Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas

Overview
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of 579 square miles (1,499.6 km²). Houston is the seat of Harris County
Harris County, Texas
As of the 2010 Census, the population of the county was 4,092,459, White Americans made up 56.6% of Harris County's population; non-Hispanic whites represented 33.0% of the population. Black Americans made up 18.9% of the population. Native Americans made up 0.7% of Harris County's population...

 and the economic center of , which is the metropolitan area in the U.S. of nearly 6 million people.

Houston was founded in 1836 on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou.
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Encyclopedia
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of 579 square miles (1,499.6 km²). Houston is the seat of Harris County
Harris County, Texas
As of the 2010 Census, the population of the county was 4,092,459, White Americans made up 56.6% of Harris County's population; non-Hispanic whites represented 33.0% of the population. Black Americans made up 18.9% of the population. Native Americans made up 0.7% of Harris County's population...

 and the economic center of , which is the metropolitan area in the U.S. of nearly 6 million people.

Houston was founded in 1836 on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou. It was incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837, and named after then-President of the Republic of Texas—former General Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

—who had commanded at the Battle of San Jacinto, which took place 25 miles (40.2 km) east of where the city was established. The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city's population. In the mid-twentieth century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center
Texas Medical Center
The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world with one of the highest densities of clinical facilities for patient care, basic science, and translational research...

—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA's Johnson Space Center
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's center for human spaceflight training, research and flight control. The center consists of a complex of 100 buildings constructed on 1,620 acres in Houston, Texas, USA...

, where the Mission Control Center is located.

Rated as a global city, Houston's economy has a broad industrial base in energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, and transportation. It is also leading in health care sectors and building oilfield equipment; only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters. The Port of Houston
Port of Houston
The Port of Houston is a port in Houston—the fourth-largest city in the United States. The Port is a 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities located a few hours' sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico...

 ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. The city has a population from various ethnic and religious backgrounds and a large and growing international community. It is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year to the Museum District
Houston Museum District
The Houston Museum District commonly known as, “The Museum District,” is an association of museums, galleries, cultural centers and community organizations located in Houston, Texas, dedicated to promoting the arts, sciences, and cultural amenities of the area.The Houston Museum District currently...

. Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District
Houston Theater District
The Houston Theater District, a 17-block area in the heart of Downtown Houston, Texas, United States, is home to Houston's nine performing arts organizations, the Bayou Place entertainment complex, restaurants, movies, plazas and parks...

 and offers year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.

History



In August 1836, two real estate entrepreneurs—Augustus Chapman Allen
Augustus Chapman Allen
Augustus Chapman Allen , along with his younger brother, John Kirby Allen, founded the City of Houston in the U.S. state of Texas. He was born on July 4, 1806, in Canasareaugh, New York, to Sarah and Roland Allen.- Early years :...

 and John Kirby Allen
John Kirby Allen
John Kirby Allen was born in Canasareaugh, near Syracuse in the U.S. state of New York. He, along with his older brother, Augustus Chapman Allen, founded Houston, Texas in 1836. John Kirby Allen was never married...

—from New York, purchased 6642 acres (26.9 km²) of land along Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou is a main waterway flowing through Houston, in Harris County, Texas, USA. It begins in Katy, Fort Bend County, Texas and flows approximately east to the Houston Ship Channel and then into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico...

 with the intent of founding a city. The Allen brothers decided to name the city after Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

, the popular general at the Battle of San Jacinto
Battle of San Jacinto
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen...

, who was elected President of Texas in September 1836.

Houston was granted incorporation on June 5, 1837, with James S. Holman
James Sanders Holman
James Sanders Holman became the first mayor of Houston, Texas in 1837. He served as mayor until 1838....

 becoming its first mayor. In the same year, Houston became the county seat of Harrisburg County (now Harris County) and the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

. In 1840, the community established a chamber of commerce in part to promote shipping and waterborne business at the newly created port on Buffalo Bayou.

By 1860, Houston had emerged as a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton. Railroad spurs from the Texas inland converged in Houston, where they met rail lines to the ports of Galveston
Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...

 and Beaumont
Beaumont, Texas
Beaumont is a city in and county seat of Jefferson County, Texas, United States, within the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city's population was 118,296 at the 2010 census. With Port Arthur and Orange, it forms the Golden Triangle, a major industrial area on the...

. During the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Houston served as a headquarters for General John Bankhead Magruder
John B. Magruder
John Bankhead Magruder was a career military officer who served in the armies of three nations. He was a U.S. Army officer in the Mexican-American War, a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and a postbellum general in the Imperial Mexican Army...

, who used the city as an organization point for the Battle of Galveston
Battle of Galveston
The Battle of Galveston or the Second Battle of Galveston was a naval and land battle that occurred on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War when Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. John B...

. After the Civil War, Houston businessmen initiated efforts to widen the city's extensive system of bayous so the city could accept more commerce between downtown and the nearby port of Galveston. By 1890, Houston was the railroad center of Texas.

In 1900, after Galveston was struck by a devastating hurricane
Galveston Hurricane of 1900
The Hurricane of 1900 made landfall on the city of Galveston in the U.S. state of Texas, on September 8, 1900.It had estimated winds of at landfall, making it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale...

, efforts to make Houston into a viable deepwater port were accelerated. The following year, oil discovered at the Spindletop
Spindletop
Spindletop is a salt dome oil field located in the southern portion of Beaumont, Texas in the United States. The Spindletop dome was derived from the Louann Salt evaporite layer of the Jurassic geologic period. On January 10, 1901, a well at Spindletop struck oil . The new oil field soon produced...

 oil field
Oil field
An oil field is a region with an abundance of oil wells extracting petroleum from below ground. Because the oil reservoirs typically extend over a large area, possibly several hundred kilometres across, full exploitation entails multiple wells scattered across the area...

 near Beaumont prompted the development of the Texas petroleum industry. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 approved a $1 million improvement project for the Houston Ship Channel. By 1910 the city's population had reached 78,800, almost doubling from a decade before. An integral part of the city were African Americans, who numbered 23,929 or nearly one-third of the residents. They were developing a strong professional class based then in the Fourth Ward.

President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 opened the deepwater Port of Houston in 1914, seven years after digging began. By 1930, Houston had become Texas's most populous city and Harris the most populous county.
When World War II
United States home front during World War II
This page, United States home front during World War II, covers the developments within the United States, 1940–1945, to support its efforts during World War II.-Economics:...

 started, tonnage levels at the port decreased and shipping activities were suspended; however, the war did provide economic benefits for the city. Petrochemical refineries and manufacturing plants were constructed along the ship channel because of the demand for petroleum and synthetic rubber products during the war. Ellington Field, initially built during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, was revitalized as an advanced training center for bombardiers and navigators. The M.D. Anderson Foundation formed the Texas Medical Center
Texas Medical Center
The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world with one of the highest densities of clinical facilities for patient care, basic science, and translational research...

 in 1945. After the war, Houston's economy reverted to being primarily port-driven. In 1948, several unincorporated areas were annexed into the city limits, which more than doubled the city's size, and Houston proper began to spread across the region.

In 1950, the availability of air conditioning provided impetus for many companies to relocate to Houston resulting in an economic boom and producing a key shift in the city's economy toward the energy sector.


