H-GAC Transportation Newsletter: June 2020
Transportation Policy Council Meeting: May 22
At its meeting on May 22, the Transportation Policy Council approved amendments to the 2019-22 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) and the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) that will provide additional funding to cover planning and administrative costs for mobility studies in southeast Harris County, Montgomery County Precinct 2, and Liberty County as well as an intersection safety audit and regional travel survey.

The council also discussed future amendments that would increase or adjust funding to a number of regional improvement projects. These projects include the extension and widening of Garth Road - a major commercial thoroughfare to Baytown and many surrounding communities - reconstruction of two one-way couplets and access improvements along Shepherd and Durham, the widening of SH 146, SH 242, and FM 517 in Brazoria County, and widening and constructing a grade separation along US 90A at SH 99.

The council continued discussing the North Houston Highway Improvement Project , which involves the reconstruction and widening of I-45 North from Beltway 8 North to and around Downtown Houston. On May 12, the City of Houston sent a letter to the Texas Department of Transportation outlining the city's goals for the project and identifying opportunities to address community concerns regarding the project's impact on neighborhoods along the freeway. The letter included a set of suggested action items to achieve their goals. Some of the action items were designing alternative lane configurations along segments 1 and 2 that reduce the required right-of-way, retaining and expanding local street connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, studying how bridges along the freeway can be designed for flood mitigation, and partnering with METRO to determine how regional express bus and bus rapid transit can reliably operate along the corridor.

Towards the end of the meeting, the council heard a presentation from Veronica Green, senior transportation planner, on the Ports Area Mobility Study. The study began in 2017 to assess and identify freight mobility improvements that will better connect the region's four deep-water ports with emerging population and employment centers to establish a stronger future for the region's freight economy. The study revealed that the region's expected population growth will drive demand for importers and distributors and that truck trips to the deep-water ports will likely double by 2045. It recommended a number of improvements, such as reducing empty container movements through a virtual container yard concept, extended port gate times, and increasing the variety of dedicated transport systems. Some transport system options highlighted in the study included Freight Shuttle, EagleRail, and possibly even hyperloop.

To listen to the audio recording of the latest TPC meeting, click HERE . The next meeting is scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m., Friday, June 26 via teleconference webinar. Click HERE for more information. Public comments on agenda items may be sent by email to publiccomments@h-gac.com. Comments received by 9 a.m., Friday, June 26 will be entered into the meeting record.
H-GAC Transportation Department Assesses Regional Travel Impacts of COVID-19
The H-GAC Transportation Department recently released a report on some of the immediate impacts COVID-19 has had on traffic volumes, patterns, and transit use in the region. According to the report, the Gulf Coast region experienced a sharp decline in vehicle travel from early March when the federal government first issued an emergency declaration through the end of April when the statewide stay-at-home orders expired. Daily vehicle miles traveled decreased by 70% during this period.

The lower volumes of traffic resulted in an increase in travel speeds. Almost all the major freeways in the Greater Houston Area were averaging speeds above 50 miles per hour during peak hours as a result of the decreased roadway congestion with fewer vehicles on the roads.

Since the state began phased reopening processes on May 1, regional travel has steadily picked back up. However, even as most businesses have reopened to some capacity, as of May 18, regional travel is still 50% lower than it was pre-pandemic.

The report also found that transit agencies in the area were significantly impacted. Regional transit ridership declined by 25% in March and by 60% in April. The biggest impacts were with The Woodlands and Fort Bend transit agencies while Harris County Transit was the least impacted with only a 9% decrease in April.

The full report is available HERE.
Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?
Forecasters are predicting the 2020 hurricane season will be a busy one, and H-GAC wants to make sure everyone in the region is prepared.

Visit TogetherAgainstTheWeather.com for tool kits and strategies on preparing your home and family for a hurricane or severe storm. The page also contain helpful materials for those caring for small children, special need individuals, and those with health conditions.

