Houston, TX
United States

Gathering information from people who rely on public transit to understand how COVID-19 has impacted plans to use alternative modes of transportation and to inform policy proposals to improve public transit options.

Communities of color and people with low incomes often rely heavily on public transit. The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased transit ridership in the US by roughly 40 percent since March 2020, and transit officials in the city predict that it may be years before ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels. Air Alliance Houston, a research-based nonprofit advocacy organization committed to environmental justice, believes that increasing access to and use of alternative modes of transportation is critical to improving public health, including by reducing people’s exposure to polluted air and decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. With these concerns in mind, Air Alliance Houston wants to understand whether and how COVID-19 has impacted residents’ plans to use alternative modes of transportation in the future.  

Air Alliance Houston will partner with researchers at LINK Houston and Texas Southern University’s Department of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy to learn how the city’s stay-home-work-safe orders have impacted the lived experience of residents who rely on public transportation, with a focus on communities hit hardest by the virus. It will also interview key stakeholders from transportation advocacy groups in other parts of the country to learn from their efforts.  

Resident experiences and stakeholder insights will inform Air Alliance Houston’s sustainable and equitable transportation policy agenda. The organization’s goal is to identify possible local, regional, and state-level legislative policy proposals that are needed to increase funding for traditional and alternative modes of public transportation, such as walking and biking infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations. Local leaders have been vocal about the need for a paradigm shift in how Houston approaches transportation planning and investments, and the COVID-19 pandemic may be a critical moment for change.   

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