Houston is one of the most expensive cities when it comes to transportation because it is a car city and has a weak public transportation system. It is also a very large area, so large that it can confuse and intimidate many newcomers. The city of Houston does offer taxi services and buses in some areas and it has a limited, one-line rail. The wide use of individual automobiles for transportation is the obvious result. Everything in Houston is catered towards automobiles and less towards bicyclists, pedestrians or users of public transportation systems except for rush-hour commuters in the major channels.
Driving in Houston is sometimes stressful as one has to deal with rush hour traffic and wide streets and freeways but overall, it is safe. Houstonians follow driving rules and streets are well-built with sufficient signage and well-functioning traffic signals.
Houstonians have a way to nickname their freeways. This can cause real confusion when listening to the traffic news as the nicknames may be the only way the freeway will be referred to. Here is a list of the most common freeways and the nicknames given by Houstonians with downtown being the central starting point when saying south or north:
Beltway 8 – Sam Houston Parkway
Katy Freeway – I-10 West
East Freeway – I-10 East
Gulf Freeway – I-45 South
North Freeway – I-45 North
Northwest Freeway – U.S. 290 highway
The Loop – Loop 610 in all directions
Eastex Freeway – U.S. 59 North
Southwest Freeway – U.S. 59 South
South Freeway – Texas 288 highway
Houston has the SAFEclear program to assist stranded motorists on freeways and to keep them safe and clear. This program offers free towing to within a mile of the nearest exit, for example to the nearest gas station if someone ran out of gas and it also offers assistance in changing a tire. If the car was abandoned, it will be towed and there will be a towing charge.
Houston has several airports and ship ports that enable international travel or imports/exports. The George Bush International Airport (IAH), which Continental Airlines still calls home, for now, is located north of Houston and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) is a smaller airport for U.S. flights, located south of Houston. All institutions are very reliable and safe to use for foreigners. The Port of Houston handles a tremendous amount of cargo and ranks first in the U.S. for international cargo. When importing a car, for example, it would arrive at one of the car shippers’ lots in this port. The Port of Houston authority also manages the Bayport cruise terminal in Pasadena which serves as a backup for the Galveston cruise terminal.