Mayor's Office

State of Mobility Speech 2023

Text as written for May 4, 2023 speech. The mayor may deviate from his prepared remarks.

Mayor Sylvester Turner May 4, 2023 --Welcome and Thanks

  • Chair Mustafa Tameez and Board; new Executive Director Christina Cabral
  • Houston City Council
  • Harris County: County Judge, Commissioners, including new Commissioner Leslie Briones
  • METRO: Chair Sanjay Ramabhadran and CEO Tom Lambert (consider mentioning Tom Lambert’s retirement)
  • TxDOT: District Engineer Eliza Paul
  • HGAC: Chuck Wempel and Craig Raborn
  • Houston Parks Board: Beth White
  • Central Houston: Kris Larson
  • LINK Houston: Gabe Cazares
  • Bike Houston: Joe Catrufo
  • CoH Directors Andy Icken (Development), Margaret Wallace-Brown (Planning), and Carol Haddock (Public Works) and David Fields (Transportation)
  • And many more.

State of Mobility Speech

Click graphic above to view the speech on Facebook Live

Seven years ago, in my first State of Mobility address as Mayor, I stood up here and used words never heard before in Houston.   I promised a transportation paradigm shift. I promised you change, not because it was politically expedient, but because the old way was not working.

Houston is a city known for big, wide roads and fast driving.  We were also known for potholes, crashes, and worst of all: fatalities.

I promised you change because potholes have no party affiliation, crashes keep Houston from being the great city it can be, and fatalities are just 100% wrong.

Promises are easy. Words are easy. Making change is hard.  Paradigms do not shift themselves.  They change when you think big, put in the work, and everyone plays a part.

I’m here today to ask you to look around and see that  vision and hard work for yourself.  Today, Houston’s State of Mobility is so very different than it was seven years ago.

Our new vision starts with the one thing that everyone can agree upon: one of our primary roles and responsibilities in government is to ensure the public’s safety.

But for too long, we have not fulfilled that safety obligation on our roadways. 

  • In 2022, over 300 people were killed and nearly 1,600 people were seriously injured on our streets. 

Those numbers are alarming, but our Vision Zero program has us on a new path.  While citywide crashes have increased by 12% since 2014, crashes have decreased by 26% on streets that were rebuilt since adopting Vision Zero.

Think about that – a 38% difference.  It means that the places we fix, we fix right.  That is the path to safer Houston streets. I hope our future embraces this success and broadens it to make all our streets safer.

Now let me say, paradigms don’t shift because of one person working alone.  Our transportation paradigm is shifting because every partner in this room is thinking about all the ways people travel.  Looking back, we have learned what happens when we only build roads for driving: all people can do is drive. When we invest in transportation choice, people use all those choices.

That is why METRO’s METRONext plan is so important to Houston.  A complete transit network supported by 70% of our voters, for fast, frequent, reliable service citywide.  And the route that is so important today -- the University Corridor Bus Rapid Transit Corridor.  25 miles long from Westchase Park & Ride on the west side to Tidwell Transit Center in northeast, connecting people, jobs, and schools, and providing opportunities for Transit-Oriented Development at several locations.

This project will fundamentally change our streets, with buses in dedicated lanes in the middle of the street.  Everyone should know about this project.  The Federal government certainly does.  METRO has also accelerated their delivery, working concurrently on 3 BRT routes, 3 BOOST routes, their bi-directional HOV’s, Universal Accessibility at over 4,000 stops, and a Light Rail Extension to the Courthouse. We thank METRO for all your hard work, and we thank the Biden Administration for including $150M for the University Corridor in its Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

The federal government has been a very active partner in our paradigm shift.  They have committed to investing in safe, multimodal streets across the nation, and they are showing that commitment in Houston.

Since the passing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Houston has received nearly $50 million for safer streets. This includes capital dollars for Telephone Road and Bissonnet Street, plus planning dollars for Hillcroft Avenue.  That’s in addition to METRO’s $20 million for electric buses and planning for Transit Oriented Development at the Tidwell Transit Center. My thanks to the Biden Administration for validating our vision and investing in Houston’s new transportation system.

