Information/Data — All About Houston
"All About Houston" is almost literally what the name implies — an exhaustive summary of topics applicable to Houston newcomers. Included in the mix is information on climate, government, getting around town and even a brief history lesson. Detailed lists provide additional information on topics like state facts, average temperatures, cost of living, and television and radio stations.
A popular bumper sticker says, "I was not born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" While written for all Texans, this bumper sticker sums up how many Houston "transplants" feel about their adopted hometown. With its rich diversity, excellent business climate and outgoing friendliness of its citizens, Houston has won the hearts of millions and embodies what the Allen brothers set out to create when they founded the city in 1836.
Filled with the great can-do spirit for which Houston is known today, two real estate brokers, John and Augustus Allen, purchased 6,642 acres of land near Buffalo Bayou for $1.40 per acre to develop the "great interior commercial emporium of Texas." Their dream now has grown into the fourth most-populous city in the nation and the "Energy Capital of the World."
The ingenious brothers named the city after Sam Houston, who was serving as the first president of the new Republic of Texas at the time. Additionally, the brothers persuaded the Texas Congress to allow Houston to serve as the temporary capital of the fledgling republic, so the town grew from 12 residents and one log cabin to a population of 1,500 and 100 houses in four months.
In spite of their business savvy, the Allen brothers' little town still had a tough beginning. In the early days, Houstonians faced devastating diseases such as yellow fever, which killed about 12 percent of the population in 1839. Additionally, Buffalo Bayou - which the brothers intended to utilize to make Houston a port city - was difficult to navigate.
Yet, these setbacks did not deter the early businessmen as they established Houston's Chamber of Commerce, the precursor to today's Greater Houston Partnership, in 1840. Houston's economy began to depend on agricultural crops, such as cotton, and commerce. Early entrepreneurs began developing trade contacts and supplies, and crops began moving from the Port of Galveston through Houston to their final destination.
To overcome problems navigating Buffalo Bayou, Houston's civic leaders formed the Houston Ship Channel Company and the Bayou Ship Channel Company before the U.S. government took over the project in 1881. The Houston Ship Channel opened in 1914, opening the way for the first deepwater ship to navigate the channel the next year. Today, Houston is the sixth-largest port in the world.
In 1901, the oil boom hit Houston when prospectors struck oil in the Spindletop fields in nearby Beaumont. Sinclair Oil Company built the first major refinery on the Ship Channel in 1918, and other refineries soon began to locate along the channel. By 1929, 40 oil and gas companies had offices in Houston, including the Texas Company (now Chevron) and Humble Oil and Refining Company (now ExxonMobil).
Since oil first was discovered in the region, Houston's energy industry has continued to gain steam as the energy giants of today built a presence in Houston. More than 200 major firms moved headquarters, subsidiaries and divisions here in the 1970s. Now comprising 48 percent of Houston's economic base employment, energy companies such as ConocoPhillips and CITGO recently relocated their headquarters to Houston.
In 1930, Houston became the largest city in Texas, with a population of 292,000. A city fascinated with technology, Houston installed its first electric street lights in 1884 and unveiled an electric streetcar system in 1891. By 1930, there were 97,902 automobiles in the city and, with those numbers increasing, city planners began to implement Houston's freeway system.
Houston's citizens are very philanthropic. In 1891, William Marsh Rice set aside $200,000 as an endowment for the Rice Institute. He stated, "Texas received me when I was penniless, without friends or even acquaintances, and now in the evening of my life, I recognize my obligation to her and to her children. I wish now to leave to the boys and girls struggling for a place in the sun the fortune I have been able to accumulate."
Upon his death in 1900, Rice left a most of his estate to the William M. Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art. The Institute opened in 1912 and the endowment was $7 million, making it one of the wealthiest in the nation.
Now Rice University has been called the Harvard of the South and is constantly ranked as on of the top universities in the nation.
In the early 1930s, a local philanthropist, Monroe Dunaway Anderson, believed the idea that a medical center should be built in Houston. Working with like-minded businessmen, he developed a plan to locate a center next to Hermann Hospital consisting of different types of hospitals, academic institutions and needed support organizations. According to the Texas Medical Center, the city made the land available without cost to institutions as an enticement for them to build here.
