Here's how the Bayou City ranks on list comparing longest commute times. Photo by Manuel Velasquez on Unsplash

Given the continuous gridlock Houston drivers face, it would be safe to assume our fair city faces the worst commute time in Texas and the even the nation. Not so.

A new report by SmartAsset ranks a surprising Texas city as the worst in the Lone Star State for commute time: Garland. The north Texas city ranked No. 3 in the nation for longest commute time, according to the SmartAsset survey.

Garland ranked No. 3 worst, only out-trafficked by two California cities — Stockton and Bakersfield — which came in first and second, respectively. (Another shocker: Los Angeles didn't lead the list, which landed at No. 25.)

Houston doesn't appear until much further down the list at No. 23 — tied with Dallas. The average commute time in Houston is 26.1 minutes, while 5.8 percent of Houstonians face a "severe" commute of 60 minutes or more. Houstonians spend a tiny bit more of their income on transportation costs than Dallas drivers do (9.9 percent vs. 9 percent). In Dallas, the average commute time in Dallas is 25.7 minutes; 6.5 percent of Dallasites face a "severe" commute.

The only other Texas city to land in the top 10 is El Paso, which comes in seventh. The city ranks second overall for transportation costs relative to income, with commuters paying 14.13 percent of their median household income for transportation in the city and surrounding areas, SmartAsset says.

Elsewhere in Texas, city rankings were:

  • Arlington, No. 33
  • Fort Worth, No. 47
  • Irving, No. 50
  • Plano, No. 52
  • San Antonio, No. 55
  • Lubbock, No. 61
  • Austin, No. 64
  • Corpus Christi, No. 78
  • Laredo, No. 81

Interestingly, SmartAsset notes, despite the rise in remote work the past few years, the average commute time went down by only one minute in five years. The national average decreased from 26.6 minutes in 2016 to 25.6 minutes in 2021, they say, while the percentage of remote workers has tripled in about half the time.

"Workers in 2023 will average almost 222 hours (or a little over nine days) driving to and from work," the report says. "And these hours spent in transit cost commuters more than just their time. The price of fuel, public transit passes and other commuter-related costs can add up quickly."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Here's how much time Houstonians spend in traffic. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Houstonians lose days-worth of time each year due to rush hour

not in the fast lane

Traffic is a part of life in Houston. But a new study quantifies just how much time the average Bayou City dweller spends sitting in rush hour gridlock every year—and the results are eye opening.

According to a study released this month by CoPilot, Houstonians lose nearly four days of time each year due to rush hour commuting.

The report found that rush hour extends Houstonians' commute by an extra 22 minutes per day. Annually, that totaled an additional 91.6 hours commuting due to rush hour.

This earned the Houston area (including the Woodlands and Sugar Land) a No. 8 spot on CoPilot's list of cities where commuters lose the most time to rush hour.

Evening commutes saw the highest increase in time in Houston, with the average commuter spending 14 additional minutes on roadways due to rush hour. Morning rush hour in Houston added about eight minutes to commuters' daily drives.

Houston was the only Texas city to make CoPilot's list of the top 15 cities that lost the most time to rush hour traffic. New York drivers lost the most time to rush hour, which adds about 32 minutes to daily commutes and 132 hours a year, according to the report. Los Angeles drivers lost the second-most time, followed by urban Honolulu, Miami, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Birmingham, Alabama.

The report found that drivers in Houston spend about eight more minutes commuting during rush hour than the average driver in the county. That totals to about 30 more hours per year than the average U.S. driver.

Commute times have been dropping nationally, reaching a low of 25.6 minutes in 2021 compared to 27.6 minutes in 2019, as more workers have transitioned to hybrid schedules or working from home, according to CoPilot

In 2020, Houston drivers even witnessed a 33 percent drop in traffic compared to in 2019, according to a study from Rice.

Still, Houston roadways are consistently ranked among the most congested in the country. Last year, a similar study found that the typical Houston driver wasted 46 hours due to traffic congestion.

Portions of the 610 West Loop are notorious for being ranked as the state's most congested roadways, and other stretches of roads are known as some of the worst bottlenecks in Texas.

According to a report, Houston traffic is actually the worst. Local.AllState.com

Houston drives to top of list of Texas cities for worst traffic congestion

slow moving

Honk if you hate Houston traffic. According to a new study, you’re more than justified in laying on the horn to express frustration over Houston’s clogged roads.

