The Case for Transit Funding in Texas

One Thousand Texans for Transit, Uncategorized

If you’re reading this in a major Texas metro, you are currently experiencing about 1/3 the transit funding than you would experience in the other largest major US metros.

There is less bus frequency, less places you can get to by transit, less high quality rapid transit options, less fiscally productive real estate investment, and more people having to drive a lot more than they would like to.

We presented the following one pager to the Texas House Committee on Appropriations – S/C on Articles VI, VII & VIII Committee, as they had their initial discussion of the Texas Department of Transportation budget. You can see the testimony at 4:05:45 in this video.

One Pager:
A majority of 28 million Texans – growing to 50 million soon – want better public transportation and are willing to pay more to fund better transit.

Texas metro regions have 1/3 the transit funding our competitors have

  • Average local + state spending on public transportation across all states was $114 per capita in 2016, but only $64 per Texan.
  • Compared to the 8 other states with one or more of the 10 largest metro regions in the nation, Texans experience only 1/3 as much local + state transit funding per capita.
  • Average state funding of public transportation in America is $44 per capita – in Texas: $1.08
  • Only 17% of Americans live in the 15 states that fund public transit less than Texas.

Innovations in Texas transit is being watched, copied across the nation

  • Houston METRO’s bus system reimagining overhaul has been copied across the nation, including last year in Austin, with ridership up in Austin and other metros following Houston’s lead on efficient, frequent service.

We massively subsidize driving even though we’ve reached a point of little marginal benefit, with transit ready to help

  • TXDOT has asked for $41 million a year in funding for transit for rural areas, home to 6 million Texans – to meet basic needs.
  • Equal transit funding per capita for the 22 million other Texans: $160 million a year.
  • $330 million a year would raise us to Indiana standards for state transit funding per capita.

Texans want more transit funding

  • According to the 2016 TTI survey, “the most frequently cited change that Texans would like to see in order to improve the transportation system for them was to improve public transportation.”
  • Kinder Houston Area Survey: 92% of the 7.5 million Texans living in Houston region think “much-improved mass transit” is important.

We need to fix our transit funding problem

  • $201 million a year dedicated to public transit for rural and metropolitan areas, with $41 million for rural and small metros.
  • Let Texans vote on local options funding

City of Houston Staff Present Vision Zero to Bicycle Advisory Committee


Of the ten largest cities in the nation, Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix are the only ones left without a Vision Zero Action Plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries. As documented in the Houston Chronicle series of reports, Houston is one of the most dangerous transportation systems in the nation.

First published in print in Houstonia magazine, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has directed the Planning and Development Department “to explore what Vision Zero looks like for the City of Houston,” according to a presentation by Lauren Grove at the City of Houston Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on January 16.

You can watch the discussion in the following video beginning at the 45 minute mark:

The presentation indicates that the City of Houston expects to have an executive order ready for Mayor Sylvester Turner to launch the program in May 2019, following months of collaboration between various departments across the City, as well as assistance from the Federal Highway Administration, the Vision Zero Network, Vision Zero programs in other Texas cities, and Farm&City.

The Bicycle Advisory Committee unanimously voted to ask the Planning Department to create a resolution supporting the Vision Zero effort and that their policy view is that “the only acceptable number of preventable traffic deaths is none.”

One of the major goals of Farm&City this year – through our Vision Zero Texas work – is for at least ten Texas cities, counties, or MPOs to have adopted or started Vision Zero Action Plans to end traffic deaths and serious injuries. So far, the cities of Austin and San Antonio are the only jurisdictions in Texas, but we expect several other cities and counties to be acting alongside the City of Houston soon.

H-GAC Transportation Policy Council Starts Tough Discussion on Equitable Representation


Strategies and funding allocations for transportation, urban planning, sustainability, and equity issues in Texas metropolitan regions are decided at our Texas metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). Unfortunately, these decision making entities generally lack fair representation from the diverse people of their metro regions.

For example, the Houston region is the most diverse large metropolitan region in the United States, but the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Transportation Policy Council (TPC) just decided on Friday to once again fill their five leadership positions with all non-Hispanic White males, a radical inequity and inefficient decision making methodology.

While the result is another year of wildly inequitable representation for the people of the Houston region, for perhaps the first time ever, a meaningful discussion occurred around the table at the TPC, which you can watch here:

According to Farm&City research, the Houston region’s inequitable representation on the TPC is the worst of Texas’ large MPOs and among the four worst on all three indices we developed: the male advantage index, white advantage index, and geographic advantage index. Higher numbers on all of these indices mean worse, more inequitable.

No member of the TPC is publicly known to be a person with a disability, another dramatic gap in the wisdom available to our most important transportation planning and funding allocation decisions.

Non-Hispanic White residents of the Houston region are dramatically over-represented on the TPC, while all people of color are under-represented.

This vote to once again seat an all white male leadership group for the TPC is beyond the pale, and should never be repeated again, as noted by members of the TPC during this discussion.

However, the people of Houston region should accept no less than a complete reassessment of the general structure of H-GAC and the TPC. The body itself is wildly inequitable. The inequity not only comes from votes of the members of the TPC, but also decisions of local governments to generally only send white males to serve on this entity.

Beyond that, however, the system for allocating voting seats across the region is wildly inequitable, giving dramatically more representation for the whiter, wealthier residents of rural and suburban areas of the region.

After the vote to seat an all white male leadership team, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo – who represents more people by far than any other person at this table – was denied the opportunity to make a motion to establish a process to fix this terrible situation.

The meeting ended with a general sense that staff might come back at the February or March meeting with an agenda item to address these issues.