In 1936, Anderson founded the M. D. Anderson Foundation with an endowment of $300,000, but two years later, Anderson died, leaving the organization $19 million and the distinction of being the largest charitable fund ever created in Texas.
According to the Texas Medical Center's history, "In 1941, the state legislature voted to grant the University of Texas $500,000 for the purpose of starting a cancer research hospital. The M. D. Anderson Foundation then took its first major action by proposing to match the state's gift and to supply the necessary land" if they located the hospital in the medical center. The University of Texas accepted the offer and named the institution the M. D. Anderson Hospital for Cancer Research. U.S. News & World Report now ranks M. D. Anderson as the best cancer center in the nation.
The M. D. Anderson Foundation continued Anderson's dream of growing the medical center by offering the then Dallas-based Baylor University College of Medicine $1 million for the construction of a facility and $100,000 a year for 10 years if it would relocate the medical school to Houston. Houston's Chamber of Commerce sweetened the bid by $500,000, and Baylor accepted. Today, Baylor College of Medicine, home to pioneer heart surgeon Michael E. DeBakey, is one of the country's most respected medical schools.
By 1954, the medical center boasted "11 institutions: four hospitals, two children's hospitals, a university, a library, a speech and hearing center, a dental school and an overall planning and coordinating group."
Another of Houston's great success stories, the medical center is now the largest employer in Houston and a very important part of Houston's economy, providing more than 61,000 total positions and claiming a $13.5 billion per year indirect impact on Houston's economy.
By the early 1960s, the race to the moon was on and to benefit the cause, NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center, was established just southeast of Houston in Clear Lake. The impact of NASA has been huge, growing from the Gemini IV to today's International Space Station, with fiscal expenditures of $4.055 billion in 2001. And, responsible for almost 17,000 jobs between NASA's 3,000 civil service positions and another 14,000 contractor personnel, the aerospace industry is one of Houston's larger employers. NASA and its private industry partners have created more than 1,300 documented technologies, many of which are now considered mainstream inventions. These technologies have touched all types of industries from photography to athletic shoes to battery-operated tools to satellite communications technology.
In addition to business and philanthropy, Houston has had a thriving arts community since the Houston Symphony opened its doors in 1913. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the first fine arts museum in Texas, opened its doors in 1924. In 1947, arts patrons established the Alley Theatre. The Houston Grand Opera opened in 1955, and Houston Ballet made its debut in that same year.
The Houston region, officially designated as the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) comprises Harris County - the nation's third-most populous - and nine other counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto and Waller. The population of the Houston MSA is 5.1 million, making it the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the nation. The City of Houston's population is 2.0 million people, and the city extends through portions of Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. The City's population makes it the fourth most-populous city in the nation behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and the largest in both Texas and the U.S. South.
Houston is located in the State of Texas and encompasses 634 square miles. The Houston MSA covers more than 10,000 square miles and is almost the midpoint between the nation's two coasts, making it is an excellent distribution point for businesses.
Houstonians enjoy a wide range of vegetation, from the piney woods of The Woodlands and Lake Conroe to the north to the prairie grasslands of Katy to the west to the sandy, coastal environment of Galveston and Clear Lake to the south. The official altitude of the City of Houston is 49 feet; elevations in the MSA range from sea level to 460 feet.
Houston is known for its intricate system of bayous that run through the city and serve as part of Houston's extensive drainage system. While they may be considered vital to the drainage of Houston's relatively flat landscape, in many areas these bayous create a dramatic and beautiful backdrop for homes and businesses.
Originally, the Allen brothers stated that Houston "enjoyed a healthy, cool sea breeze." While residents of the Houston area's coastal suburbs do enjoy a nice sea breeze from the Gulf of Mexico, the rest of the region enjoys a moderate climate with an annual average temperature of 69°.
