LOTS of people are intimidated by downtown, but it’s actually pretty easy to get around. And with a little guidance, we promise that you soon will be an expert navigator of downtown streets. We’ll tell you where you can catch the multitude of transit services, handy on-street parking tips, the easiest way to get in and out of downtown, where there may be construction obstructions and more.
Really, it’s east street!
Heading out in Houston? Give the car a brake and let the city’s 13-mile METRORail handle all of the legwork. The 7.5-mile Main Street Line, or Red Line, offers convenient and fast service between Downtown, Midtown, Museum District, Texas Medical Center and NRG Stadium and Center. The 5.3-mile North Line extends the existing Red Line northward starting at the University of Houston-Downtown campus, along North Main to Boundary where it crosses over to Fulton and continues northward to the Northline Transit Center and Northline Commons Mall. One-way tickets cost $1.25 and can be purchased using cash or credit at all rail stops. Travel time from end to end is one hour. Discounted fares are available to students, seniors, Medicare cardholders, the disabled and jurors.
MetroRail Hours are:
3:35 am – 12:48 am (M-TH)
3:35 am – 2:40 am (F)
4:30 am – 2:40 am (SAT)
4:30 am – 12:30 am (SUN)
For METRORail information, call (713)-635-4000 or visit www.RideMetro.org
METRO also offers several types of bus service in Houston.
Local service runs mostly on city streets, stopping at every other corner along its route. Local bus route fares are $1.25. METRO Park & Ride service is offered for long distance commuting. METRO operates 28 park & ride lots to provide bus service to key destinations in the service area. One-way fare falls into four zones based on the distance a bus travels, ranging from $2.00 to $4.50; the one-way fare to The Woodlands Express is $6.00. Click here for additional route and fare information.
In addition to cash you can use your METRO QCard. The METRO Q® acts as an electronic wallet for METRO riders. This unique card contains a computer chip that stores your cash balance directly onto your card. Fares are automatically deducted from your card each time you ride, just like a debit card. The METRO Q®, which stands for “quick,” also provides free transfers and tracks your progress toward earning five free trips for every 50 paid trips. Just touch your card to the METRO Q® Box on your bus or at METRO Rail platforms, and you’re on your way. For more info, click here.
METRO Fast Facts:
Bus Fleet - 1,230
Service area - 1,285 square miles
Miles of light rail - 12.8
Planned additional miles of light rail - 26
Local one-way fare - $1.25
Houston B-cycle is a "bike sharing" program that shows Houstonians how easy, efficient, functional and pratical bike sharing can be!
At its core, a public bike sharing system is intended to be used for short trips in and around downtown Houston and surrounding urban areas. Houston B-cycle members can pick up a bike at any B-station and return it to that same station or any other B-station when they’re done. Membership to the system can be purchased online or at any station. Members can use their credit card or B-card to unlock a bike in seconds. Returning a bike is even easier. Just roll it into a dock and walk away. The onboard B-cycle trip computer allows members that registered online to track all the miles they ride, the calories they burn and the carbon emissions they avoid.
Memberships are available by day, week or year. All members have unlimited access to the bikes. With a paid membership, the first 60 minutes are free. Ride time after the first 60 minutes is just $2 for each additional half hour with a maximum charge of $55 a full day.
One Day Membership $5
Weekly Memberships $15
Annual Memberships $65
All memberships start at the time of your first bike use, not the day and time you purchased the membership. (Tip: To save usage charges, just return a bike to any B-cycle station within 60 minutes and then start a new free 60 minute ride). www.houston.bcycle.com
Zipcar Houston is a “car sharing” program which helps keep fewer cars on the road and less nasty stuff in the air. Imagine the convenience of having a car parked right around the corner, without any of the hassles or costs. That’s Zipcar! There are eight convenient locations in downtown Houston alone and many more across the city and even the country.
Members can drive cars by the hour or day and can choose from a variety of vehicles including MINIs, hybrids, trucks and more. Zipcar realizes every customer’s car use and budget will be different, that’s why there are multiple membership levels, all of which require a $25 one-time only non-refundable application fee. Joining Zipcar is easy- just apply online, make a reservation, unlock a vehicle with your Zipcard and drive away. The best part about it is gas and insurance are included with every ride!
No monthly commitment + $9/hr or $73/day
Pay As You Go-Monthly Driving Plan
$6 monthly commitment + $9/hr or $73/day
Pay As You Go-Yearly Driving Plan
$60 yearly commitment + $9/hr or $73/day
Extra Value Plan
$50 monthly commitment + 10% discount of $8.10/hr or $65.70/day
$50, $75 or $125/month + 10% discount on each ride
$250/month + 15% discount on each ride
Check www.zipcar.com/houston for most up-to-date rates.