The study, released by geolocation technology company TomTom, shows the typical Houston driver wasted 46 hours last year due to traffic congestion. Houston’s traffic congestion rate was 20 percent. This means average travel times in jammed-up traffic were 20 percent longer than they were in uncongested traffic.

While those figures alone highlight the drive-me-up-a-wall status of Houston commutes, what’s worse is that the city ranks first in Texas, No. 16 in the U.S., and No. 214 in the world for snarled traffic in 2021. The study says Houston’s traffic congestion went up 4 percent compared with 2020 but went down 4 percent compared with pre-pandemic 2019.

Where’s the worst of the worst traffic in Houston? According to Texas A&M Transportation Institute data published in December, the 610 West Loop was the state’s most congested stretch of roadway in 2020, trading places with I-35 in Austin, which held the top spot in 2019.

On top of that, Houston is home to 10 of the 14 worst trucking bottlenecks in Texas, according to an American Transportation Research Institute ranking released earlier this month. The absolute worst: I-45 at I-69 and U.S. Highway 59. The institute deemed that intersection the third worst trucking bottleneck in the country for 2021.

“Bottlenecks around the state continue to waste time and money, further damaging the already fragile supply chain,” John Esparza, president and CEO of the Texas Trucking Association, says in a news release. “With the newly available federal resources for infrastructure projects, there’s no excuse — these bottlenecks must be addressed. A reliable and stable transportation network is essential to our economy — just like the trucking industry.”

Here’s how other major Texas cities fared in the TomTom study:

  • McAllen ranked second in Texas, 18th in the U.S., and 218th in the world for traffic congestion. Time wasted in traffic last year for a typical driver: 46 hours. Congestion rate: 20 percent. Congestion up 4 percent from 2020 and up 1 percent from 2019.
  • Austin ranked third in Texas, 21st in the U.S., and 221st in the world for traffic congestion. Time wasted in traffic last year for a typical driver: 46 hours. Congestion rate: 20 percent. Congestion up 2 percent from 2020 and down 7 percent from 2019.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth ranked fourth in Texas, 37th in the U.S., and 305th in the world for traffic congestion. Time wasted in traffic last year for a typical driver: 39 hours. Congestion rate: 17 percent. Congestion up 4 percent from 2020 but down 2 percent from 2019.=
  • San Antonio ranked fifth in Texas, 41st in the U.S., and 318th in the world for traffic congestion. Time wasted in traffic last year for a typical driver: 36 hours. Congestion rate: 16 percent. Congestion up 3 percent from 2020 and down 3 percent from 2019.
  • El Paso ranked sixth in Texas, 44th in the U.S., and 324th in the world for traffic congestion. Time wasted in traffic last year for a typical driver: 36 hours. Congestion rate: 16 percent. Congestion up 4 percent from 2020 and the same as 2019.

Not surprisingly, the TomTom study awards New York City the title of the worst-congested place in the country. In 2021, the typical New York driver wasted 80 hours in traffic, with a 35 percent congestion rate.

Racking up a congestion rate of 62 percent last year, Istanbul, Turkey, claimed the title of the world’s worst city for traffic. There, motorists wasted 142 hours in traffic in 2021.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The city of Alpharetta, Georgia, is utilizing the chipset to improve response times by their fire department, while Houston has deployed 500 chips across the city's school zones. Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

New next-gen technology in Houston is enhancing vehicle navigation

Traffic control

The dawn of smart cities is upon us, using the internet of things to solve both big and little problems. In Georgia, Texas, and Hawaii, a new technology is being used that will ease traffic woes for public safety vehicles.

The technology uses dual mode chipsets by Israel-based Autotalks that are installed in roadside units, such as traffic control boxes. Autotalks has teamed up with Applied Information Inc., an Alpharetta, Georgia-based provider of intelligent transportation infrastructure solutions, to provide traffic signal preemption technology that helps emergency vehicles reach their destination safely and quickly.

Traditionally, emergency vehicles travel through traffic with their lights or siren, or a combination of both, activated when on the way to a call. When they near an intersection, drivers must navigate the traffic signals, pedestrians, vehicles, and any road hazards, often times while at speed, all while receiving evolving information about the situation they are approaching.

