When it comes to traveling around in Houston, public transport isn’t always the most popular choice. But, at times, it is much needed, and when the time comes to plan a journey, finding the fastest and the most cost-effective routes is essential.
Here in our guide to public transportation in Houston, we will be looking at the different routes, how long they take, and how much they cost.
Best public transport to take when traveling in Houston, TX
So, with millions of commuters using the transportation routes in Houston every year, which one will be the best for your journey? Let’s have a look and find out.
Metro Bus System
One of the most popular commuting choices around local areas in Houston is the Metro bus system. With many different routes in Houston, it will take you anywhere you want to go.
If you pay using the Q-card or the Day Pass, the cost to use the local buses is $1.25, and this includes free transfers for anything up to three hours, going in any direction. Discounts are also available for students, seniors, Medicare cardholders, and the disabled. Children under five can also travel free of charge, accompanied by an adult.
When it comes to bus routes and times, they can differ depending on the hours of the day. You tend to find buses running during heavy traffic times. During rush hour, for example, they run every ten to fifteen minutes, while some of the buses on lesser-used routes, or later at nights, are as little as every hour.
Most buses begin running around 5:00 am and continue until late evening. A lot of them run right up until 2:00 am. If you download their app or check their website, up-to-date times are updated on there so you can plan your journey in real-time. Also, you have to consider any delays, so be sure to check on the day or sign up for their service alerts. And you will get updates via email or text message to avoid any mishaps. Also, you can sign up for this service via their website.
If you’re making any transfers, be sure to purchase one of the previously mentioned passes, the day pass or the Q-card. If you don’t have any of these, you run the risk of having to pay for a separate journey on your next bus.
The Metro buses, trains, and platforms are suited to anyone, including people with disabilities. When the metro buses approach significant stops, they have visual and audible announcements. The accessible seating and ramps make it very convenient for the passengers.
If you require any further services for accessibility, MetroLIFT and Star Vans offer more than the bus services, although these need extra planning and will cost a little more, so be sure to look into this before you travel.
The Metrorail is another popular choice of travel, especially for those who wish to get around downtown Houston a little quicker. Running over just 22 miles, it may not cover as many areas of Houston as other metro options, but it is still a great choice of travel.
In all, there are three lines on the MetroRail. The most-used one is the Red Line, which connects the busiest parts of Houston, including Downtown, the Museum District, Midtown, and the Texas Medical Center.
You would need to use the other two lines to get anywhere else, such as the Theater District and EaDo. The service hours vary at different times of the day. Trains tend to run every 6-20 minutes and are usually very reliable. Monday to Thursday, they run from as early as 3:30 am, and the last one comes around midnight. On Fridays, they start at 4:30 am and run until 2:20 am, Saturdays are 5:30 till 2:20 am, and Sundays, they begin service at 5:30 am and finish at 11:40 pm.
It costs the same on the MetroRail as it does on the local buses, so $1.25. Fare checkers will be on board throughout most journeys, so avoid a fine by making sure you purchase your ticket in advance.
Paying For The Metro in Houston – 6 Easy Ways
There are multiple ways to pay for your travel when using the Metro services. These can be purchased online or at most local grocery stores.
Below is a list of the different options available when paying for your travel.
1. Metro Q
This is a popular option with most commuters in Houston. These work like a digital wallet. Scan them in front of the readers with the large red circles to get through any barriers. These can be ordered online in advance and topped up when the balance gets low. This option also has a benefit; after you’ve used your Q-card 50 times, you get five rides for free.
2. Credit or Debit Card
You can purchase train tickets on the platform with your bank card. You can also reload any passes using your card for the trains, but not for the buses.
3. Mobile Tickets
You can purchase a mobile ticket if you download the Q-Ticketing app onto your mobile phone. You have the option to buy a single ride or a day pass. These are shown to the driver when boarding.
4. Money Card
This is kind of like a gift card. They are disposable and pre-loaded and can only be used for rides. They can be ordered via the Metro website, not reloadable.
5. Metro Day Pass
Like the Q-Card, this gives you unlimited rides for $3.00 a day. You can purchase the day pass via the app, website, or most Houston grocery stores.
If you don’t have the option, or perhaps forgot to buy your ticket in advance, then you can, of course, pay with good old-fashioned cash. The buses will expect you to have the exact change, which you can access from most stations via a kiosk, but this isn’t the case for the trains.
Other Public Transportation Options
With Houston being such a large town, of course, buses and trains can only access certain places. Meaning sometimes other options will have to be used.
If this is the case, there are other choices, for instance, the bike and ride, rental cars, and direct commuter services.
1. The Park and Ride
For commuters who perhaps need to travel in and out of the suburbs, Metro Park and Ride offer direct service into the main employment areas, so if you need to get to Downtown Houston, or the med center, for example, this would be a good option for you.
The cost of this service varies. Depending on the zones you’re traveling through, the price ranges from $2.00 for zone one to $4.50 for zone 4.
BCycle is a bike share system with over 75 stations across central Houston. Most of these are situated downtown, close to the med center and museum district.
This way of travel is $3.00 for every 30 minutes. Or you have the option to pay for a monthly or annual membership, giving you unlimited rides for either $13.00 or $79.00.
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Of course, if the above selections aren’t a suitable choice for you, there is always the option of a taxi. You may wish to hail a cab or order one in advance by using an Uber or Lyft. There are always taxis available to the exact destination you want to reach.
The cost of these, of course, depends on the company you choose and the distance you’re traveling. If using a service such as Uber, you can usually see the price you will be charged before agreeing to the journey.
So, with over seven million people trying to travel around in Houston, trying to plan your journey can be a bit of a hassle. After reading our guide, we hope that we have helped you pick the correct form of travel and taken some of the stress out of planning your next trip.