Residents who live in an evacuation zone are encouraged to download a printed and digital copy of the 2020 hurricane evacuation map to help determine the best route for them and their families if they are called to evacuate.
TranStar Public Information Officer Josh Shideler Talks Traffic Management, Hurricane Preparedness at Latest Brown Bag Webinar
Josh Shideler, public information officer at Houston TranStar, gave an insightful presentation on how the agency works closely with local, regional, and state partners to coordinate transportation and emergency management in Greater Houston and the Gulf Coast region.

Shideler discussed the impact COVID-19 has had on traffic in Greater Houston. He also discussed TranStar's role in hurricane preparedness, particularly its roadway flood warning system. The system pulls real-time data from nearly 300 sensors located on roadways throughout the region to monitor rainfall and stream thresholds. Residents can use the data to monitor water levels in flood prone areas so they know which areas to avoid if they need to drive during severe weather.

Founded in 1993 to leverage and synthesize data and resources to benefit the public and first responders, TranStar provides real-time traffic maps in Houston and throughout the region. It also has an app. The agency's closest partners are the City of Houston, Harris County, METRO, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). TranStar's traffic maps and data are available for free on the agency's website and their mobile app for iPhone and Android devices.

To download a copy of Shideler's presentation, visit the H-GAC Brown Bag series web page. Mark your calendars for the next Brown Bag webinar on Monday, Aug. 17, featuring Brenda Bustillos from TxDOT. Bustillos will discuss the Connect Smart program. More details will be available soon.
Commute Solutions, Area Transportation Providers Host Special Edition Brown Bag Webinar on Safe Commuting During COVID-19
Commute Solutions recently partnered with area transportation providers to host a special edition Brown Bag webinar on safe commuting during COVID-19.

Representatives from Commute Solutions and agencies including METRO, Colorado Valley Transit, Fort Bend Transit, Woodlands Transit, Conroe Connection, Connect Transit, Houston BCycle, Island Transit, and Harris County Transit provided tips on how residents who use transit and other alternative commuting options can keep themselves safe. Safety tips included avoiding travel during peak hours when possible, wearing a mask, washing hands before entering and after exiting a vehicle, keeping bags off floors and other surfaces, carrying hand sanitizer, avoiding traveling if feeling sick, and teleworking if possible.

The representatives also discussed the measures their respective transportation agencies are taking to keep commuters safe, such as extra cleaning, installing marks and barriers to help maintain social distancing among riders, contactless payment, and more.

For more information about safe commuting during COVID-19, visit Commute Solutions' new "Commute with Confidence" web page . The webinar handout is also available for download HERE .
Use Mobility Links to Find Free or Affordable Transportation Options in Your Community

Need help finding free or affordable transportation options in your community? Mobility Links is a user-friendly, one-stop search hub with directory information on hundreds of providers of medical transport, commute assistance, taxi and shuttle services, meals on wheels, and other essential mobility services for residents throughout the 13-county Houston-Galveston region.

Mobility Links can be used by anyone in need of transportation services and is especially suited for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and low-income families. Results can be broken down by county service area, service type, passenger type, and organization name, and include each provider's hours of operation, cost information, contact information, scheduling requirements, and more.
Visit www.h-gac.com/mobility-links to find a transportation provider in your community. If you're a new mobility service provider and would like to be added to our list of providers, email RidesCustSvc@csd.hctx.net .
There's Still Time to Take the U.S. Census!
There's still time to take the 2020 U.S. Census online! Census results show where communities need new schools, clinics, roads and other services benefiting families, older adults and children. They help decide federal funding for disaster recovery, mental health services, medical benefits programs, education programs and much more. When you’re counted in the census, you’re helping to build a better community and a stronger Gulf Coast region.  

Complete the census online in less than 10 minutes at 2020census.gov . The census is also available by phone and by mail in more than 13 languages. Say YES to Census 2020, and help us shape the next 10 years for the Gulf Coast region. You deserved to be counted!
Upcoming Meetings

Friday, June 26, 2020 
9:30 - 11 a.m.

Meeting details coming soon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020
9:30 - 11 a.m.

Meeting details coming soon.