In 1914, American Traffic Signal Company installed the first traffic light that could be used by police and fire personnel to control the signals in the event of an emergency. Over the last century, the traffic signal preemption technology has evolved, offering acoustic, line of sight, localized radio signal, and GPS technology.

Generations of drivers grew up seeing Rad-O-Lites by the now-defunct Relco Emergency Light Company out of Erie, Pennsylvania, flashing white signals on the same line next to traffic lights alerting them to the presence of a nearby emergency vehicle that was responding to a call.

The new technology being implemented was developed and allows emergency vehicles equipped with the units to initiate traffic signal control measures. While the technology's main use case is in emergency vehicle traffic signal preemption, it can also be used by transit buses for traffic signal priority and vehicles involved in roadside work zones.

The City of Alpharetta, Georgia, was the first in the U.S. to deploy the company's technology. According to a spokesperson for the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety, the RSUs are featured on all traffic signals controlled by the city — approximately 150 units.

In Harris County, Texas, the chips are used in over 500 School Beacon Flasher Timers.

"The AI/Autotalks solution enables roadway operators to confidently deploy V2X technology today so the infrastructure is ready for the auto industry deployment, while providing 'Day One' benefits such as safer, faster emergency vehicle response times now," says Bryan Mulligan, president of Applied Information.

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This article originally ran on AutomotiveMap.

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New Houston venture studio emerges to target early-stage hardtech, energy transition startups

funding the future

The way Doug Lee looks at it, there are two areas within the energy transition attracting capital. With his new venture studio, he hopes to target an often overlooked area that's critical for driving forward net-zero goals.

Lee describes investment activity taking place in the digital and software world — early stage technology that's looking to make the industry smarter. But, on the other end of the spectrum, investment activity can be found on massive infrastructure projects.

While both areas need funding, Lee has started his new venture studio, Flathead Forge, to target early-stage hardtech technologies.

“We are really getting at the early stage companies that are trying to develop technologies at the intersection of legacy industries that we believe can become more sustainable and the energy transition — where we are going. It’s not an ‘if’ or ‘or’ — we believe these things intersect,” he tells EnergyCapital.

Specifically, Lee's expertise is within the water and industrial gas space. For around 15 years, he's made investments in this area, which he describes as crucial to the energy transition.

“Almost every energy transition technology that you can point to has some critical dependency on water or gas,” he says. “We believe that if we don’t solve for those things, the other projects won’t survive.”

Lee, and his brother, Dave, are evolving their family office to adopt a venture studio model. They also sold off Azoto Energy, a Canadian oilfield nitrogen cryogenic services business, in December.

“We ourselves are going through a transition like our energy is going through a transition,” he says. “We are transitioning into a single family office into a venture studio. By doing so, we want to focus all of our access and resources into this focus.”

At this point, Flathead Forge has seven portfolio companies and around 15 corporations they are working with to identify their needs and potential opportunities. Lee says he's gearing up to secure a $100 million fund.

Flathead also has 40 advisers and mentors, which Lee calls sherpas — a nod to the Flathead Valley region in Montana, which inspired the firm's name.

“We’re going to help you carry up, we’re going to tie ourselves to the same rope as you, and if you fall off the mountain, we’re falling off with you,” Lee says of his hands-on approach, which he says sets Flathead apart from other studios.

Another thing that's differentiating Flathead Forge from its competition — it's dedication to giving back.

“We’ve set aside a quarter of our carried interest for scholarships and grants,” Lee says.

The funds will go to scholarships for future engineers interested in the energy transition, as well as grants for researchers studying high-potential technologies.

“We’re putting our own money where our mouth is,” Lee says of his thesis for Flathead Forge.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston-based lunar mission's rocky landing and what it means for America's return to the moon

houston, we have a problem

A private U.S. lunar lander tipped over at touchdown and ended up on its side near the moon’s south pole, hampering communications, company officials said Friday.

Intuitive Machines initially believed its six-footed lander, Odysseus, was upright after Thursday's touchdown. But CEO Steve Altemus said Friday the craft “caught a foot in the surface," falling onto its side and, quite possibly, leaning against a rock. He said it was coming in too fast and may have snapped a leg.

“So far, we have quite a bit of operational capability even though we’re tipped over," he told reporters.

But some antennas were pointed toward the surface, limiting flight controllers' ability to get data down, Altemus said. The antennas were stationed high on the 14-foot (4.3-meter) lander to facilitate communications at the hilly, cratered and shadowed south polar region.

