Two Studies Show How Light Rail Benefits Houston

Finally, the city seems to be reaping benefits from a major investment in public transportation.

2 minute read

January 21, 2018, 1:00 PM PST

By Katharine Jose

Houston Light Rail

Mastering_Microstock / Shutterstock

Light rail has been an important (and expensive) part of urban development in both Dallas and Houston, two cities better known for sprawl than vibrant density.

In Houston, at least, two recent studies show that rail was a sound investment, notes Dian Nostikasari at Rice University’s The Urban Edge.  

The first, from Texas Southern University, concluded, “[T[here have been measurable positive impacts from the development of light rail, at least on the Main Street corridor.”

The second, from one researcher with the Washington State Department of Transportation and another from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, “examined changing land use within approximately half-mile of the rail stations along the original red, purple and green line in Houston.”

“That study found that along the original red line, there was a rise in commercial development that happened after the light rail came in but that began even before the red line was constructed. The study also found, increased development on vacant lands along these rail lines. This is a good thing as vacant land in cities like Houston tends to represent a lack of investment. Even as the Houston region continued to face a shortage of affordable housing supply, residential units along these rail lines increased – a trend across the country as living close to transit becomes a more attractive option.”

After many years of resistance to investing in public transit, light rail in Houston has been well received, as has the city’s investment in the bus system; together they represent a cultural and bureaucratic shift towards “walkable urbanism” in the city that doesn’t zone.

“Houston continues to grow but is at a crossroads post-Harvey,” Nostikarari writes. “Can it afford to continue growing as before and face the long-term consequences of being a car-dependent, outward growing metropolis? Or must it begin to think about prioritizing growing inward by improving its public transportation infrastructure and putting work places and other important destinations close to where people live while ensuring residents 

Thursday, January 11, 2018 in The Urban Edge

View down New York City alleyway at nighttime

Red Cities, Blue Cities, and Crime

Homicides rose across the nation in 2020 and 2021. But did they rise equally in all cities, or was the situation worse in some than in others?

March 12, 2023 - Michael Lewyn

babyt Boomer Homeowners

The Shifting Boomer Bulge: More Bad News for America’s Housing Crisis?

In the first of a two-part series, PlaceMakers’ Ben Brown interviews housing guru Arthur C. Nelson on the sweeping demographic changes complicating the housing market.

March 12, 2023 - PlaceShakers and NewsMakers

Yellow on black "Expect Delays" traffic sign

A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts

Some highway advocates continue to claim that roadway expansions are justified to reduce traffic congestion. That's not what the research shows. It's time to stop obsessing over congestion and instead strive for efficient accessibility.

March 14, 2023 - Todd Litman

A toll payment facility in Florida.

Tolling All Lanes

Bay Area transportation planners are studying a radical idea to reduce traffic congestion and fund driving alternatives: tolling all lanes on a freeway. Even more radical, the plan considers tolling parallel roads.

2 hours ago - San Francisco Chronicle

Close-up of person holding up smartphone next to contactless fare reading device on bus

Federal SMART Grants Awarded for Transportation Safety, Equity Projects

The grant program focuses on the use of technology to improve safety, accessibility, and efficiency in transportation.

3 hours ago - U.S. Department Of Transportation

Seattle Transit

Fare Enforcement Upheld by Washington Supreme Court

But using armed police to enforce fare payment is less than ideal in the eyes of the top court in the state of Washington.

4 hours ago - Crosscut

Planner II

City of Greenville

Planner I

City of Greenville

Rural Projects Coordinator (RARE AmeriCorps Member)

Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps Program

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.