Sep 22, 2022 - News

The world celebrates Car Free Day — but not Houston

Illustration of a car with sad emojis instead of wheels
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

You probably wouldn't know it, but Thursday is World Car Free Day.

Driving the car-free news: The unofficial holiday is Sept. 22 each year when commuters are encouraged to try alternate forms of transportation.

  • More than 75% of Houstonians drive to work, per U.S. Census data.
  • About 65% of Houstonians are driving alone to work.

State of play: Going car free is easier said than done for many in the Houston area, because the city's sprawling regional transportation network was made largely for automobiles.

Flashback: Members of the Houston-Galveston Area Council's Transportation Policy Council (TPC) in August removed language celebrating Car Free Day from a resolution establishing September as Commute Solutions Month.

What they're saying: Sugar Land Mayor and TPC member Joe Zimmerman said promoting World Car Free Day in the Houston region "dilutes the message" of the council's Commute Solutions Month, which celebrates the council's efforts to promote alternative forms of transportation.

  • "When you throw something like that, I've never even heard of that," Zimmerman said. "It takes away from the real message that you're trying to drive, which is different solutions."

The other side: The goal of Car Free Day is to make drivers think twice about taking a car when other options are available.

  • "Anything that's a big goal that sort of encourages more people to do something different is a good thing," said Carol Lewis, chair of the Gulf Coast Rail District and TPC member. "Nobody expects us to really have a car-free day, nor could we for that matter. It's an aspiration to make people think about it."
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