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Using Houston Public Transportation: A Beginner’s Guide

August 3, 2012

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So you want to ride metro but you’re not quite sure how to get started? You want to save money on gas but live in the suburbs? You want to make smarter environmental decisions but need help? Look no further then this helpful beginners guide! Growing up in the suburbs, my dad would always take the bus to work, but I never learned how to use public transportation until I was in university. I was a little unsure when I first got started, but I quickly learned the ropes. Houston’s public transit is easy to use with a little practice. Public transportation makes my life great and saves me a lot of money. Don’t believe me? Check out the commute calculator.

If you love transit, you might want to go vote this November to make sure Metro doesn’t have to divert it’s funding to unincorporated cities and non-transit projects!

I hung out with some cool folks from Houston Tomorrow this morning outside the metro building before the big meeting (article about it: here). Hi Matt!

HOW TO USE THE BUS

STEP 1: GET A Q-CARD

You can get a Q-card over the interent if you just want a regular old Q-card. If you are a student, disabled, on Medicare, or a senior, you are eligible for a discounted fare, but you might have to go to the Metro RideStore and apply in person. I carry a student card so I get 50% off all fare, so I can get to my destination for less than the price of a cup of coffee! If you don’t want to go to all this trouble, you can just take money on to the bus.

STEP 2: PLAN YOUR ROUTE

The easiest way to figure out what bus you need to take is to use the trip planner on the Metro website. Enter your destination and time of arrival and Metro will create a route for you! How cool is that?

If you live in the Montrose/Heights/Rice area, there are a few routes I can suggest (NOTE: this is the area I am most familiar with. If anyone has recommendations for good routes in other areas, leave them below!).

#34 Crosstown Montrose can take you from 610 in the Heights, all the way to the Med center.

#65 Bissonnet is great if you are in the Rice area and want to get to the metro rail (I use it all the time for work)

#25 Richmond can get you to the rail from anywhere along Richmond!

The Greenlink is a FREE bus that circles around Downtown, great if you work in the area.

STEP 3: GO TO THE BUS STOP

If you’re lucky, you live close to a bus stop. Great! Walk there! If you’re in the suburbs, you might have to drive or bike to your nearest Park and Ride. (Park and Rides are THE BEST THINGS EVER if you live in the suburbs. I take the 255 from Kingwood to Downtown in the mornings. A commute that would usually take close to 1.5 hours in morning traffic takes a breezy 40 minutes! Bonus: I get to read or write or sleep)

How do you know if a bus is coming to the corner where your standing? Look up at the metro sign. See those funny numbers on the sign? Those indicate which busses will stop at said corner. Don’t see your number? Call the number listed on the sign and enter the route you need. The automated system will help you find the nearest stop.

STEP 4: GET ON THE BUS

When you get on the bus, you’ll see a big touch pad by the driver. Tap your card on the pad. Ta-da! Money is automatically withdrawn from your account. Easy!

STEP 5: GET OFF THE BUS

You’ll need to let the drive know you’re ready to get off by pressing the “stop” button. On a park and ride bus, look up above you for the red square button. On an older city bus, pull the string hanging in the window. Some busses  have red buttons on the railings. Other busses have a yellow strip that runs along the walls that you press.

GREAT JOB, you’ve just mastered the bus system!

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Don’t forget about the light rail! This is great if you work downtown and need to get to other areas, such as the Med center or reliant area. Check out the map and see if it makes your commute easier.

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