Houston's winters tend to be gentle, with temperatures ranging from the low-to-mid 60s during the day and low-to-mid 40s as night. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the city's temperature gauge hits the freezing mark an average of 18 times each winter, and only 14 measurable snowfalls have been recorded since 1939.
Outdoor fun typically describes Houston's summers since Houston is primarily a sunny and warm location. The city averages 59 percent of possible sunshine annually, with an average of 90 clear days per year, and Houstonians typically enjoy south-southeasterly winds at a mean speed of nearly 8 miles per hour. During the summer months, the temperature averages in the mid-80s.
In addition to enjoying the striking bluebonnets across the region in the spring and the excellent football action in the autumn, Houstonians spend their time outdoors enjoying temperatures in the upper 70s during the day and upper 50s at night. Houstonians typically see the most rain in the spring (May and June) and fall (September and October) months, with the rainfall in those months averaging between 4.33 and 5.35 inches. In an average year, Houston receives a little less than 46 inches of rain.
The Houston area enjoys a prolonged growing season that averages about 300 days each year, with the normal frost-free period extending from mid-February to mid-December.
City - Most cities in the area follow a council-manager form of government in which voters elect city council members and a mayor or city manager, each for a two-year term. In Houston, voters elect a mayor and 14 residents to the city council. Nine members are elected from single-member districts and five are elected at-large.
County - Each county utilizes the form of government prescribed by the Texas Constitution. Under state law, each county is divided into four precincts and voters choose a commissioner to represent their precinct for a four-year term. County judges also are elected and serve on an at-large basis.
Texas - The State of Texas joined the United States in 1845 as the 28th state. With the state capital in Austin, the state government has executive, legislative and judicial branches. The Texas legislature has two houses that meet once in odd-numbered years and as needed in special sessions called by the governor. Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms, while members of the Senate serve four-year terms.
The Texas judicial system operates under the Supreme Court and the State Court of Criminal Appeals. Judges are elected to the State's 411 district courts.
To vote in Texas, a person must be 18 years old, must have registered at least 30 days prior to an election and must be both a Texas resident and U.S. citizen. To register to vote or for more detailed information, residents can contact Voter Registration and Information at 713-368-2200.
Texans do not pay a state personal income tax. Only the city, state and METRO charge a sales tax. The Harris County Appraisal District provides the appraised value of property and each jurisdiction sets its own property tax rate. The city and county charge franchise fees, licenses and permits to pay for services.
To determine which authority currently is assessing taxes, residents can contact their county appraisal district. Some taxing authorities such as some school districts can collect taxes independent of the county tax assessor-collector, but the appraisal district still will be able to provide a list of all taxes levied within a specific neighborhood or location.
In certain instances, taxing authorities offer tax exemptions for residents, people above age 65, veterans and people with disabilities.
Below is the list of tax assessor-collectors and their phone numbers in the area. For information via the Internet, logon to www.statelocalgov.net .
Austin County: Janice Kokemor, 979-865-8633
Brazoria County: Rovin Garrett, 979-864-1134
Chambers County: Margie Henry, 409-267-8303
Fort Bend County: Patsy Schultz, 281-341-3709
Galveston County: Cheryl E. Johnson, 409-766-2285
Harris County: Paul Bettencourt, 713-368-2000
Liberty County: Mark McClelland, 936-336-4629
Montgomery County: J.R. Moore, 936-539-7896
San Jacinto County: Barbara Shelly, 936-653-2311
Waller County: Ellen Contreras Shelburne, 979-826-7620
In Houston, the sales and use tax rate is 8.25 percent (6.25 percent state, 1 percent city, 1 percent transit authority), and certain food and drug items are exempt.
Average Income Data
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average personal income in Houston in 2002 was $34,969, which ranked Houston 29th out of the 369 metropolitan areas surveyed. The national average was $30,906.
Average annual wage in the Houston PMSA in 2002 was $42,712, 11.2 percent above the U.S. metropolitan area average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Data pertain to full-time and part-time employees covered by state or federal unemployment insurance programs.) Among the 318 U.S. metropolitan areas for which data were reported, Houston ranked 20th.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Web site ( www.bls.gov ) has very detailed information on salaries by occupation for the Houston and Galveston areas. Houston's information is under the section titled "Wages by Area and Occupation."
