The transportation industry is a huge part of the Houston Metropolitan Area’s economy, accounting for hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact every year. In terms of both shipping and passenger transportation, Houston is a leader in the United States, and the world.
Houston is the home to three airports. Located north of the Downtown area, George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the fifth largest and tenth busiest airport in North America. The airport is the largest passenger hub for United Airlines and the base for United’s international operations, and currently serves over 35 national and international airlines. The airport handles over 800 flights on an average day and over 40,000,000 passengers annually across its five passenger terminals. George Bush Intercontinental Airport is also one of the nation’s leaders in the area of air cargo. The airport’s CargoCenter is an 880,000 square foot facility which can load and unload up to 20 wide body aircraft at the same time, and moves almost 400,000 metric tons of cargo a year. William P. Hobby Airport – classified as a medium-sized international airport – is located just outside of Downtown and is a hub for Southwest Airlines. The airport has four runways, and serves over 12 million passengers each year. Ellington Airport, located southwest of Downtown, serves the U.S. Military, NASA, and acts as a “reliever airport” for the city’s two main airports.
The Port of Houston, which first opened 1914, is the 10 th largest port in the world, and ranks first in the area of international commerce. It is the thirteenth busiest port in the world, and the second busiest in the United States, due in large part to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and its access international shipping lanes. A 25- mile long complex, the port handles over 200 million tons of cargo, 200,000 barges, and 8,000 shipping vessels each year travelling along the Houston Ship Channel to and from the Gulf of Mexico. The port has both general cargo and container terminals, and is home to both private and public facilities. Along with shipping facilities, the port contains a $15 billion petrochemical complex which is the second largest in world, and the largest in the United States. The port and businesses along the Houston Ship Channel account for almost 1.8 million jobs and over $182 billion in economic impact throughout the State of Texas each year – with much of that in the Houston Metropolitan Area.
The Houston Metropolitan Area is served by the METRO public transportation system which provides 75 local bus routes, 32 commuter bus routes, three light rail lines, as well as a paratransit service called METROLift. METRO is one of the largest public transportation companies in the country, and carries over 80 million passengers per year. The city is also served by AMTRAK’s Sunset Limited line which connects Los Angeles to Houston and New Orleans. Houston is also the hub or base for dozens of trucking companies which transport thousands of tons of cargo to destinations in the U.S. and Mexico. The importance of the transportation industry in the Houston area in terms of jobs, economic impact, and taxes is massive, and with future expansion planned for both the Port of Houston and George Bush Intercontinental Airport, it is poised to continue to grow. When it comes to getting around, or getting it there, you can do it from Houston.