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 7.5-mile METRORail handle all of the legwork. Set along Main Street, the wallet-friendly rail begins downtown and extends through midtown, the Museum District and Texas Medical Center before ending at Reliant Park. Catch the line and take advantage of its proximity to more than 70 dining and nightlife options, professional sports arenas, cultural institutions and the largest medical center in the world. Tickets cost $1.25 (one-way) and can be purchased using cash or credit at all rail stops. Travel time from end to end is 30 minutes.
METRORail hours are: 4:30am - 11:40pm (M-TH)
4:30am - 2:20am (F)
5:30am - 2:20am (SAT)
5:30am - 11:40pm (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. One-way fare is $1.25.
Park & Ride service is for long-distance commuting. METRO’s 28 Park & Ride lots provide bus service to key destinations in the service area. One-way fare ranges from $2 to $4.50, depending on distance.
Click here for additional route and fare information.
In addition to cash you can use your METRO QCard. Think of the METRO Q® 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 METRORail platforms, and you’re on your way. For more info, click here.
METRO Fast Facts:
Bus Fleet - 1,211
Service area - 1,285 square miles
Miles of light rail - 7.5
Planned additional miles of light rail - 30
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 $60, which is under 20 cents per day!
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.HoustonBcycle.com
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, um, 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.
The miniPOOL Vanpool Program has been initiated for those who utilize I-10, 610 or US 59 South. While normal vanpool programs require 8-15 passengers, this program only required 5-8 riders, including the driver. Riders get one month free to try the program, and $50/month thereafter toward the cost as an incentive to continue using the program.
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 is set up through employers, 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, El Paso Corporation, Reliant Energy and Harris County have already signed up for this service.
Calculate your monthly commute costs: www.centralhouston.com/Home/CommuterCalculator
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.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport/Houston (IAH) is presently served by 23 scheduled passenger airlines. In 2001, airline carriers performed more than 470,916 operations and enplaned and deplaned more than 34.8 million passengers. This convenient passenger gateway is the largest hub airport for Continental Airlines, and numerous other carriers also offer domestic and international air service. Over 150 destinations worldwide are accessible through nonstop or direct flights. www.fly2houston.com/
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) is presently served by eight (8) scheduled passenger airlines. In 2001, airline carriers performed handled 249,304 operations and enplaned and deplaned more than 8.6 million passengers. Houston's William P. Hobby Airport is the largest hub airport for Southwest Airlines. Numerous other carriers also offer domestic air service through Hobby Airport. All of Hobby's airlines are located in its convenient terminal building. Only U.S. destinations are served through Hobby. NOTE: all of Houston's international air service is currently flown from IAH. www.fly2houston.com/
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. www.fly2houston.com/
Express Shuttle USA: 713-523-8888 www.airportexpresshouston.com Service operates between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Trips are scheduled every half hour to both major airports from The Hyatt Regency Hotel, The Hilton Americas Hotel and the Four Seasons Hotel. Travelers at other downtown hotels must make advance reservations. Downtown to Houston Hobby Airport: one-way $18, round trip $32. Downtown to Bush (Intercontinental): one-way $23, round trip $42. Pay driver. Cash or credit card.
Texas Super Shuttle: 713-781-6660 www.texansshuttle.com Service operates between 5:00 a.m. and midnight. Trips are scheduled every half hour to both major airports from The Crowne Plaza Hotel, The Doubletree Allen Center, The Hyatt Regency and The Four Seasons Hotel. Travelers at other hotels must make advance reservations. Downtown to Houston Hobby Airport: one-way $15. Downtown to Bush: (Intercontinental): one-way $20. Pay driver. Cash or credit card. (Round-trip tickets can only be purchased at ticket counters)
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)