Houston Fire Department (HFD)
Safety is the HFD's main priority and, as the fourth-largest fire department in the nation, this is no small task. The HFD is armed with 3,340 firefighters, 300 paramedics, 2,000 emergency medical technicians and about 280 civilian workers, all with the responsibility of preserving life and property to a population of 2 million in an area totaling 617 square miles. The department operates 88 stations with 85 engine companies, 37 aerial ladder trucks and 73 ambulances.
To show its determination to provide the best possible service to Houstonians, the HFD recently worked to improve its Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating, a primary element used by the insurance industry to develop premium rates for homes and businesses. On a scale of one to 10, the ISO measures the capabilities of a fire department to control fires, thus limiting fire losses. The ISO raised HFD's rating to a Class 1 in 2002, effective
April 1, 2003.
In addition to traditional safety measures, HFD works closely with the community to educate residents about fire safety. Programs such as the Citizen's Fire Academy, Get Alarmed Houston and other public education programs are all designed to reduce fire loss, and many are available in Spanish. For additional information and/or to contact the HFD Public Education Division, call 713-865-7163 .
The Houston Police Department (HPD) has been keeping Houstonians safe since 1841. HPD is headquartered downtown with community substations and store fronts throughout the city. With more than 5,000 police officers, HPD works daily to keep Houstonians safe.
It is not unusual in Houston to see a police officer riding a horse through downtown during the day. HPD maintains a workforce that is trained in a variety of safety strategies, ranging from a dive team to a K-9 unit to a bike patrol.
The police department also works with the community to reduce crime. Programs such as Crime Stoppers, Neighborhood Watch and the Positive Interaction Program all work to help the city minimize crime. As an added service to the community, the HPD provides current crime statistics free of charge via its Web site www.ci.houston.tx.us/hpd .
The Harris County Sheriff's Department operates in the unincorporated portions of the county to ensure public safety. In addition to numerous other duties, the sheriff's department operates four jails and a detective unit and offers community programs such as Child Passenger Safety Inspections, Vacation Watch and Rape Aggression Defense.
Student safety is a top priority, so in addition to traditional police departments, many independent school districts maintain a police department. School Districts without a police department work closely with local police to create specific programs designed to fit their students' needs. For more information regarding police departments within school districts, parents may contact school districts directly.
In 1835, Gail Borden (the originator of condensed milk) and Thomas Borden were commissioned by the Allen brothers to survey Houston. While planning the city, they laid out the town's streets to be wide enough to turn around an entire team of horses. As a result, most of the streets in the Central Business District are at least three to four lanes wide, enabling Houston's commuters to enjoy an easy trip to the city's web of interstates.
Since the 1800s, Houston's transportation infrastructure has expanded to support the fast-paced needs of its citizens. Houston now boasts three large airports and numerous municipal and regional airports, an extensive interstate system, four toll roads, a railroad system, the METRO bus system and a new METRORail system, the Port of Houston and cruise ships based in Galveston.
The titling and registration of automobiles is managed by each county's tax assessor-collector's office. New residents are required to register their cars within 30 days. To learn the requirements for each county, see the list of area tax assessor-collectors on page XX .
Houston Highways and Toll Roads
To best understand Houston's highway system, it might help to picture a wagon wheel with spokes jutting from its inner circle. The downtown area of Houston is considered the center of the wheel with freeways extending outward in many directions. Because of the size of the area, Houston is surrounded by two loops. The first is Loop 610 (Houstonians call it "the Loop" or simply "610") and the second is an 88-mile roadway called Beltway 8 or the Sam Houston Tollway, most of which serves as one of Houston's four toll roads. Two interstates and one highway bisect the city while three highways begin in the Houston area and radiate out of the city. Every major highway and interstate in Houston has a nickname (see "Highway Nicknames", page 203), which Houstonians tend to use instead of a number because the nickname will tell the driver in exactly what part of the city they are driving.
— Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA)
A division of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department, HCTRA oversees three toll roads designed to increase mobility. Harris County voters created HCTRA through a bond referendum in 1983, authorizing up to $900 million in general obligation bonds. Once the bonds are retired, the roads will become part of the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation. The organization has grown to include three major toll roads.
- Sam Houston Tollway - The Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) provides easy access from George Bush Intercontinental Airport to all of Houston's suburban areas. Set up as the outer ring around the city, it puts outlying business districts and recreation areas easily within reach. The International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association has named the Sam Houston Tollway one of the nation's safest toll roads to drive.
- Hardy Toll Road - For people who live in the northern suburbs of Houston and the southern part of Montgomery County, Houston's Hardy Toll Road is like their own private highway from downtown. A 21.6-mile toll road, the "Hardy" runs through Greenspoint and Spring to The Woodlands. The Hardy also has a spur leading directly into George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
- Westpark Tollway - The latest gem in Houston's toll road system is the Westpark Tollway. The first phase of the Westpark Tollway opened in May 2004 and runs east from just outside Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Tollway) to Loop 610 at U.S. 59. Upon completion, this new toll road will run west into Fort Bend County. One important note: drivers must have an EZ Tag to use this toll road.
EZ Tags, offered by the HCTRA both online ( www.eztagstore.com ) and at four area EZ Tag stores, allow drivers to eliminate waiting in lines at area toll booths.
— Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority
With one toll road recently completed and another under construction, Fort Bend officials are working to make commutes safer and easier for its residents. Fort Bend County citizens approved a $140 million bond issue in 2000 to support revenue bond financing to pay for the construction of the two toll road projects.
- Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road - Opened in August, this four-lane, six-mile toll road connects Texas 6 with the Sam Houston Tollway in the eastern part of Fort Bend County.
- Fort Bend Westpark Tollway - Picking up where the Harris County section of the Westpark Tollway ends, road contractors in Fort Bend are scheduled to complete the western end of the Fort Bend Westpark Tollway in 2005. Upon completion, the new tollway will begin at the Grand Parkway in Fort Bend and extend 20 miles to the Loop 610.
To make life easier for area residents, the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority and HCTRA collaborated to allow Houston drivers to use the same EZ Tag on all toll roads in both counties.
More than 40 taxi companies serve the Houston area, with cab fares regulated by the City of Houston.
Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) does more than provide Houston's bus service. METRO partners with public and private organizations to deliver effective and efficient transportation system solutions to Houston. Houston's METRO is responsible for the following city services:
- Bus - METRO's bus fleet is extensive and includes more than 1,600 buses on 130 routes.
- Park & Ride - Houston commuters enjoy the city's Park & Ride system. Commuters gather at one of 25 Park & Ride lots with 30,200 available parking spaces for the ride from popular Houston suburbs such as Katy, Kingwood, Spring, Clear Lake and Missouri City to downtown, the Texas Medical Center and other major employment centers such as HP, NASA, Uptown and Greenway Plaza. And commuters do not need to worry about being stranded at work if an emergency arises, since METRO provides all commuters with a way home in the middle of the day if necessary.
- Street Construction - METRO is working with the City of Houston, Houston Downtown Management District and the Federal Transit Administration to complete a $250 million program designed to reconstruct city streets, modernize infrastructure and improve lighting, landscaping and sidewalks in the Central Business District. This project is scheduled for completion in 2005.
- High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes - According to METRO, an HOV lane is a barrier-protected lane - usually in the median of a freeway - for high occupancy vehicles such as buses, van pools and carpools. The lane is reversible to accommodate commuter traffic during peak periods of traffic flow. HOV lanes operate on the Southwest, Gulf, Katy, North, Eastex and Northwest freeways.
- METRORail - A 7.5-mile light rail line running from south of Reliant Park through the Texas Medical Center and Museum District to downtown Houston, opened Jan. 1, 2004. This is the first phase of a far more extensive light rail system.
