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Organizations raise awareness of commuting benefits to and from Cypress

August 27, 2018

Terri West clutched her handbag and got in line as the bus approached at the Metro Park & Ride in Cypress to get to her job in downtown Houston on Monday morning.

Terri was one of about 1,500 riders in the Cypress area who commute by bus to work or attend classes instead of driving along US 290 during the week.

“(It’s) about 45 minutes unless there’s an accident, then it’s as long as an hour and a half, which there are accidents often on 290,” she said.

Commute Solutions, a program of the Houston-Galveston Area Council in conjunction with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, are working to promote public transportation and carpooling to help ease traffic congestion throughout August.

Along with representatives from Metro, Veronica Baxter-Lamb handed out bags, t-shirts, notebooks and water bottles to commuters lining up to take the 217 route into downtown Houston before making their way to work, class or toward another connection.

As principal outreach coordinator for H-GAC, Baxter-Lamb has been working on trying to get people into carpooling or mass transit to help improve mobility and less pollution from too many cars on the road.

Beginning at about 5 a.m. on Monday, empty buses would stop every few minutes at the park and ride site to pick up 55 passengers before heading east on US 290.

“All of the buses are full,” Baxter-Lamb said.

While US 290 is expected to wrap up construction later this year, roadwork as been ongoing since 2011 and is another reason to avoid driving, she said.

“Especially when you have a lot of construction going on within a major travel corridor like a freeway or a major highway, it’s always good to promote commute alternatives like transit, carpooling, vanpooling,” Baxter-Lamb said.

The van pools offered through Metro STAR can take commuters to other areas if they’re place of work is not in Houston, said Metro spokesperson Monica Russo.

In Cypress, the Metro van pools can takes commuters to Spring, The Woodlands, the Texas Medical Center, Greenspoint and other areas.

“The Cypress area is a major market for van pools, with a total of around 30 vans listing Cypress as their origin city,” Russo said.

About 565 van pools are currently running across the greater Houston area with around 5,600 riders, she said.

“We are estimating van poolers will have taken about 1.9 million trips in FY2018, taking about 50 million miles of vehicle travel off of the roads, along with the associated pollution, congestion, and prospective injuries those miles would have led to,” Russo said.

Aside from transit and carpooling, Baxter-Lamb said she has also been working with employers with other ways to reduce traffic and pollution caused by too many vehicles on the road.

Telecommuting or changing work schedules so that employees are not on the road as much as some tactics companies can take.

“We go out to companies and encourage them to allow some of their employees work at home. We also encourage alternative work schedules where they have flexible work hours. Commuters come in at different times in the morning and leave at different times in the afternoon,” she said.

As more commuters arrived later in the morning, Baxter-Lamb walked up to them before they boarded the bus and handed them notebooks.

mayra.cruz@chron.com

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