The increased production of the local shipbuilding industry during World War II spurred Houston's growth, as did the establishment in 1961 of NASA's "Manned Spacecraft Center" (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's center for human spaceflight training, research and flight control. The center consists of a complex of 100 buildings constructed on 1,620 acres in Houston, Texas, USA...

 in 1973), which created the city's aerospace industry. The Astrodome
Reliant Astrodome
Reliant Astrodome, also known as the Houston Astrodome or simply the Astrodome, is the world's first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium, located in Houston, Texas, USA. The stadium is part of the Reliant Park complex...

, nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World
Eighth Wonder of the World
Eighth Wonder of the World is a term sometimes used to describe things in comparison to the Seven Wonders of the World, the widely-known list of seven remarkable constructions of classical antiquity.-Natural places:...

", opened in 1965 as the world's first indoor domed sports stadium.

During the late 1970s, Houston experienced a population boom as people from Rust Belt
Rust Belt
The Rust Belt is a term that gained currency in the 1980s as the informal description of an area straddling the Midwestern and Northeastern United States, in which local economies traditionally garnered an increased manufacturing sector to add jobs and corporate profits...

 states moved to Texas in large numbers. The new residents came for the numerous employment opportunities in the petroleum industry, created as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

.

The population boom ended abruptly in the mid-1980s, as oil prices fell precipitously. The space industry also suffered in 1986 after the Space Shuttle Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida at 11:38 am EST...

 disintegrated shortly after launch. The late 1980s saw a recession adversely affecting the city's economy.

Since the 1990s, as a result of the recession, Houston has made efforts to diversify its economy by focusing on aerospace and health care/biotechnology and by reducing its dependence on the petroleum industry. In 1997, Houstonians elected Lee P. Brown
Lee P. Brown
Lee Patrick Brown had a long-time career in law enforcement, leading police departments in Atlanta, Houston and New York over the course of nearly four decades. During this time he helped to implement a number of techniques in community policing that appeared to result in substantial decreases in...

 as the city's first African American mayor.


In June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison
Tropical Storm Allison
Tropical Storm Allison was a tropical storm that devastated southeast Texas in June of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. The first storm of the season, Allison lasted an unusually long period of time for a June storm, remaining tropical or subtropical for 15 days...

 dumped up to 40 inches (1,016 mm) of rain on parts of Houston, causing the worst flooding in the city's history; the storm cost billions of dollars in damage and killed 20 people in Texas. By December of that same year, Houston-based energy company Enron
Enron
Enron Corporation was an American energy, commodities, and services company based in Houston, Texas. Before its bankruptcy on December 2, 2001, Enron employed approximately 22,000 staff and was one of the world's leading electricity, natural gas, communications, and pulp and paper companies, with...

 collapsed into the third-largest ever U.S. bankruptcy during an investigation surrounding fabricated partnerships that were allegedly used to hide debt and inflate profits.

In August 2005, Houston became a shelter to more than 150,000 people from New Orleans who evacuated from Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

. One month later, approximately 2.5 million Houston area residents evacuated when Hurricane Rita
Hurricane Rita
Hurricane Rita was the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most intense tropical cyclone ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico. Rita caused $11.3 billion in damage on the U.S. Gulf Coast in September 2005...

 approached the Gulf Coast
Gulf Coast of the United States
The Gulf Coast of the United States, sometimes referred to as the Gulf South, South Coast, or 3rd Coast, comprises the coasts of American states that are on the Gulf of Mexico, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are known as the Gulf States...

, leaving little damage to the Houston area. This was the largest urban evacuation in the history of the United States.

Geography


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 601.7 square miles (1,558.4 km²); this comprises 579.4 square miles (1,500.6 km²) of land and 22.3 square miles (57.8 km²) of water.
Most of Houston is located on the gulf coastal plain
Western Gulf coastal grasslands
The Western Gulf coastal grasslands are a subtropical grassland ecoregion of the southern United States and northeastern Mexico. It is known in Texas as "Coastal Prairie" and as the Tamaulipan pastizal in Mexico.-Setting:...

, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland and forest. Much of the city was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie
Prairie
Prairies are considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type...

, which are all still visible in surrounding areas. Flatness of the local terrain, when combined with urban sprawl
Urban sprawl
Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a multifaceted concept, which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts to low-density and auto-dependent development on rural land, high segregation of uses Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a...

, has made flooding a recurring problem for the city. Downtown stands about 50 feet (15.2 m) above sea level, and the highest point in far northwest Houston is about 125 feet (38.1 m) in elevation. The city once relied on groundwater for its needs, but land subsidence
Subsidence
Subsidence is the motion of a surface as it shifts downward relative to a datum such as sea-level. The opposite of subsidence is uplift, which results in an increase in elevation...

 forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston
Lake Houston
Lake Houston is a reservoir on the west fork of the San Jacinto River, 15 miles northeast of downtown Houston, Texas, USA. The reservoir is the secondary municipal water supply for the city of Houston after Lake Livingston....

, Lake Conroe
Lake Conroe
Lake Conroe is a 21,000 acre lake in Montgomery County, Texas, United States. Even though it is named Lake Conroe, only a small portion of the lake is in Conroe, Texas. Most of the lake is in Montgomery, Texas and Willis, Texas. The lake lies on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River just west of...

 and Lake Livingston
Lake Livingston
Lake Livingston is a reservoir located in the East Texas Piney Woods. Lake Livingston was built, and is owned and operated, by the Trinity River Authority of Texas under contract with the City of Houston for water supply purposes. The lake is the largest lake constructed for water supply purposes...

. The city owns surface water rights for 1.2 billion gallons of water a day in addition to 150 million gallons a day worth of groundwater.

Houston has four major bayous passing through the city. Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou is a main waterway flowing through Houston, in Harris County, Texas, USA. It begins in Katy, Fort Bend County, Texas and flows approximately east to the Houston Ship Channel and then into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico...

 runs through downtown and the Houston Ship Channel
Houston Ship Channel
The Houston Ship Channel, located in Houston, Texas, is part of the Port of Houston—one of the United States's busiest seaports. The channel is the conduit for ocean-going vessels between the Houston-area shipyards and the Gulf of Mexico.-Overview:...

, and has three tributaries: White Oak Bayou
White Oak Bayou
White Oak Bayou is one of the several waterways that give Houston, Texas, USA, its popular nickname, "The Bayou City." The Bayou originates northwest of FM 1960, near Highway 6 and U.S...

, which runs through the Houston Heights community northwest of Downtown and then towards Downtown; Braes Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel continues past Galveston and then into the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

.

Geology


Underpinning Houston's land surface are unconsolidated
Consolidation (geology)
Consolidation is a process by which soils decrease in volume. According to Karl Terzaghi "consolidation is any process which involves decrease in water content of a saturated soil without replacement of water by air." In general it is the process in which reduction in volume takes place by...

 clays, clay shales, and poorly cemented sands up to several miles deep. The region's geology developed from river deposits formed from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

. These sediment
Sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

s consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic marine matter, that over time, transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath the layers of sediment is a water-deposited layer of halite
Halite
Halite , commonly known as rock salt, is the mineral form of sodium chloride . Halite forms isometric crystals. The mineral is typically colorless or white, but may also be light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow or gray depending on the amount and type of impurities...

, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into salt dome
Salt dome
A salt dome is a type of structural dome formed when a thick bed of evaporite minerals found at depth intrudes vertically into surrounding rock strata, forming a diapir....

 formations, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands. The thick, rich, sometimes black, surface soil is suitable for rice farming in suburban outskirts where the city continues to grow.