Odysseus — the first U.S. lander in more than 50 years — is thought to be within a few miles (kilometers) of its intended landing site near the Malapert A crater, less than 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the south pole. NASA, the main customer, wanted to get as close as possible to the pole to scout out the area before astronauts show up later this decade.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to pinpoint the lander's location, as it flies overhead this weekend.

With Thursday’s touchdown, Intuitive Machines became the first private business to pull off a moon landing, a feat previously achieved by only five countries. Japan was the latest country to score a landing, but its lander also ended up on its side last month.

Odysseus' mission was sponsored in large part by NASA, whose experiments were on board. NASA paid $118 million for the delivery under a program meant to jump-start the lunar economy.

One of the NASA experiments was pressed into service when the lander's navigation system did not kick in. Intuitive Machines caught the problem in advance when it tried to use its lasers to improve the lander's orbit. Otherwise, flight controllers would not have discovered the failure until it was too late, just five minutes before touchdown.

“Serendipity is absolutely the right word,” mission director Tim Crain said.

It turns out that a switch was not flipped before flight, preventing the system's activation in space.

Launched last week from Florida, Odysseus took an extra lap around the moon Thursday to allow time for the last-minute switch to NASA's laser system, which saved the day, officials noted.

Another experiment, a cube with four cameras, was supposed to pop off 30 seconds before touchdown to capture pictures of Odysseus’ landing. But Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s EagleCam was deliberately powered off during the final descent because of the navigation switch and stayed attached to the lander.

Embry-Riddle's Troy Henderson said his team will try to release EagleCam in the coming days, so it can photograph the lander from roughly 26 feet (8 meters) away.

"Getting that final picture of the lander on the surface is still an incredibly important task for us,” Henderson told The Associated Press.

Intuitive Machines anticipates just another week of operations on the moon for the solar-powered lander — nine or 10 days at most — before lunar nightfall hits.

The company was the second business to aim for the moon under NASA's commercial lunar services program. Last month, Pittsburgh's Astrobotic Technology gave it a shot, but a fuel leak on the lander cut the mission short and the craft ended up crashing back to Earth.

Until Thursday, the U.S. had not landed on the moon since Apollo 17's Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt closed out NASA's famed moon-landing program in December 1972. NASA's new effort to return astronauts to the moon is named Artemis after Apollo's mythological twin sister. The first Artemis crew landing is planned for 2026 at the earliest.

3 female Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Welcome to another Monday edition of Innovators to Know. Today I'm introducing you to three Houstonians to read up about — three individuals behind recent innovation and startup news stories in Houston as reported by InnovationMap. Learn more about them and their recent news below by clicking on each article.

Emma Konet, co-founder and CTO of Tierra Climate

Emma Konet, co-founder and CTO of Tierra Climate, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

If the energy transition is going to be successful, the energy storage space needs to be equipped to support both the increased volume of energy needed and new energies. And Emma Konet and her software company, Tierra Climate, are targeting one part of the equation: the market.

"To me, it's very clear that we need to build a lot of energy storage in order to transition the grid," Konet says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The problems that I saw were really on the market side of things." Read more.

Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems

Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. Photo courtesy of Sage

A Houston geothermal startup has announced the close of its series A round of funding.

Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. The proceeds aim to fund its first commercial geopressured geothermal system facility, which will be built in Texas in Q4 of 2024. According to the company, the facility will be the first of its kind.

“The first close of our Series A funding and our commercial facility are significant milestones in our mission to make geopressured geothermal system technologies a reality,” Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems, says. Read more.

Clemmie Martin, chief of staff at The Cannon

With seven locations across the Houston area, The Cannon's digital technology allows its members a streamlined connection. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

After collaborating over the years, The Cannon has acquired a Houston startup's digital platform technology to become a "physical-digital hybrid" community.

Village Insights, a Houston startup, worked with The Cannon to create and launch its digital community platform Cannon Connect. Now, The Cannon has officially acquired the business. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The integration of a world-class onsite member experience and Cannon Connect’s superior virtual resource network creates a seamless, streamlined environment for member organizations,” Clemmie Martin, The Cannon’s newly appointed chief of staff, says in the release. “Cannon Connect and this acquisition have paved new pathways to access and success for all.” Read more.