- Carpooling - Because of the benefits, METRO and city leaders always are encouraging employees to take advantage of alternate forms of commuting. Aside from eliminating the wear and tear on a car, alternative commuting solutions help the environment and save on parking and gas bills. For those wishing to carpool, METRO offers a RideShare and METROVan options for everyone within an eight-county region including: Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Harris, Montgomery and Waller. METRO's RideShare program is free to commuters to help form vanpools and carpools anywhere within the region, so if someone lives in Sugar Land and wants to commute to downtown, METRO will help the commuter create a carpool. METRO also has another carpooling option called METROVan. At $35 per rider each month, and with a minimum of seven passengers, the vanpool may begin or end anywhere in the eight-county region.
METRO offers numerous other commuter programs, transportation solutions for the handicapped and safe help for Houstonians stalled on the roadside. Detailed information regarding METRO's numerous programs and bus routes is available at www.ridemetro.org .
Recognized nationally and internationally as a model for agencies combining resources across modal and political jurisdictional boundaries, Houston TranStar is a unique multi-agency partnership comprised of the City of Houston, Harris County, METRO and the Texas Department of Transportation-Houston District.
Together this unique partnership is responsible for coordinating the planning, design, operations and maintenance of transportation and emergency management functions in the Greater Houston region.
Houston is the first major metropolitan area in the country to combine the resources and expertise of emergency management professionals with transportation managers into one state-of-the-art center. By co-locating critical functions, the emergency management activities have reduced the number of injuries, deaths and extensive property damage caused by floods and other weather and man-made disasters.
Benefits attributed to the Houston TranStar partnership's efforts include net reductions of travel times and fuel consumption, the promotion of a cleaner environment, better informed motorists and quicker responses to emergency events that impact the Greater Houston region.
Port of Houston
The Houston Ship Channel is a 52-mile-long complex of public and private facilities located just north of the Gulf of Mexico. The Port is ranked first in the United States in foreign waterborne commerce, second in total tonnage and sixth in the world in total tonnage. The Port of Houston is made up of the Port of Houston Authority and the 150-plus private industrial companies along the ship channel. Altogether, the Port Authority and its neighbors along the Houston Ship Channel are a large and vibrant component of the regional economy.
About 190 million tons of cargo moved through the Port of Houston in 2003. A total of 6,301 vessel calls were recorded at the Port of Houston during 2003. The Port of Houston has an impressive list of firsts, from unloading the world's first container ship to becoming the country's first port to receive ISO 14001 compliance, which is an international standard that manages the environmental impact of an organization.
Economic studies reveal that ship channel-related businesses support more than 287,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout Texas while generating nearly $11 billion in annual economic impact. Additionally, more than $649 million in state and local tax revenues are generated by business activities related to the Port.
It is projected that the Port of Houston will continue to be an important factor as north-south trade expands. The latest figures (2000) show the Port's public and private marine terminals generate $10.9 billion in business revenues annually, up more than 40 percent from $7.7 billion reported in the last study, completed in 1997. In addition, direct and related jobs associated with Port activity also jumped sharply, totaling 287,454 in Texas and another 714,000 nationwide.
Detailed information on working with the Port of Houston Authority is available at www.portofhouston.com .
To see the United States by train, Houstonians need go only as far as the local Amtrak train station downtown on Washington Avenue. Travelers may board the Sunset Limited and ride from Houston to Los Angeles or Orlando. For more information on Houston's passenger railroad service, log on to www.amtrak.com .
Houston Airport System
Moving millions of people via air is a big responsibility, and to do this, Houston's Airport System relies on its three facilities: George Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport and Ellington Field. Houston's Airport System is one of North America's largest public airport systems and operates through self-generated funds.
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) - Originally named Houston Intercontinental Airport when it opened in 1969, IAH is eighth-busiest airport in the Unites States for total passengers and now home to 27 scheduled passenger airlines. Because Houston is centrally located between the East and West Coasts, 12 all-cargo airlines also operate out of the facility. The facility operates on an international basis and serves the needs of consumers ranging from the smallest package to the largest shipments.
- William P. Hobby Airport - Established in 1937, Hobby Airport is Houston's oldest airport. It is located south of downtown off of Interstate 45 and is the 45th-busiest airport in the United States for total passengers. Seven scheduled passenger airlines currently serve the airport.