The Houston area has over 150 active faults (estimated to be 300 active faults) with an aggregate length of up to 310 miles (498.9 km), including the Long Point–Eureka Heights fault system which runs through the center of the city. There have been no significant historically recorded earthquakes in Houston, but researchers do not discount the possibility of such quakes having occurred in the deeper past, nor occurring in the future. Land in some communities southeast of Houston is sinking because water has been pumped out from the ground for many years. It may be associated with slip along the faults; however, the slippage is slow and not considered an earthquake, where stationary faults must slip suddenly enough to create seismic waves. These faults also tend to move at a smooth rate in what is termed "fault creep
Aseismic creep
In geology, aseismic creep is measurable surface displacement along a fault in the absence of notable earthquakes.An example is along the Calaveras fault in Hollister, California. Streets crossing the fault in Hollister show significant offset and several houses sitting atop the fault are notably...

", which further reduces the risk of an earthquake.

Climate



Houston's climate is classified as humid subtropical
Humid subtropical climate
A humid subtropical climate is a climate zone characterized by hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters...

 (Cfa in Köppen climate classification system). While not necessarily part of "Tornado Alley
Tornado Alley
Tornado Alley is a colloquial and popular media term that most often refers to the area of the United States where tornadoes are most frequent. Although an official location is not defined, the area between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains is usually associated with it.The areas...

" like much of the rest of Texas, Spring supercell thunderstorms
Supercell
A supercell is a thunderstorm that is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone: a deep, continuously-rotating updraft. For this reason, these storms are sometimes referred to as rotating thunderstorms...

 do sometimes bring tornadoes to the area. Prevailing winds are from the south and southeast during most of the year, bringing heat across the continent from the deserts of Mexico and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

.

During the summer months, it is common for the temperature to reach over 90 °F (32.2 °C), with an average of 99 days per year above 90 °F (32.2 °C). However, the humidity results in a heat index higher than the actual temperature. Summer mornings average over 90 percent relative humidity
Relative humidity
Relative humidity is a term used to describe the amount of water vapor in a mixture of air and water vapor. It is defined as the partial pressure of water vapor in the air-water mixture, given as a percentage of the saturated vapor pressure under those conditions...

 and approximately 60 percent in the afternoon. Winds are often light in the summer and offer little relief, except near the immediate coast. To cope with the heat, people use air conditioning in nearly every vehicle and building in the city; in 1980 Houston was described as the "most air-conditioned place on earth". Scattered afternoon showers and thunderstorms are common in the summer. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 109 °F (42.8 °C) on August 27, 2011.

Winters in Houston are fairly temperate. The average high in January, the coldest month, is 62 °F (16.7 °C), while the average low is 39 °F (3.9 °C). Snowfall is generally rare. Recent snow events in Houston include a storm on December 24, 2004
2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm
The 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm was a rare weather event that took place in Louisiana and Texas in the United States on December 24, 2004 before the storm moved northeast to affect the coastal sections of the Mid-Atlantic states and New England in the succeeding few days...

 when one inch (2.5 cm) fell and more recent snowfalls on December 10, 2008. However, more recently on December 4, 2009 an inch of snow fell in the city. This was the earliest snowfall ever recorded in Houston. In addition, it set another milestone marking the first time in recorded history that snowfall has occurred on two consecutive years, and marks the third accumulating snowfall occurring in the decade of 2000–2010. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 5 °F (-15 °C) on January 23, 1940. Houston receives a high amount of rainfall annually, averaging about 54 inches a year. These rains tend to cause floods over portions of the city.

Houston has excessive ozone
Ozone
Ozone , or trioxygen, is a triatomic molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic allotrope...

 levels and is ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States. Ground-level ozone, or smog, is Houston’s predominant air pollution problem, with the American Lung Association rating the metropolitan area's ozone level as the 8th worst in the United States in 2011. The industries located along the ship channel are a major cause of the city's air pollution.

Cityscape



Houston was incorporated in 1837 under the ward system of representation. The ward designation is the progenitor of the nine current-day Houston City Council districts. Locations in Houston are generally classified as either being inside or outside the Interstate 610 Loop
Interstate 610 (Texas)
Interstate 610 is a freeway that forms a forty-two-mile loop around the downtown sector of city of Houston, Texas. Interstate 610, colloquially known as "The Loop", "Loop 610", "The 610 Loop", or just "610", traditionally marks the border between the inner city of Houston and its surrounding areas...

. The inside encompasses the central business district and many residential neighborhoods that predate World War II. More recently, high-density residential areas have been developed within the loop. The city's outlying areas, suburbs and enclaves are located outside of the loop. Beltway 8 encircles the city another 5 miles (8 km) farther out.

Though Houston is the largest city in the United States without formal zoning
Zoning
Zoning is a device of land use planning used by local governments in most developed countries. The word is derived from the practice of designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another...

 regulations, it has developed similarly to other Sun Belt
Sun Belt
The Sun Belt or Spanish Belt is a region of the United States generally considered to stretch across the South and Southwest . Another rough boundary of the region is the area south of the 36th parallel, north latitude. It is the largest region which the U.S government does not recognize officially...

 cities because the city's land use regulations and legal covenants have played a similar role. Regulations include mandatory lot size for single-family houses and requirements that parking be available to tenants and customers. Such restrictions have had mixed results. Though some have blamed the city's low density, urban sprawl
Urban sprawl
Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a multifaceted concept, which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts to low-density and auto-dependent development on rural land, high segregation of uses Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a...

, and lack of pedestrian-friendliness on these policies, the city's land use has also been credited with having significant affordable housing, sparing Houston the worst effects of the 2008 real estate crisis
United States housing bubble
The United States housing bubble is an economic bubble affecting many parts of the United States housing market in over half of American states. Housing prices peaked in early 2006, started to decline in 2006 and 2007, and may not yet have hit bottom as of 2011. On December 30, 2008 the...

. The city issued 42,697 building permits in 2008 and was ranked first in the list of healthiest housing markets for 2009.

Voters rejected efforts to have separate residential and commercial land-use districts in 1948, 1962, and 1993. Consequently, rather than a single central business district as the center of the city's employment, multiple districts have grown throughout the city in addition to downtown
Downtown Houston
Downtown Houston is the largest business district of Houston, Texas, United States. Downtown Houston, the city's central business district, contains the headquarters of many prominent companies. There is an extensive network of pedestrian tunnels and skywalks connecting the buildings of the district...

 which include Uptown
Uptown Houston
The Uptown District of Houston is located 6.2 miles west of downtown and is centered along Post Oak Boulevard, Westheimer Road , and the Galleria...

, Texas Medical Center
Texas Medical Center
The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world with one of the highest densities of clinical facilities for patient care, basic science, and translational research...

, Midtown
Midtown, Houston, Texas
Midtown is a district southwest of Downtown Houston, bordered by Neartown and U.S. Highway 59.-History:Around 1906 what is now Midtown was divided between the Third Ward and Fourth Ward. Before the 1950s what is now Midtown was a popular residential district. Increasingly, commercial development...

, Greenway Plaza
Greenway Plaza
Greenway Plaza is a master-planned mixed-use development off U.S. Highway 59 in Houston, Texas, United States, five miles west of Downtown Houston and three miles east of Uptown Houston. Greenway Plaza is Houston's first totally planned business-commercial-residential complex developed by the...

