As an expat, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend that bus service in Houston is not as reliable as in many other cities in the world. Being primarily a car city, Houston’s METRO takes some getting used to and, often, creativity to use efficiently.
Houston Metro, the local bus and transit provider, has service running to most areas inside the city limits of Houston. If living inside the Loop, it can be a practical way of getting around, but Houstonians mostly use Metro to commute to and from work. Metro offers park and rides outside the city and runs buses to downtown locations on HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes that allow smooth flow past freeway traffic. Prices depend on ride zones and range between $1.25 and $4.50 per trip. You can purchase a Metro one-way ticket or Metro Fare card at the vending machines at all stops or pay the driver cash only. You are allowed to transfer between buses within a two-hour window for no extra fee, or just the difference in fare if the second route is more expensive.
Schedules depend on the time of day with buses running every 10 minutes at peak rush hour times and every hour or not at all during off peak times. Routes may also change depending on rush hour or not. A bus may leave a park and ride and use the HOV lane to take you downtown during peak rush hour time in 15 minutes but take an alternate route through city streets during off peak time and have you arrive downtown in 45 min. It is important you check the schedule carefully to be able to plan accordingly.
Houston makes up for its poor public transportation schedule by providing shuttle services offered by individuals, such as companies, universities, airports, cruise lines and event providers.
There are shuttles for every major event in Houston that have selected pick-up points at park and rides. They tranport the masses to the relevant venue for major events like soccer games, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, boat shows or to other locations in Houston like Memorial Park’s arts and craft shows.
To take advantage of a shuttle, check with the specific event, company, airline, university, or cruise line. Shuttles may be free for events, but companies and airlines, for example, will charge a fee. This charge, however, will usually cost less than a taxi.