Houston is hot, but also cool. According to Forbes magazine, the nation’s fifth largest metro area is the “coolest” city to live in the United States. With nearly 175,000 new jobs added between 2007 and 2012, it’s easy to see why leaders from other urban areas might want to see for themselves just what is going on in the Bayou City.
Recently a delegation of 110 metro Atlanta leaders traveled to Houston to do just that. The leaders are part of a program known as LINK that organizes a trip to a different city every summer to hear about metro challenges and solutions on a range of topics. LINK stands for “Leadership, Involvement, Networking, Knowledge” and is organized by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the metropolitan planning organization. The 17th annual LINK visit to Houston was from May 15 to May 18, and focused primarily on Houston’s economic development, transportation system and the shipping and logistics industry.
Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Senior Research Engineer Tim Lomax moderated a panel that focused on transportation solutions. The panel members included Fort Bend County Commissioner James Patterson (also past chair of the Transportation Policy Council at Houston-Galveston Area Council); Interim President and CEO, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Tom Lambert; Deputy Director of Transportation Planning, Houston-Galveston Area Council Ashby Johnson; and President, Uptown Houston John Breeding.
“One of the key questions I had for the panel was what makes Houston transportation agencies work so well together,” said Lomax. “I wanted to know if this was because who was in charge of the agencies or if there’s something institutional, for example, that pushes the transit agency and highway agency to work together. Because that is not the case everywhere.”
According to Lomax, the panelists displayed a level of trust that comes with working together to achieve solutions to complex transportation issues.
“I asked three questions and then we opened it up for the audience to ask questions, which they appreciated.” said Lomax. “The questions were on a range of topics – Houston and Atlanta face similar growth challenges. One of things I thought was really important was not just the information they gave, but the way the panelists built on each other’s ideas and reinforced what the other was saying. There was basically no disagreement, and it was clear these people had worked together in the past. They all recognized that Houston’s success depends on the health of the region and all parts of the region.”
“Atlanta should be given a ton of credit for having this program,” said Lomax. “I don’t know of any other region that does this and the notion of them being open minded to recognize that they can learn from other people is very refreshing.”
For more information about the Transportation Solutions panel at LINK 2013, please visit http://www.atlantaregional.com/about-us/leadership-opportunities/link.