, Memorial City, Energy Corridor
Houston Energy Corridor
The Energy Corridor is a district of Houston, Texas, United States that lies along Memorial Drive and Eldridge Parkway.The area is loosely bound to the area just north of Interstate 10 and Westheimer Road/Farm to Market Road 1093 to the south, and extends from Kirkwood Road to the east and Fry...

, Westchase
Westchase, Houston, Texas
Westchase is a business management district, with some residential and retail elements, located in western Houston, Texas, United States. The district is bounded roughly by Westheimer Road on the north, Gessner Road on the east, Wilcrest Drive on the west, and the Westpark Tollway on the south...

, and Greenspoint
Greenspoint, Houston, Texas
The Greater Greenspoint District is an edge city in northern Harris County, Texas, United States. Portions of the district are in the City of Houston while portions are in unincorporated areas...

.

Government and politics




The city of Houston has a strong mayoral form of municipal government. Houston is a home rule
Devolution
Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. Devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government...

 city and all municipal elections in the state of Texas are nonpartisan
Nonpartisan
In political science, nonpartisan denotes an election, event, organization or person in which there is no formally declared association with a political party affiliation....

. The City's elected officials are the mayor, city controller and 14 members of the city council
City council
A city council or town council is the legislative body that governs a city, town, municipality or local government area.-Australia & NZ:Because of the differences in legislation between the States, the exact definition of a City Council varies...

. The mayor of Houston is Annise Parker
Annise Parker
Annise Danette Parker is an American politician and the mayor of Houston since January 2, 2010. She served as an at-large member of the Houston City Council from 1998 to 2003 and city controller from 2004 to 2009...

—a Democrat elected on a nonpartisan ballot who is serving her first term as of January 2010. Houston's mayor serves as the city's chief administrator, executive officer, and official representative, and is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced. As the result of a 1991 referendum in Houston, a mayor is elected for a two-year term, and can be elected to as many as three consecutive terms. The term limits were spearheaded by conservative political activist Clymer Wright
Clymer Wright
Clymer Lewis Wright. Jr. , was a Texas conservative political activist and a crusading journalist later credited with bringing term limits to Houston municipal government and encouraging Ronald W...

.

The city council line-up of nine district-based and five at-large positions was based on a U.S. Justice Department mandate which took effect in 1979. At-large council members represent the entire city. Under the current city charter, if the population in the city limits goes past 2.1 million residents, the current nine-member city council districts will be expanded with the addition of two city council districts. The City of Houston's population count since January 2011 is 600 shy of the 2.1 million and several redistricting maps have been proposed - a final map will be authorized in August 2011 along with a concurrent election of two new city councilmembers in the proposed Districts J and K.

The city controller
Comptroller
A comptroller is a management level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization.In British government, the Comptroller General or Comptroller and Auditor General is in most countries the external auditor of the budget execution of the...

 is elected independently of the mayor and council. The controller's duties are to certify available funds prior to committing such funds and processing disbursements. The city's fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. Ronald Green
Ronald C. Green
Ronald Green is the Current City Controller of Houston and a former member of the Houston City Council.In the 2011 election, Green won a second term as Houston's Controller....

 is the city controller, serving his first term as of January 2010.

Houston is considered to be a politically divided city whose balance of power often sways between Republicans and Democrats. Much of the city's wealthier areas vote Republican, while the city's middle class, working class, and minority areas vote Democratic. According to the 2005 Houston Area Survey, 68 percent of non-Hispanic whites in Harris County are declared or favor Republicans while 89 percent of non-Hispanic blacks in the area are declared or favor Democrats. About 62 percent Hispanics (of any race) in the area are declared or favor Democrats. The city has often been known to be the most politically diverse city in Texas, a state known for being generally conservative. As a result the city is often a contested area in statewide elections.

Economy

Top publicly traded companies
in Houston for 2011

with Texas and U.S. ranks
Texas Corporation US
2 ConocoPhillips
ConocoPhillips
ConocoPhillips Company is an American multinational energy corporation with its headquarters located in the Energy Corridor district of Houston, Texas in the United States...

4
5 Marathon Oil
Marathon Oil
Marathon Oil Corporation is a United States-based oil and natural gas exploration and production company. Principal exploration activities are in the United States, Norway, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Canada. Principal development activities are in the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway,...

29
7 |Sysco
SYSCO
Sysco Corporation is the global leader in marketing and distributing food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, hotels and inns, and other foodservice and hospitality businesses...

67
8 Enterprise Products Partners 80
9 Plains All American Pipeline
Plains All American Pipeline
Plains All American Pipeline is a publicly traded Master Limited Partnership in the oil pipeline transportation, marketing, and storage business in the United States, LPG business in Canada, and Natural Gas Storage business in Michigan and Louisiana...

99
14 Halliburton
Halliburton
Halliburton is the world's second largest oilfield services corporation with operations in more than 70 countries. It has hundreds of subsidiaries, affiliates, branches, brands and divisions worldwide and employs over 50,000 people....

144
17 Baker Hughes
Baker Hughes
Baker Hughes Baker Hughes provides the world's oil & gas industry with products and services for drilling, formation evaluation, completion, production and reservoir consulting. Baker Hughes operates in over 90 countries worldwide mainly based in countries with a mature petroleum industry as is...

170
19 Waste Management
Waste management
Waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal,managing and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and the process is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics...

196
20 National Oilwell Varco
National Oilwell Varco
National Oilwell Varco is a multinational corporation based in Greater Sharpstown, Houston, Texas, which manufactures land-based and offshore oil drilling rigs as well as all the major mechanical components for such rigs...

202
23 Apache Corporation
Apache Corporation
Apache Corporation is an American independent oil and gas corporation. It is headquartered in 1 Post Oak Central in the Uptown district of Houston, Texas....

206
25 |KBR 242
29 CenterPoint Energy
CenterPoint Energy
CenterPoint Energy is a Fortune 500 electric and natural gas utility serving several markets in the U.S. states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. It was formerly known as Reliant Energy , NorAm Energy, Houston Industries, and HL&P...

279
32 Kinder Morgan
Kinder Morgan
Kinder Morgan, Inc. is an American energy company. It is also, through a subsidiary, the general partner of and owner of many of the interests in Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, a publicly traded pipeline and terminal limited partnership....

294
34 Enbridge Energy Partners 309
35 Calpine
Calpine
Calpine Corporation is a Fortune 500 power company founded in 1984 in San Jose, California.Calpine's headquarters were permanently moved from San Jose to Houston, Texas in 2009. The company's stock was traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CPN until it was delisted on December 5,...

349
38 Cameron International 375
39 EOG Resources
EOG Resources
EOG Resources is a Fortune 500 company with its headquarters in the Heritage Plaza building in downtown Houston, Texas. The company is one of the largest independent oil and natural gas companies in the United States with proven reserves in the United States, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, the United...

377
41 Frontier Oil
Frontier Oil
Frontier Oil , begun in 1949 as Wainoco Oil, is a U.S. energy company. Its headquarters are located in Houston, TX, and its subsidiary company, Frontier Refining & Marketing, Inc., is located in Denver, CO...

389
44 |Group 1 Automotive
Group 1 Automotive
Group 1 Automotive, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company, founded in 1997. It has its headquarters in the One Memorial City Plaza building in the Memorial City district of Houston, Texas....

413
45 Targa Resources
Targa Resources
Targa Resources is a Fortune 1000 company based in Houston, Texas. Targa, a midstream energy corporation, is one of the largest providers of natural gas in the United States. Their operations are based largely, though not entirely, on the Gulf Coast, particularly in Texas and Louisiana . Rene R....

