Expand quality, cost-effective and reliable transportation options and improve neighborhood amenities to promote safe pedestrian and motorized mobility.
Mobility and transportation are understandably big issues in a big county. Harris County is the fourth largest county in the United States, encompassing 1,778 square miles and 37 different municipalities. The greater metropolitan area includes neighboring Fort Bend, Montgomery, Brazoria, Galveston, Waller, and Liberty counties and is reaching out to others. Due to the area’s immense size and its large number of governing bodies, each with its own funding, coordinated transportation across municipalities and counties has presented challenges. Not a standalone issue, transportation has implications for all other domains, from housing accessibility to health and wellness, recreation and cultural activities, and safety. If families are dependent on public transportation, it affects all trips, both essential and discretionary. The elder population in the area is growing very rapidly. Elders, of course, are not distributed evenly across the area: the highest concentrations, according to recent maps, are within Beltway 8, and clustered primarily within Loop 610, along the North Loop, and west of the West Loop Meeting the demand for transportation when distances are great and demand is growing is problematic. Most Houstonians rely on a privately owned car; however, seniors have physical and financial limitations that make it difficult to own and /or operate a car (Klineberg,2005).
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Area Agency on Aging Area Planning Advisor Council
© 2009 HCAAA
High gas prices, which are predicted to rise even higher, can be expected to add to that problem, especially for the approximately one third of seniors with low incomes. Many elders, including low-income individuals and persons with disabilities, report being unable to travel to their required destinations because they lacked transportation. Once on the road, however, travelers confront traffic congestion: 67 percent of respondents in the annual Houston Area Survey by Rice University reported that traffic congestion had been getting worse for the last three years (Klineberg, 2007). Improving public transportation is the choice of 78 percent of Houstonians when asked how to best relieve traffic congestion (Klineberg, 2007), but personal safety concerns inhibit some from using publictransportation. Data from the Texas
Citizen Fund-United Way survey indicated that 47 percent of those older than 60 years of age or disabled had personal safety concerns when using public transportation. This corroborates findings in the general population surveyed by Rice researchers, whose survey has tracked a growing willingness for respondents to say crime was Houston’s worst problem: 13 percent in 2005, 31 percent in 2006, and 38 percent in 2007. Walking in a city with traffic congestion also presents certain problems. Pedestrian audits of WalkWell Texas, a Texas Citizen Fund project for reducing pedestrian fatalities, have found higher rates of pedestrian fatalities in Harris County in the general population and for pedestrians 55 years of age or older than in the nation or Texas overall.