to obtain eligibility materials or download from ridemetro.org.

HOV Lanes

A High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane is a barrier-protected lane—usually in the median of a freeway—that is open to buses, vanpools/ carpools, and motorcycles. The lanes, which are accessed via freeway or facility ramps, are reversible to accommodate commuters during peak periods of traffic flow. Users must observe the occupancy requirements, rules of the road, and hours of operation.

HOV lanes operate on the Southwest, Gulf, North, Eastex, and Northwest freeways.

HOV lanes are open 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday for inbound traffic, and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday for outbound traffic. A minimum occupancy of two people is required on the HOV lane system. (A minimum of three occupants is required during morning rush hours on the Northwest HOV lanes.)

Since 2001, METRO also has been operating concurrent-flow Diamond HOV Lanes, which are identified by diamond-shaped icons in a lane separated from main-lane traffic by double-solid white lines. Diamond HOV Lanes in the METRO service area are located on the Katy Freeway between Texas Highway 6 and Texas Highway 99 (Grand Parkway) in Katy.

Park and Ride Lots

METRO has 29 park-and-ride lots with more than 33,000 available parking spaces. Direct nonstop service to Downtown, the Texas Medical Center, or other major employment centers in the METRO service area is available from park-and-ride lots. Park-and-ride facilities also serve as staging areas for vanpools and carpools.

Transit Centers

Transit Centers are sheltered waiting areas located where several bus routes and/or METRORail converge. METRO’s 20 Transit Centers serve as efficient hubs to allow bus and/or METRORail riders from various locations to assemble at a central point to take advantage of express trips or other route- to-route transfers. Our clean, safe, and comfortable transit centers provide bus and/or METRORail patrons with a wider selection of destinations through greater transfer opportunities and offer their respective communities a permanent presence of transit service. Transit Centers feature a mixture of Park & Ride and Local bus service, as well as limited METRORail service. Limited parking—approximately 2,400 spaces—is available at select transit centers.

Airports

The Houston area is served by two major airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). Houston’s largest airport, IAH, is located approximately 23 miles north of downtown Houston, and currently ranks 15th among United States’ busiest airports with scheduled nonstop domestic and international flights. More than 650 departures leave daily from IAH, which offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other U.S. airport, as well as 74 nonstop international cities, including Beijing. IAH was named the 8th best airport in the country in a 2017 ranking from aviation re- viewer SkyTrax. Hobby Airport is located approximately seven miles south of downtown, and offers nonstop flights to more than 50 destinations throughout the United States. It’s 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.

Highways

Houston is the crossroads for interstate highways 10 and 45. Other major highways serving Houston are Interstate 610, U.S. 59, U.S. 90, U.S. 290, Texas 99, Texas 146, Texas 225, Texas 249, Texas 288, Hardy Toll Road, Westpark Tollway, and Beltway 8.

Houston TranStar is a lifesaver for anyone wanting to avoid congested roadways when driving throughout the city. TranStar uses state-of-the-art technologies to reduce congestion on major roadways. Monitoring traffic incidents with more than 730 regional closed-circuit cameras, TranStar dispatches vehicles to remove debris or hazardous materials, communicates with emergency vehicles about accident scenes, and sends tow trucks to stalled vehicles. Dynamic message signs and a robust website inform the public about expected travel times and traffic-related issues.

Highway Nicknames

As in most cities, routes and freeways in Houston are designated by numbers, but natives usually refer to them by nicknames. Here are a few of the major freeways and their nicknames.

Beaumont Highway – U.S. 90
Beltway 8  – Sam Houston Parkway/The Beltway
East Freeway –  Interstate 10 East
Eastex Freeway – U.S. 59 (north Houston to downtown)
Grand Parkway – Texas 99
Gulf Freeway – Interstate 45 (south of downtown)
Katy Freeway – Interstate 10 West
The Loop – Loop 610 (in all four directions)
North Freeway – Interstate 45 North
Northwest Freeway – U.S. 290
South Freeway – Texas 288
Southwest Freeway – U.S. 59 (Southwest Houston
to downtown)