416
46 Spectra Energy
Spectra Energy
Spectra Energy Corp is a S&P 500 company headquartered in Houston, Texas, that operates in three key areas of the natural gas industry: transmission and storage, distribution, and gathering and processing. Spectra was formed in late 2006 from the spin-off from Duke Energy...

441
48 El Paso Energy 481
Notes
Revenues for year ending 2010
Energy and oil (19 companies)
Source: Fortune
Fortune (magazine)
Fortune is a global business magazine published by Time Inc. Founded by Henry Luce in 1930, the publishing business, consisting of Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, grew to become Time Warner. In turn, AOL grew as it acquired Time Warner in 2000 when Time Warner was the world's largest...


Houston is recognized worldwide for its energy industry—particularly for oil and natural gas—as well as for biomedical research and aeronautics. Renewable energy sources—wind and solar—are also growing economic bases in Houston. The ship channel is also a large part of Houston's economic base. Because of these strengths, Houston is designated as a global city
Global city
A global city is a city that is deemed to be an important node in the global economic system...

 by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network and by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney
A.T. Kearney
A.T. Kearney is a global management consulting firm, focusing on strategic and operational CEO-agenda concerns. It was founded in 1926, and its head office is in Chicago, Illinois...

.

The Houston area is a leading center for building oilfield equipment. Much of Houston's success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy man-made ship channel, the Port of Houston
Port of Houston
The Port of Houston is a port in Houston—the fourth-largest city in the United States. The Port is a 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities located a few hours' sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico...

. The port ranks first in the United States in international commerce, and is the tenth-largest port in the world. Unlike most places, high oil and gasoline prices are beneficial for Houston's economy as many of its residents are employed in the energy industry.

The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown MSA's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 was $385 billion. Only 29 countries other than the United States have a gross domestic product exceeding Houston's regional gross area product. Mining, which in Houston consists almost entirely of exploration and production of oil and gas, accounts for 26.3% of Houston's GAP, up sharply in response to high energy prices and a decreased worldwide surplus of oil production capacity; followed by engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.
The University of Houston System
University of Houston System
The University of Houston System is a state university system in Texas, encompassing four separate and distinct universities. It has two system centers, which operate as and distance learning course delivery sites for its universities...

's annual impact on the Houston-area's economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated. This is in addition to the 12,500 new graduates the UH System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston. After five years, 80.5 percent of graduates are still living and working in the region.

In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the Category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes magazine. Foreign governments have established 89 consular offices in metropolitan Houston. Forty foreign governments maintain trade
International trade
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

 and commercial offices here and 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations. Twenty-five foreign banks representing 13 nations operate in Houston, providing financial assistance to the international community.

In 2008, Houston received top ranking on Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Kiplinger's Personal Finance is a magazine that has been continuously published, on a monthly basis, from 1947 to the present day. It was the nation's first personal finance magazine, and claims to deliver "sound, unbiased advice in clear, concise language"...

 Best Cities of 2008 list which ranks cities on their local economy, employment opportunities, reasonable living costs and quality of life. The city ranked fourth for highest increase in the local technological innovation over the preceding 15 years, according to Forbes magazine. In the same year, the city ranked second on the annual Fortune 500
Fortune 500
The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the top 500 U.S. closely held and public corporations as ranked by their gross revenue after adjustments made by Fortune to exclude the impact of excise taxes companies collect. The list includes publicly and...

 list of company headquarters, ranked first for Forbes Best Cities for College Graduates, and ranked first on Forbes list of Best Cities to Buy a Home. In 2010, the city was rated the best city for shopping, according to Forbes.

Demographics




Houston is a multicultural city, in part because of its many academic institutions and strong industries as well as being a major port city. Over 90 languages are spoken in the city. The city has among the youngest populations in the nation, partly due to an influx of immigrants into Texas. An estimated 400,000 illegal aliens
Illegal immigration
Illegal immigration is the migration into a nation in violation of the immigration laws of that jurisdiction. Illegal immigration raises many political, economical and social issues and has become a source of major controversy in developed countries and the more successful developing countries.In...

 reside in the Houston area.

According to the 2010 Census, Whites made up 51% of Houston's population, of which 26% were non-Hispanic whites
Non-Hispanic Whites
Non-Hispanic Whites or White, Not Hispanic or Latino are people in the United States, as defined by the Census Bureau, who are of the White race and are not of Hispanic or Latino origin/ethnicity. Hence the designation is exclusive in the sense that it defines who is not included as opposed to who is...

. Blacks
Black people
The term black people is used in systems of racial classification for humans of a dark skinned phenotype, relative to other racial groups.Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and often social variables such as class, socio-economic status also plays a...

 or African Americans made up 24% of Houston's population. American Indians
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 made up 0.7% of Houston's population. Asians made up 6% of Houston's population (1.7% Vietnamese
Vietnamese American
A Vietnamese American is an American of Vietnamese descent. They make up about half of all overseas Vietnamese and are the fourth-largest Asian American group....

, 1.3% Chinese
Chinese American
Chinese Americans represent Americans of Chinese descent. Chinese Americans constitute one group of overseas Chinese and also a subgroup of East Asian Americans, which is further a subgroup of Asian Americans...

, 1.3% Indian
Indian American
Indian Americans are Americans whose ancestral roots lie in India. The U.S. Census Bureau popularized the term Asian Indian to avoid confusion with Indigenous peoples of the Americas who are commonly referred to as American Indians.-The term: Indian:...

, 0.9% Pakistani
Pakistani American
A Pakistani American is any citizen or resident of the United States who has Pakistani heritage.- History in the United States :Muslim immigrants from areas that are now part of Pakistan have been migrating to America and first entered the United States as early as the eighteenth century, working...

, 0.4% Filipino
Filipino American
Filipino Americans are Americans of Filipino ancestry. Filipino Americans, often shortened to "Fil-Ams", or "Pinoy",Filipinos in what is now the United States were first documented in the 16th century, with small settlements beginning in the 18th century...

, 0.3% Korean
Korean American
Korean Americans are Americans of Korean descent, mostly from South Korea, with a small minority from North Korea...

, 0.1% Japanese
Japanese American
are American people of Japanese heritage. Japanese Americans have historically been among the three largest Asian American communities, but in recent decades have become the sixth largest group at roughly 1,204,205, including those of mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity...

), while Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander , is a geographic term to describe the indigenous inhabitants of any of the three major sub-regions of Oceania: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, these three regions, together with their islands consist of:Polynesia:...

s made up 0.1%. Individuals from some other race made up 15.2% of the city's population, of which 0.2% were non-Hispanic. Individuals from two or more races
Multiracial American
Multiracial Americans, US residents who identify themselves as of "two or more races", were numbered at around 9 million, or 2.9% of the population, in the census of 2010. However there is considerable evidence that the real number is far higher. Prior to the mid-20th century many people hid their...

 made up 3.3% of the city's population. People of Hispanic or Latino
Hispanic and Latino Americans
Hispanic or Latino Americans are Americans with origins in the Hispanic countries of Latin America or in Spain, and in general all persons in the United States who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino.1990 Census of Population and Housing: A self-designated classification for people whose origins...

 origin made up 44% of Houston's population; 32% of Houston is Mexican, 3.6% Salvadoran, 1.6% Honduran, 1.2% Guatemalan, 0.5% Colombian, 0.4% Puerto Rican, 0.4% Cuban, 0.2% Nicaraguan, 0.2% Venezuelan, and 0.2% Peruvian.