If you’re late for a meeting, want to go somewhere new for lunch with your coworkers, or in town for a convention— we now offer you an easy option for getting around downtown. Introducing Six in the City—$6 taxicab ride anywhere downtown.
The $6 taxicab fare applies to a trip, pick-up and drop-off, anywhere within the Downtown District, bounded by I-45, I-10 and U.S. 59. With double the amount of cab stands now downtown and the ability to hail a cab when you need it, we’re making those shorts trips easy and affordable.
How & where to catch a cab:
Hail one down
Look for the taxi icon on the streets
Call a cab company and request front-door pick-up service
Go to the nearest hotel.... there is always a queue!
There are affordable parking options-- garages, surface lots and on-street parking-- convenient to your destination, whether it be a restaurant or event. On-street, metered parking is available during the day on most downtown streets. The meters accept cash, credit cards and pay-by-phone; hourly prices vary depending on location. Meters are FREE after 6 pm Monday-Saturday and all day Sunday. DO NOT park is valet zones or commercial zones (marked with red meters or red striping on the street). Please always read the signs before you park!
Parkmobile, the City's pay-by-phone program, really makes parking at Houston's meters easy (we use it all the time)! This is how is works: Drivers can sign up at www.parkmobile.com. Once registered, customers can use the mobile app, the internet, or a mobile phone (1.877.727.5758) to pay for parking. The parking transactions are transmitted real-time to the handheld devices used by the Parking Enforcement Officers. When customers are ready to park, they will need to enter their zone number and the amount of time they wish to purchase either via mobile app or a phone call. A digital receipt is then sent to their mobile device. The zone number is displayed on the meter. There is a .35 cents fee per transaction and the customer will receive a reminder text 15 minutes prior to the expiration of their time. Parking time limits will apply and customers must move their vehicles from the specific zone (each blockface is a zone) once they have exhausted their maximum time.
You can find convenient parking garages here on our custom Downtown Google Map.
Here are some parking tips to live by:
1. Remember to use those reading skills
Some metered areas magically turn into tow-away zones from 7 am- 9 am and 4 pm- 6 pm weekdays. Some of us have learned this the hard way… Read signs very carefully, many streets have special towaway, truck loading zones and commercial zones. If you park there you will be towed. Gotta say, some of it is confusing. If you have a doubt, go with your gut and don’t park there.
2. If a curb is painted red
It means that you can’t park there EVER, even if you’re late to meet your date and its right in front of the restaurant.
3. 21st century parking meters
Most all of downtown has the new smart meters. They have almost as many features as your cell phone – but they’re much easier to operate. No more digging change out from between your car seats - these meters also take bills and even credit cards! Plus, they won’t accept money if you try to use them when parking is not allowed. Like, say, a 4 pm to 6 pm tow-away zone…(see tip #1)
4. We come in peace
The City of Houston’s parking enforcement officers aren’t just there when the meter runs out. They are now referred to as downtown ambassadors. These specially trained Parking Enforcement officers sport gold colored shoulder cords on their blue uniforms.
5. Walk, it won’t kill you
Don’t forget that all of downtown is walkable. You can easily park in the Historic District, grab a drink at one of the neighborhood pubs and then walk to Verizon Wireless Theater at Bayou Place to see a great concert. If your office is at Fannin & McKinney and you’ve got a meeting at City Hall— WALK! This is part of our ‘park-onetime’ concept. Walking is more fun and adventurous (and romantic!) as well as lighter on your pocketbook!
6. Best places to park
There are convenient City garages located in the Theater District and under Tranquility Park that are the perfect spot to park for the multitude of festivals that take place around that area. There is also a new garage located under Discovery Green Park. If you’re going to the Historic District, Market Square Garage is only $5 and it’s also walking distance to the Theater District.
• Downtown has no parking—We actually have more than 100,000 parking spaces downtown: 2,200 on-street, 24,000 surface parking lot spaces and 75,000 garage spaces.
• Downtown parking is expensive—It can be. Some surface lots charge a ridiculous amount in the evenings or for events. BUT if you are willing to walk just a few short blocks you can find a less expensive spot, we promise.
NuRide is the nation’s largest rewards program for individuals who participate in commute alternatives by carpooling, vanpooling, biking, walking, telecommuting and taking public transportation. NuRide allows commuters to plan trips online and get rewarded for riding together. Like booking an airline ticket, users sign up online -- where they want to go, when they want to go, whether they want to ride or drive, and other criteria. NuRide can be used once or daily, one-way or round-trip. NuRide requires individuals to sign up with their company email address which allows the program to verify each rider’s identity so users can feel safe and secure with everyone in the system. There is even a rating system to find out how other NuRiders have rated others. ExxonMobil, Reliant Energy and Harris County have already signed up for this service.
