If you’re a Houston native you probably looked at the title of the post, chuckled to yourself, and then thought lolz NEVER in your wildest dreams. This is Houston, not New York. Everyone has a car and no one rides the bus. Gross! What a ridiculous thought!
And I hear you my friends. I was once like you. But I’m here to change your mind, or at least give you some insight into Houston’s public transportation system. I grew up in Houston and throughout my entire formative years, I *think* I rode the bus once. ONCE! And I think it was a Park & Ride for the Rodeo, so like not even a real bus, because like most people in Houston I didn’t really even comprehend that we had a bus system. Or if we did it wasn’t good or it was gross or whatever.
But since I’ve started working in downtown Houston, I’ve come to love and appreciate the Metro bus system. It’s more accessible, efficient, and safer than you may think! Here’s what I’ve learned since I’ve started riding the Metro:
- Everyone is doing it. Or well everyone working in downtown Houston is. I guess driving for 1.5 hours in rush hour and paying $200+/month for parking isn’t desirable for most people. Granted most of them use the Park and Ride system, so a car is involved at some point in their commute, but still there is lots of solidarity in riding the bus in the working world.
- It’s cheap. To ride the bus one way (including transfers) costs $1.25. Even the cheapest parking lots in downtown are minimum $6/day (trust me I’ve looked for cheaper) and that doesn’t take into account the gas and wear and tear on your car and loss of sanity as you fight traffic. #worthit
- You can get text updates. Every bus stop has a number, and if you text that number to the Metro text-line, you can find out when the next buses for that stop are coming. Very technologically advanced. I’ve seen similar things in San Francisco, Miami, and Santiago, Chile. Proud of you Houston.
- During peak times there are lots of buses and not a lot of crazies. During off peak times, there are less buses and more crazies. We are the fourth largest city in the US. There’s guaranteed to be a few randos, but during my morning and evening commute there are plenty of professionals for the local buses.
- There are local buses and Park & Ride buses. One is nicer than the other. I bet you can guess which. Park & Rides take riders further distances, more directly to places outside the city like Katy, the Woodlands, or Sugarland. But, as a veteran rider of the local buses I really have no complaints.
- You can get a Q card mailed to you. If you don’t want to pay in cash, you can load up a “Q card” and badge on the bus smoothly. After 50 rides, you get 5 free! You can pick up a Q card at Kroger, or you can get it mailed to you by filling out this form. #easy
- The Metro customer service is bomb. I had an issue with adding money to my card and I submitted the complaint online and thought–like most complaints it was just sent into a black hole ether and I would never see my $10 again. But no! A few hours later I got an email and the rep was monitoring my account and we exchanged a few emails over a course of hours. Top notch customer service. Big fan. And I got $10 added to my account. #winning
- The routes were all updated. Metro did a big reboot over the summer and launched a bunch of new routes in August for the first time in 30+ years to reflect the new demographics and neighborhoods of Houston. There’s been some complaints (see Houston Press article written by my badass reporter roommate) but for me I’ve only seen positive changes as my loyal Route 85 passes by more frequently. Plan your route here.
- GreenLink is actually free. GreenLink is a bus route that runs around downtown and is 100% free. It only runs during the day and is full of business professionals getting lunch, going to meetings, and running midday errands. This was my gateway drug to the Houston transportation system. The bus runs about every 10 minutes during the day and is an excellent way to navigate downtown. Check out the GreenLink route.
- It’s relaxing. I read. I check my email. I day dream and slowly wake up for the day. I’ve even made a few friends who ride the bus at the same time as me and have gotten to know the bus drivers (I have my favorites). I’m also a huge extrovert who loves being around people and the buses are always full of energy and great for people watching.
I’ve been riding the bus during peak times for the past 2 months. The bus is occasionally delayed, but I’ve never felt unsafe or worried. I’m a convert, a big fan and now an advocate of the Houston Metro bus system! Boost your karma, reduce your carbon footprint and try riding a Metro bus today!
Have you ever ridden the bus? What was your experience?