As of the 2000 Census, there were 1,953,631 people and the population density was 3,371.7 people per square mile (1,301.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 49.3% White, 25.3% African American, 5.3% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 16.5% from some other race, and 3.1% from two or more races. In addition, Hispanics and Latinos made up 37.4% of Houston's population while non-Hispanic whites made up 30.8%.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,000, and the median income for a family was $40,000. Males had a median income of $32,000 versus $27,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,000. Nineteen percent of the population and 16 percent of families were below the poverty line
Poverty threshold
The poverty threshold, or poverty line, is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living in a given country...

. Out of the total population, 26% of those under the age of 18 and 14% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Culture



Houston is a diverse city with a large and growing international community. The metropolitan area is home to an estimated 1.1 million (21.4 percent) residents who were born outside the United States, with nearly two-thirds of the area's foreign-born population from south of the United States–Mexico border. Additionally, more than one in five foreign-born residents are from Asia. The city is home to the nation’s third-largest concentration of consular offices, representing 86 countries.

Many annual events celebrate the diverse cultures of Houston. The largest and longest running is the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, also called RodeoHouston, is the world's largest live entertainment and livestock exhibition. It also includes the richest regular-season rodeo event. It has been held at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, since 2003...

, held over 20 days from late February to early March, which happens to be the largest annual Livestock Show and Rodeo anywhere in the world. Another large celebration is the annual night-time Houston Pride Parade
Gay pride parade
Pride parades for the LGBT community are events celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender culture. The events also at times serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage...

, held at the end of June. Other annual events include the Houston Greek Festival
Houston Greek Festival
Houston Greek Festival was started in 1966 by the members of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral as a "Greek Night". The three day festival is held annually on the first weekend in October and features Greek food, live Greek music and Greek folk dances, as well as a gift shop and tours of the...

, Art Car Parade
Houston Art Car Parade
The Houston Art Car Parade is an annual event in Houston, Texas, featuring a display of all types of rolling art. The first and largest Art Car parade in the world, at any given parade spectators will see cars, bicycles, motorcycles, roller-skaters, and many other types of motorized and...

, the Houston Auto Show, the Houston International Festival, and the Bayou City Art Festival
Bayou City Art Festival
The Bayou City Art Festival is an arts festival held biannually in Houston, Texas in Memorial Park in the spring, and in Downtown Houston in the fall by the Art Colony Association....

, which is considered to be one of the top five art festivals in the United States.

Houston received the official nickname of "Space City" in 1967 because it is the location of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's center for human spaceflight training, research and flight control. The center consists of a complex of 100 buildings constructed on 1,620 acres in Houston, Texas, USA...

. Other nicknames often used by locals include "Magnolia City," and "H-Town."

Arts and theatre



The Houston Theater District
Houston Theater District
The Houston Theater District, a 17-block area in the heart of Downtown Houston, Texas, United States, is home to Houston's nine performing arts organizations, the Bayou Place entertainment complex, restaurants, movies, plazas and parks...

, located downtown, is home to nine major performing arts organizations and six performance halls. It is the second-largest concentration of theater seats in a downtown area in the United States. Houston is one of few United States cities with permanent, professional, resident companies in all major performing arts disciplines: opera (Houston Grand Opera
Houston Grand Opera
Houston Grand Opera Houston Grand Opera was founded in 1955 through the joint efforts of Maestro Walter Herbert and cultural leaders Mrs. Louis G. Lobit, Edward Bing and Charles Cockrell...

), ballet (Houston Ballet
Houston Ballet
The Houston Ballet, operated by the Houston Ballet Foundation, is the fourth-largest professional ballet company in the United States, based in Houston, Texas. The foundation also maintains a ballet academy, the Ben Stevenson Academy, which trains more than half of the company's dancers...

), music (Houston Symphony Orchestra), and theater (The Alley Theatre). Houston is also home to folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

ists, art groups and various small progressive arts organizations. Houston attracts many touring Broadway acts, concerts, shows, and exhibitions for a variety of interests. Facilities in the Theater District include the Jones Hall—home of the Houston Symphony Orchestra
Houston Symphony Orchestra
The Houston Symphony is an American orchestra based in Houston, Texas. Since 1966, it has performed at the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in downtown Houston....

 and Society for the Performing Arts—and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is a theater in Houston, Texas, USA. Opened to the public in 2002, the theater is located downtown on the edge of the Houston Theater District. Hobby Center features 60-foot-high glass walls with views of Houston's skyscrapers, Tranquility Park and Houston...

.

The Museum District
Houston Museum District
The Houston Museum District commonly known as, “The Museum District,” is an association of museums, galleries, cultural centers and community organizations located in Houston, Texas, dedicated to promoting the arts, sciences, and cultural amenities of the area.The Houston Museum District currently...

's cultural institutions and exhibits attract more than 7 million visitors a year. Notable facilities the include The Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston , located in Houston, is one of the largest museums in the United States. The permanent collection of the museum spans more than 6,000 years of history with more than 62,000 works from six continents....

, Houston Museum of Natural Science
Houston Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a science museum located on the northern border of Hermann Park in Houston, Texas, USA. The museum was established in 1909 by the Houston Museum and Scientific Society, an organization whose goals were to provide a free institution for the people of Houston...

, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
The Contemporary Arts Museum – Houston is a not-for-profit institution in Houston, Texas, dedicated to presenting the contemporary art of our time to the public....

, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art
Station Museum of Contemporary Art
The Station Museum of Contemporary Art is a private museum devoted to contemporary art located in downtown Houston, Texas, United States. Started in 2001, the museum goal is "to encourage the public's awareness of the cultural, political, economic, and personal dimensions of art."...

, Holocaust Museum Houston
Holocaust Museum Houston
The Holocaust Museum Houston, is located in Houston, Texas and was opened in 1996. The museum is located in the Houston Museum District.The museum is the fourth largest Holocaust memorial museum in the United States. The museum's mission is to make people aware of the dangers which prejudice,...

, and the Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo is a zoological park located within Hermann Park in Houston, Texas, United States. Housing over 6,000 animals belonging to over 900 species, the zoo receives 1.6 million visitors each year and is the seventh most visited zoo in the nation...

. Located near the Museum District are The Menil Collection
Menil Collection
The Menil Collection, located in Houston refers either to a museum that houses the private art collection of founders John de Menil and Dominique de Menil, or to the collection itself...

, Rothko Chapel
Rothko Chapel
The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas founded by John and Dominique de Menil. The interior serves not only as a chapel, but also as a major work of modern art. On its walls are fourteen black but color hued paintings by Mark Rothko...

, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum
Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum
The ' is a part of the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, near the University of St. Thomas, and displays the only intact Byzantine frescoes of this size and importance in the entire western hemisphere. The Byzantine frescoes were taken from the church of St...

.

Bayou Bend
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, located in the River Oaks community in Houston, Texas, United States, is a facility of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston that houses a collection of decorative art, paintings and furniture. Bayou Bend is the former home of Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg...

 is a 14 acres (5.7 ha) facility of the Museum of Fine Arts that houses one of America's best collections of decorative art, paintings and furniture. Bayou Bend is the former home of Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg
Ima Hogg
Ima Hogg , known as "The First Lady of Texas", was an American philanthropist, patron and collector of the arts, and one of the most respected women in Texas during the 20th century. Hogg was an avid art collector, and owned works by Picasso, Klee, and Matisse, among others...