- Ellington Field - When Air Force One touches down in Houston, it's at Ellington Field. Ellington Field is a joint-use civil/military airport. Acquired by the City of Houston in 1984, Ellington now supports the operations of the U.S. military, NASA, and general aviation. The airport is home to the largest flying club in Texas and is the site of the annual Wings Over Houston Airshow. This airport is located about 15 miles southeast of downtown Houston, near Interstate 45/Gulf Freeway, the major highway heading from Houston to NASA and Galveston Island. Detailed information on the Houston Airport System, including lists of passenger-carrying airlines and contact information on cargo airlines is available at www.houstonairportsystem.com .
The Houston media market, also known as the Houston Designated Market Area (DMA) is the 11th largest in the nation, with a population of 5.3 million, and includes 19 counties. Houston's DMA is defined by Nielsen Media, and most people know it better as Houston's television market. Because of its size, Houstonians enjoy an extremely diverse media market. There are more than 325 different media outlets in Houston ranging from magazines on fishing to weekly business journals to Hispanic television stations to Houston's largest daily newspaper, the Houston Chronicle .
Houston is home to many television firsts. Houston is home to KUHT-TV, the first public broadcast station in the country. The station began broadcasting in 1953 and is still on the air today, operating through the University of Houston's Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting. The first word spoken from the moon - "Houston" - was broadcast nationwide from Mission Control in Houston in 1969. Additionally, in 1995, KHOU-TV became the nation's first all-digital station.
Since the launch of KLEE-TV (now KPRC-TV) in 1949, Houston's television market has grown to support 17 television stations. The Houston television market offers stations that cater to many different cultures and interests. In addition to the traditional networks, Houston has Trinity Broadcasting, Univision, Telemundo, Fox, Shop at Home, PBS, Paxson, the WB Network and others.
— Cable Television
Time Warner Cable's Houston Division is Houston's primary cable provider ( 713-895-2607 ), but other cable companies might service different areas in and around Houston. To learn more about the local cable provider, ask a local real estate agent, neighbor or landlord.
Houston's radio market offers listeners a very diverse choice. With more than 60 radio stations on both AM and FM dials, stations offer a very wide spectrum of music, including classical, soul, pop, Christian, Tejano, rhythm and blues, country, hip hop, oldies, top 40 and hard rock. Listeners also can tune in or call stations to sound off on important topics facing Houstonians today, discuss different business or investment strategies or debate the plays called in the latest Texans game. Houston radio stations even offer listeners broadcasts in Spanish and Chinese. Some of Houston's top radio stations are listed in the sidebar on page 209.
Houston has more than 135 daily and non-daily newspapers based in the city and 22 university newspapers, according to the 2003-2004 Houston Area Media Directory , as compiled by the Greater Houston Partnership and the Society of Professional Journalists. Houston's largest newspaper is the Houston Chronicle , which boasts the second-highest daily and Sunday-issue readership penetration in the nation with more than 1.8 million Sunday edition readers. Nearby Galveston is home to Texas' oldest newspaper, the Galveston County Daily News , which started publication in 1842 and still is reporting today.
This media market always is bustling with news on the energy market and cutting-edge medical stories and routinely produces national news stories. As a result, more than 20 news agencies maintain bureaus in Houston. Newspapers ranging from the Los Angeles Times to wire services such as the Associated Press and Dow Jones Newswire all have a strong presence here. In addition to wire services, the Houston Chronicle and national papers, Houston also is home to many local papers that provide important community information on either a daily or a weekly basis.
More than 100 magazines are based in the Houston area and, as befits "Energy Capital of the World," 31 are dedicated solely to the energy industry, according to the 2003-2004 Houston Area Media Directory . Houstonians also enjoy a diverse choice of local interest publications that touch on topics such as weddings, music, religion, ethnic issues, real estate guides, hobbies and sports activities, and dining and culture. The sidebar on page 211 highlights some of the local special-interest magazines that Houstonians enjoy on a weekly, monthly and bimonthly basis.