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Expats who are accustomed to using public transport will have to make quite an adjustment when it comes to getting around in Houston. Though the city has made significant improvements to its public transportation networks, it's very spread out, which makes travelling between destinations long and complicated. Most Houstonians own cars and find driving to be the best way to get around in the city.
Public transport in Houston
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, or METRO as it's more commonly known, is in charge of public transport in Houston. METRO operates various local and express services as well as the METRORail light rail line.
METRO has an integrated ticketing system where fares can be paid for either in cash or by using a reloadable METRO Q Card smartcard.
Houston’s METRORail network is relatively small, consisting of just three lines: green, purple and red. During the day, trains arrive every six to 12 minutes, beginning in the early morning hours and ending in the evening, with the exception of the red line which runs into the night.
Buses in Houston are a relatively comfortable way to travel. They arrive at regular intervals and generally run on time in the city centre. However, the network is limited and many suburbs in Houston aren't adequately serviced by METRO buses.
To get around in the downtown area, expats can catch a Greenlink Bus. Though the network is limited in scope, these buses provide localised transport free of charge.
Taxis in Houston
Taxis are readily available at designated ranks or along busy streets in the city centre. However, it's hard to catch a taxi on the street outside of the downtown core, so it may be necessary to book one ahead of time. As destinations in Houston are often quite spread out, travelling by taxi can become expensive.
Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are another option for getting around Houston and are accessible via their respective mobile apps.
Driving in Houston
Most residents find it necessary to have a car, which allows them greater freedom to access places that are located far from one another. A number of freeways and toll roads make getting around by car fairly easy. Roads and signage in Houston are of an excellent standard, and drivers are usually courteous.
There are, however, downsides to driving in Houston. Construction projects are seemingly always taking place and result in delays due to road closures. Rush hours last between 7am and 9am in the mornings and 4pm and 7pm in the evenings. During these times, highway traffic almost comes to a standstill, so drivers need to have a high level of patience.
Cycling in Houston
Due to Houston’s hot climate and the fact that the city is so spread out, bikes are best used for recreational purposes rather than daily commutes. The city has several great cycle paths and a number of bike trails that run through its parks.
Houston has a bike-share system, BCycle, which has 75 stations throughout central Houston. These stations are mainly found downtown, in the Museum District and the Med Center. The system has a pay-as-you-go option. Cyclists can also sign up for monthly or annual memberships.
►Areas and Suburbs of Houston provides a great overview of popular neighbourhoods in the city.
"Uber is definitely the next best option, and depending on where you live, you can take the METRORail." Learn more about Vicky's expat experiences in Houston.
"Everyone drives, and drives fast! Teenagers need cars the moment they turn 16." Read more about Janice's expat experiences in Houston.
Are you an expat living in Houston?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Houston. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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