.

Venues across Houston regularly host local and touring rock, blues, country, dubstep, and Tejano musical acts. While Houston has never been a widely renowned for its music scene, Houston hip-hop has become a significant, independent music scene, producing some of most famed hip-hop artists and creating a sound which has become largely influential in the South as well as other hip-hop scenes.

Tourism and recreation



The Theater District
Houston Theater District
The Houston Theater District, a 17-block area in the heart of Downtown Houston, Texas, United States, is home to Houston's nine performing arts organizations, the Bayou Place entertainment complex, restaurants, movies, plazas and parks...

 is a 17-block area in the center of downtown Houston that is home to the Bayou Place
Bayou Place
Bayou Place is an 130,000 square foot entertainment complex that houses multiple theaters, bars and restaurants located in Downtown Houston, Texas, United States. The complex was the former Albert Thomas convention center located in the Houston Theater District at 500 Texas Street...

 entertainment complex, restaurants, movies, plazas, and parks. Bayou Place is a large multilevel building containing full-service restaurants, bars, live music, billiards
Billiards
Cue sports , also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill generally played with a cue stick which is used to strike billiard balls, moving them around a cloth-covered billiards table bounded by rubber .Historically, the umbrella term was billiards...

, and art house films. The Houston Verizon Wireless Theater
Verizon Wireless Theater
The Verizon Wireless Theater is an indoor theater owned by Live Nation and located in Houston, Texas, United States...

 stages live concerts, stage plays, and stand-up comedy.

Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston is the official visitors' center of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's center for human spaceflight activities—located in Houston...

 is the official visitors’ center of NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's center for human spaceflight training, research and flight control. The center consists of a complex of 100 buildings constructed on 1,620 acres in Houston, Texas, USA...

. The Space Center has many interactive exhibits including moon rocks, a shuttle simulator, and presentations about the history of NASA's manned space flight program. Other tourist attractions include the Galleria (Texas's largest shopping mall located in the Uptown District), Old Market Square, the Downtown Aquarium, and Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is a horse racing track located in unincorporated northwest Houston, Texas, United States. The park hosts both Thoroughbred horse racing and American Quarter Horse each year along with Country Music, Rock music, and Classic rock concerts....

. SplashTown Waterpark Houston is a water park
Water park
A waterpark is an amusement park that features waterplay areas, such as water slides, splash pads, spraygrounds , lazy rivers, or other recreational bathing, swimming, and barefooting environments...

 located north of Houston. Earth Quest Adventures
Earth Quest Adventures
Earth Quest Adventures is a resort located in New Caney, Texas, approximately north of Houston that is scheduled to open to the public in 2013 or 2014. Contour Entertainment is the resort's master planner and lead designer. The planned resort will include a theme park as well as a water park,...

 is a theme park planned to open in 2013/2014.

Houston is home to 337 parks including Hermann Park
Hermann Park
Hermann Park is one of Houston's most-visited public parks. Situated between Fannin Street and Cambridge Street, it is within walking distance from the Texas Medical Center, Rice University, and the Museum District, and within a few miles of the Third Ward, the historic Astrodome and Reliant Stadium...

, Terry Hershey Park
Terry Hershey Park
Terry Hershey Park is a city park that runs parallel to a roughly 6 mile western stretch of the Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas, United States. The park is named after Terry Hershey, a conservationist who campaigned to keep the banks of Buffalo Bayou from being paved...

, Lake Houston Park
Lake Houston
Lake Houston is a reservoir on the west fork of the San Jacinto River, 15 miles northeast of downtown Houston, Texas, USA. The reservoir is the secondary municipal water supply for the city of Houston after Lake Livingston....

, Memorial Park
Memorial Park, Houston, Texas
Memorial Park, a municipal park in Houston, Texas, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Opened in 1924, the park covers approximately inside the 610 Loop, across from the neighborhood of Memorial. Memorial Drive runs through the park, heading east to downtown Houston and west to...

, Tranquility Park
Tranquility Park
Tranquility Park is a park in Downtown Houston, Texas, between Walker and Rusk Streets, and west of Smith Street, with the United States federal courts building for the Southern District of Texas on one side and Houston City Hall on the other...

, Sesquicentennial Park, Discovery Green
Discovery Green
Discovery Green is a public park in Downtown Houston, Texas, United States. Opened in 2008, Discovery Green is located on Avenida de las Americas across from the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas Hotel, adjacent to Toyota Center...

, and Sam Houston Park
Sam Houston Park
Sam Houston Park is a park located in downtown Houston, Texas, and is dedicated to the buildings and culture of Houston's historic past. The park, which was the first to be established in the city, was developed on land purchased by former Mayor Sam Brashier in 1900.-History:Mayor Brashear...

. Within Hermann Park are the Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo is a zoological park located within Hermann Park in Houston, Texas, United States. Housing over 6,000 animals belonging to over 900 species, the zoo receives 1.6 million visitors each year and is the seventh most visited zoo in the nation...

 and the Houston Museum of Natural Science
Houston Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a science museum located on the northern border of Hermann Park in Houston, Texas, USA. The museum was established in 1909 by the Houston Museum and Scientific Society, an organization whose goals were to provide a free institution for the people of Houston...

. Sam Houston Park contains restored and reconstructed homes which were originally built between 1823 and 1905. There is a proposal to open the city's first botanic garden at Herman Brown Park.

Of the 10 most populous U.S. cities, Houston has the most total area of parks and green space, 56405 acres (228 km²) The city also has over 200 additional green spaces—totaling over 19600 acres (79 km²) that are managed by the city—including the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a non-profit arboretum and nature center located in Memorial Park at 4501 Woodway Drive, Houston, Texas. It is open daily with free admission....

. The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark
Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark
The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is a public skatepark in Houston, Texas that opened in June 2008 . was a $2.7 million dollar project...

 is a public skatepark
Skatepark
A skatepark is a purpose-built recreational environment made for skateboarding, BMX, aggressive inline skating and scooters. A skatepark may contain half-pipes, quarter pipes, spine transfers, handrails, funboxes, vert ramps, pyramids, banked ramps, full pipes, pools, bowls, snake runs stairsets,...

 owned and operated by the city of Houston, and is one of the largest skateparks in Texas consisting of 30,000 (2,800 m2) square foot in-ground facility. The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park—located in the Uptown District
Uptown Houston
The Uptown District of Houston is located 6.2 miles west of downtown and is centered along Post Oak Boulevard, Westheimer Road , and the Galleria...

 of the city—serves as a popular tourist attraction, weddings, and various
celebrations. A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Houston the 23rd most walkable of the 50 largest cities in the United States.

Media



The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area is served by a public television station and two public radio stations. KUHT
KUHT
-Technical firsts:The station is also noted in Houston for many technical firsts at the local level. In 1981, KUHT became Houston's first closed captioned television station, and ten years later, in 1991, it became the first station in Houston to offer Descriptive Video Service , and other services...

 (HoustonPBS) is a PBS
Public Broadcast Service
The Public Broadcast Service is a government-owned educational radio and television broadcast service located in Barbados. Public Broadcast Service owns a radio station, 91.1FM and its television programming will be introduced in 2009....

 member station and is the first public television station in the United States. Houston Public Radio is listener-funded and comprises two NPR
NPR
NPR, formerly National Public Radio, is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States. NPR was created in 1970, following congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting...

 member stations: KUHF
KUHF
KUHF is a public radio station serving the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. It broadcasts on a frequency of 88.7 megahertz on the FM dial. The station is owned by and licensed to the University of Houston System...

