Houston transportation includes two airports. Most visitors fly into Houston Bush Intercontinental
(IAH) in the northeast section of town. Houston is Continental Airlines’ hub, so many direct flights come here from all over the world, although how its recent merger with United may change things remains unknown. The airport just got free WiFi. Leaving every 30 minutes, the METRO Airport Direct Bus
(just $15 one way) will take you from IAH’s Terminal C to the Airport Direct Passenger Plaza in downtown. From there, many hotels have shuttles that will pick you up. Fewer folks fly into the smaller and older Hobby Airport
, which lies just 11 miles southeast of downtown and serves only domestic flights. Southwest Airlines operates 80% of flights here (only 4 terminals out of 26 serve other airlines). METRO buses also serve Hobby.
Train travel to Houston is about to undergo a major overhaul. By 2012, if all goes as planned, you will arrive at the Houston Intermodal Transit Center—aka Burnett Plaza, which may become the most popular form of Houston transportation. In planning stages, this modern glass and steel building will be modeled after New York’s Penn Station with underground and aboveground sections and will serve train, rail, and bus commuters. For now, Amtrak
arrives in Houston’s Grand Central Station at 902 Washington Avenue. Trains run to Houston from a limited number of areas though you can mix train and bus to get here from a variety of destinations in the U.S. Amtrak’s Sunset Limited runs from Los Angeles and from Orlando to Houston.
will take you right to a full service bus station at 2121 Main Street near Midtown. There are also Greyhound stops in each quadrant of the greater metroplex, as well as the Amtrak station, but most are not full service stations.
and Royal Caribbean
cruise lines operate out of the Port of Galveston, just 45 miles south of Houston in the greater Houston metro area. That said, you can’t actually get to Houston on a boat.
buses will shuttle you all around the greater Houston area at little cost, but the hippest way to scoot around central H-town is the 7.5-mile light rail system
. After a heated battle, the light rail was approved and started operation in 2004 (the red line was the first to open—it connected downtown to the Texas Medical Center and the Museum District), improving Houston transportation for both locals and visitors. Additional commuter lines heading into suburban regions should be operational by 2012 and will further improve Houston transportation.
Houston traffic can prove challenging even for those who live here and especially during weekday rush hours. With eight freeways and three tollways serving Houston, it’s easy to get lost so make sure that you have a GPS if your Houston transportation plans involve a car. Downtown has mostly one-way streets, so you cannot retrace your route back to freeways the same way you came. Make sure to map out your path before you leave your hotel, and, as the traffic DJs say, pack your patience.
In the downtown area, bounded by I-45, I-10, and Highway 59, cab fare is always $6 for up to four passengers. Outside the area, fares go by mile, and can be substantial. For example, cab fare from Intercontinental airport to downtown will run about $40. You’d be better off taking a bus, or renting a car. Taxis can charge a $1 late night surcharge between 8PM and 6AM, making it an expensive form of Houston transportation.