ryde-ing in style

City approves funding for EV rideshare service in underserved communities in Houston

Need a RYDE? The city voted to provide funding to expand the electric vehicle initiative. Photo via Evolve Houston

The city of Houston approved $281,000 funding for the expansion of free electric vehicle rideshare services in communities that are considered underserved by utilizing services like RYDE and Evolve Houston.

The funding will be dispersed to RYDE in through the nonprofit Evolve Houston.

“It’s exciting to see a Mayor and City Council get behind a true eco-friendly initiative aimed and providing critical transportation needs for underserved communities,” Evolve Houston President and Executive Director Casey Brown says in a news release. “The program has seen amazing success in the Third Ward and now another historically underserved community will be able to benefit from a service that gets residents to and from in-town destinations for free.”

Rideshare service RYDE has been operating in Houston’s Third Ward since June with almost 3,000 passengers per month being served. The services will expand beyond Third Ward through Houston Complete Communities, which is a citywide initiative to bring innovation and assistance to the city’s underserved communities.

The two new vehicles are expected to hit the road early December, as well as the continued service of two vehicles in Third Ward.

“The positive aspects of expanding RYDE’s EV transportation initiative beyond Third Ward are twofold,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says in the release. “The environmental impact of the low-emission vehicles coupled with the vital service it provides to underserved neighborhoods makes this a win-win decision for the City of Houston and its residents who are faced with transportation challenges. This funding decision is in lockstep with Houston’s Climate Action Plan and the intention behind the Complete Communities initiative.”

Evolve Houston was founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan and relaunched last year. They recently released a Grant Tracker, which aims to make it easier to find funding opportunities, and assist with current grants available to organizations and individuals that are committed to a goal of zero emissions. The tracker serves as a tool to assist with purchasing an EV and charging equipment. Ultimately, Evolve wants to assist and fund those looking to make the transition to electric. Evolve continues to evolve its sphere of influence, the company still aims for equity, and its goal to have half of the vehicles in the city be electric by 2030.

“Houston maintains some of the lowest population density and longest commute distances of major U.S. cities and we have an immense amount of business and goods that flow through Houston,” Brown says. “ We see a landscape that can uniquely achieve larger financial and environmental benefits of EV technologies.”

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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