Paradigms are shifting on our roads, and they are also shifting in how we work together.  You have heard me say over and over again, that the North Houston Highway Improvement Project can be transformative, only if the partners can come together.

It’s a transportation project that can right historic wrongs of flooding in Houston’s neighborhoods; it can help people walk, bike, ride transit, and drive, and it can do all of that while keeping our residents in their homes.  All those goals are now possible because the City of Houston, Harris County, METRO, and TxDOT all came together and agreed to a path forward, while the Federal Highway Administration confirmed they will help us all stay on track.

This project will be the first step in a different view of regional transportation coordination, one we hope can be the foundation for a new paradigm across the state of Texas.

There are so many more partners around our transportation table that deserve recognition.  

  • Our Federal representatives for going to Washington DC and coming home with funds to help us with our work. 
  • TAG for your tireless advocating for the region. 
  • TxDOT for investing nearly $14M in safety funds in Houston this last year alone.
  • Harris County, TIRZ’s, and Management Districts for all your investments in safe, multimodal streets. 
  • Our airports for being recognized as 4-star for Intercontinental and 5-star for Hobby again.
  • And our City staff, for keeping my promise by rebuilding nearly 70,000 potholes, overlaying nearly 250 miles of streets, and retiming over 800 traffic signals.

I’ll end with advice from my daughter, who tells me not to imagine Houston as it is today, but how it can be for her in the future.

Houston’s new transportation paradigm is now set for that future.

Interview Format with Mustafa Tameez

  • Mustafa: Memory of Mayor presenting to TTC, declaring a transportation paradigm shift.
    • MST: Almost 8 years ago, I took office with so much to do.  One of those top items was to change Houston’s transportation system, which is no little task.  I want to take a moment to remember the late Pat Walsh, Houston’s Planning Director at the time, who helped craft that vision.  The City, with our partners at the METRO, County, Houston Parks, Board, and so many more, have held true to that vision.  That vision is now becoming a reality.

      The work has come far, but it is not yet complete.  The key now will be to continue what we’ve started.  With every project we build, we need to make sure Houston’s streets become safer, as everyone deserves to get home safely, every single day.  And with every project we build, we need to make sure our streets provide options for all travelers, so if you’re walking to school, biking to work, riding METRO to an Astros game, or driving to the grocery store, there is an option that will work for you.

      There are so many new approaches coming in the future: Autonomous Vehicles, Urban Air Mobility, and more.  They’ll be opportunities to push our vision, as long as we never lose sight of safety, equity, and sustainability as the core of that mission.
  • Mustafa: Transportation is one key component to city building, coupled with land use.  How have you brought those together?
    • Right this minute, Houston’s Livable Places is making that connection.  It’s time to say, when we invest in walking, biking, transit, and roads, that makes living in our city more affordable.  Let’s never forget that two of the biggest expenses from most household’s budgets are housing and transportation.  Providing transportation choice makes the community more affordable to all.

      Investments include:
        • METRO’s $3billion for METRONext
        • Over 400 miles of high comfort bike lanes with another 150 miles in planning, design, and construction
        • New ways to invest in our pedestrian network, including the City’s new Fee in lieu of Sidewalk construction option.  
      And as we work on transportation and land use, so do our partners, with METRO redeveloping parking lots as Transit Oriented Development, allowing people to live, work, and play in places with access to walking, biking, and transit.
  • Mustafa: Let’s take a deeper dive into NHHIP.  Where do we go from here?
    • My position has been the same since Day 1.  NHHIP can be the path forward to safer, more resilient communities and roadways that work for everyone whether you’re driving, walking, biking, or riding transit. Since the project restarted this year, I have brought back my Mayor’s Steering Committee to provide high level guidance, which was so useful in earlier planning.  Technical staff from the City, TxDOT, Harris County, and METRO are back in the room together, figuring out how the commitments in the agreement get designed into the project.  And soon, we’ll reconvene the City’s Facilitation Group, so everyone understands where we are.
  • Mustafa will announce that TAG is relaunching the Motion Map live at this point.  You were at the launch of the original.  This is a tool to track all transportation efforts across the region, by all modes and shows the region what TAG advocates for.
  • TAG 2023 Slides (.pptx)

Mayor Sylvester Turner discusses the mobility paradigm shift during his administration