Annual survey finds that even in car-centric Houston, people want better access to transit

By Robbie Webber
The Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University released the results of their 2012 Kinder Houston Area Survey, which found that Houstonians want better transportation options and housing within walking distance from stores, schools, and work. The survey summary points out that attitudes towards urban living are changing in the Houston area, often considered the most car-oriented large city in the United States.
The survey, first begun in 1982 as a one-time class project, has now expanded into an annual barometer of where Houston is going and how residents feel about the future. Questions about transportation have been asked every year, but in recent years survey participants have also been asked about housing preferences, such as suburban vs. urban and car-oriented vs. being able to walk to destinations. Each year since these questions have been asked, more people — and for the first time in 2012 a majority — have expressed interest in living in walkable, urban areas, even if that meant giving up a yard or larger house.
Survey participants also showed majority support for improved transit options. They expressed a desire to spend all transit tax funds on transit, instead of the current practice of diverting some funds for other city services.
Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor at Rice University and co-director of the Kinder Institute, attributes the changing views in part to frustration with traffic and rising gas prices, but also improved housing options in central Houston. In addition, more urban-style developments in suburban communities have made mixed-use and denser neighborhoods seem more appealing. “The romance with the automobile, which has been the essence of Houston for most of its modern history, is clearly fading,” Klineberg said.
Robbie Webber is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI. She can be reached at