For more information or to sign up, visit www.nuride.com.
To bring air service to Houston's population of more than four million, the Houston Airport System has three facilities; George Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport, and Ellington Field. Together they form one of North America's largest public airport systems and position Houston as the international gateway to the south central United States. Fore more info, visit www.fly2houston.com/
George Bush Intercontinental Airport/Houston (IAH) is presently served by 21 scheduled passenger airlines and five passenger terminals. Currently, IAH ranks 5th in the United States among U.S. airports with scheduled non-stop domestic and international service to over 170 destinations. There are 12 all-cargo airlines at IAH, handling more than 419,205 metric tons of cargo in 2012. In 2013, nearly 40 million passengers traveled through IAH with more than 650 daily departures.
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) is presently served by five scheduled passenger airlines. Currently, Hobby Airport is the 33rd busiest airport in the U.S. for enplanements with nonstop or direct service to more than 40 destinations throughout the United States. In 2013, more than 11 million passengers travelled through Hobby Airport. Currently only U.S. destinations are served by Hobby Airport, however, international service will begin in 2016.
Ellington Field, a joint use civil/military airport, was acquired by the City of Houston in 1984 and now supports the operations of the United States military, NASA, and a variety of general aviation tenants. The airport is home to the annual Wings Over Houston Airshow and is also the place where many of the astronauts from the world-renowned Johnson Space Center receive their ongoing space training.
SuperShuttle: 713-523-8888 www.supershuttle.com
Service operates 24 hours a day either through reservations or convenient curbside pickup at both major airports. SuperShuttle offers convenient service to/from both major airports to many destinations in the Greater Houston region including the Downtown/Medical Center, Galleria, Clear Lake, Sugar Land, Katy, The Woodlands, Kingwood and cruise terminals. Downtown to Houston Hobby Airport: one-way $23, round trip $44. Downtown to Bush (Intercontinental): one-way $25, round trip $48. Reservations can be made in advance as well as payment to driver on-board the van. Cash or credit card.
Megabus.com provides high-quality, express bus travel to and from Houston from $1 and many other very affordable fares (plus a 50 cent booking fee) via the Internet. Megabus.com operates daily, convenient, intercity bus services on state-of-the-art, climate controlled, double decker buses with free WiFi, power outlets, clean restrooms, reclining seats and overhead lights. One piece of luggage, not to exceed 50 lbs, and a small under seat item are permitted. All Megabus.com double decker buses are wheel chair accessible and green certified. Limited number of $1 seats; book early for best rates.
Megabus.com serves the following cities to and from Houston: Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; San Antonio, TX; Galveston, TX; and New Orleans, LA. The downtown Houston stop is located in the parking lot at 815 Pierce (@ Travis, across from the METRO Downtown Transit Center).
Seats may be booked at megabus.com.
Downtown is very accessible with a multitude of ways to get in and out of the city. Below are recommended ways into downtown or just Google Map it!
From I-10 West
Exit Smith Street to the west side of downtown for the core business district, the theater district and the entertainment venues in the historic district..
Exit Hamilton to the east side of Downtown near the Ballpark.
Exit to I-45 and take the McKinney exit or the Dallas/Pierce exit. Either one takes you across downtown to streets going into the heart of the city.
From I-10 East
Exit US 59 southbound, take Chenevert exit (be in left-side lane and watch for exit well before you cross I-H 10).
Exit San Jacinto/Main and turn left at Main
Take IH 45 South and exit Dallas/Pierce or McKinney.
From US 59 South
Take the Polk Street exit and stay and turn left to enter the Central Business District
From US-59 North
Exit Lorraine, take Lorraine westbound to Hardy, take Hardy southbound to Downtown.
From 1-45 North
Exit Milam Street to the west side of downtown for the core business district, the theater district and the entertainment venues in the historic district.
Exit McKinney Street to the core business area.
Exit Dallas/Pierce to Jefferson and cross the south side of downtown.
West on St. Joseph Parkway; merge left to IH 45 North.
From 1-45 South
Exit Scott to Pease or St. Joseph Parkway. If your destination is the theater district or the core business area turn right on Travis or Louisiana.
From SH 288
Merge to US 59 North, take the Polk Street exit and turn left at the first traffic signal which is Polk Street taking you past the Convention Center, Hotel and Arena construction sites and continue to the west side of downtown.
Downtown's pedestrian tunnel system is more than 6 miles long, having started out years ago as a tunnel between two downtown movie theaters. Today it includes restaurants and service retail between connecting buildings.
Downtown Above & Below Map (2 pages, pdf)