 (KUHF News) and KUHA
KUHA
KUHA is a public radio station serving the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. It broadcasts on a frequency of 91.7 Megahertz on the FM dial. The station is owned by and licensed to the University of Houston System...

 (Classical 91.7). KUHF is news/talk radio and KUHA is a classical music station. The University of Houston System
University of Houston System
The University of Houston System is a state university system in Texas, encompassing four separate and distinct universities. It has two system centers, which operate as and distance learning course delivery sites for its universities...

 owns and holds broadcasting licenses to KUHT, KUHF, and KUHA. The stations broadcast from the Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting, located on the campus of the University of Houston
University of Houston
The University of Houston is a state research university, and is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System. Founded in 1927, it is Texas's third-largest university with nearly 40,000 students. Its campus spans 667 acres in southeast Houston, and was known as University of...

.

Houston is served by the Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
The Houston Chronicle is the largest daily newspaper in Texas, USA, headquartered in the Houston Chronicle Building in Downtown Houston. , it is the ninth-largest newspaper by circulation in the United States...

, its only major daily newspaper with wide distribution. The Hearst Corporation, which owns and operates the Houston Chronicle, bought the assets of the Houston Post
Houston Post
The Houston Post was a newspaper that had its headquarters in Houston, Texas, United States. In 1995, the newspaper was absorbed into the Houston Chronicle.-History:The newspaper was established on February 19, 1880, by Gail Borden Johnson...

—its long-time rival and main competition—when Houston Post ceased operations in 1995. The Houston Post was owned by the family of former Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby of Houston. The only other major publication to serve the city is the Houston Press
Houston Press
The Houston Press is an alternative weekly newspaper published in Houston, Texas, United States. It is headquartered in Downtown Houston....

—a free alternative weekly with a weekly readership of more than 300,000.

Education


Seventeen school districts exist within the city of Houston. The Houston Independent School District
Houston Independent School District
The Houston Independent School District is the largest public school system in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States. Houston ISD serves as a community school district for most of the city of Houston and several nearby and insular municipalities...

 (HISD) is the seventh-largest school district in the United States. HISD has 112 campuses that serve as magnet or vanguard schools—specializing in such disciplines as health professions, visual and performing arts, and the sciences. There are also many charter schools that are run separately from school districts. In addition, some public school districts also have their own charter schools.

The Houston area encompasses more than 300 private schools, many of which are accredited by Texas Private School Accreditation Commission recognized agencies. The Houston Area Independent Schools
Houston Area Independent Schools
The Houston Area Independent Schools is a non-profit association of more than 50 private schools located in the Houston, Texas area of the United States.-PreK-12:* Covenant Christian School...

 offer education from a variety of different religious as well as secular viewpoints. The Houston area Catholic schools are operated by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston encompasses of ten counties in the southeastern area of Texas: Galveston; Harris; Austin; Brazoria; Fort Bend; Grimes; Montgomery; San Jacinto; Walker; and Waller.The chancery of the diocese is located in Downtown Houston. The Archdiocese's...

.

Colleges and universities


Four distinct state universities are located in Houston. The University of Houston
University of Houston
The University of Houston is a state research university, and is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System. Founded in 1927, it is Texas's third-largest university with nearly 40,000 students. Its campus spans 667 acres in southeast Houston, and was known as University of...

 is a nationally recognized research university, and is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System
University of Houston System
The University of Houston System is a state university system in Texas, encompassing four separate and distinct universities. It has two system centers, which operate as and distance learning course delivery sites for its universities...

. The institution ranks among the Top 50 American Research Universities. The university in Texas, UH has nearly 40,000 students on its 667 acre campus in southeast Houston. The University of Houston–Clear Lake
University of Houston–Clear Lake
The University of Houston–Clear Lake is a state university, and is a component institution of the University of Houston System. Its campus spans 524-acre in Pasadena, with a satellite campus in Pearland. Founded in 1971, UHCL has an enrollment of more than 8,000 students...

 and the University of Houston–Downtown
University of Houston–Downtown
The University of Houston–Downtown is a four-year state university, and is a distinct component institution of the University of Houston System. Its campus spans 20-acre in Downtown Houston, with a satellite location in northwestern Harris County...

 are universities; they are not branch campuses of the University of Houston. Located in the historic community of Third Ward is Texas Southern University
Texas Southern University
Texas Southern University is a historically black university located in Houston, Texas, United States....

—one of the largest historically black colleges and universities in the United States.

Several private institutions of higher learning—ranging from liberal arts colleges to Rice University
Rice University
William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a heavily wooded campus in Houston, Texas, United States...

, the nationally recognized research university—are located within the city.

Three community college districts exist with campuses in and around Houston. The Houston Community College System
Houston Community College System
Houston Community College System is a community college system that operates community colleges in Houston, Missouri City, and Stafford in Texas....

 serves most of Houston. The northwestern through northeastern parts of the city are served by various campuses of the Lone Star College System, while the southeastern portion of Houston is served by San Jacinto College
San Jacinto College
San Jacinto College is a community college in the Greater Houston area in the U.S. state of Texas. Established in 1961, San Jacinto College originally consisted of the areas of Channelview ISD, Deer Park ISD, Galena Park ISD, La Porte ISD, and Pasadena ISD. The College now also serves Sheldon ISD,...

. The Houston Community College and Lone Star College systems are within the 10 largest institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Healthcare



Houston is the seat of the internationally renowned Texas Medical Center, which contains the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions. All 49 member institutions of the Texas Medical Center are non-profit organizations. They provide patient and preventive care, research, education, and local, national, and international community well-being.

Employing more than 73,600 people, institutions at the medical center include 13 hospitals and two specialty institutions, two medical schools, four nursing schools, and schools of dentistry, public health, pharmacy, and virtually all health-related careers. It is where one of the first—and still the largest—air emergency service, Life Flight
Life Flight
Memorial Hermann Life Flight is an air medical transport service based in Houston, Texas. Life Flight flies into 12th floor of the John S. Dunn Heli-Stop atop Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. It was founded in 1976.-History:...

, was created, and a very successful inter-institutional transplant program was developed. More heart surgeries are performed at the Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world.

Some of the academic and research health institutions at the center include MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine, located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, USA, is a highly regarded medical school and leading center for biomedical research and clinical care...

, UT Health Science Center, Memorial Hermann Hospital, The Methodist Hospital
The Methodist Hospital
The Methodist Hospital is a hospital located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Established in 1919 as an outreach ministry of The United Methodist Church, Methodist is one of the most comprehensive teaching hospitals in the United States, with leading specialists in every field of...

, Texas Children's Hospital
Texas Children's Hospital
Texas Children's Hospital is a pediatric hospital located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas.With 639 licensed beds and 465 beds in operation, Texas Children's is the largest children's hospital in the United States and is affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine as that...

, and University of Houston College of Pharmacy
University of Houston College of Pharmacy
The University of Houston College of Pharmacy is a pharmacy school and also one of twelve academic colleges at the University of Houston. It offers a professional program leading to a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. In addition, the school also offer a Doctor of Philosophy degree as well as a joint...

.

The Baylor College of Medicine has annually been considered within the top ten medical schools in the nation; likewise, the MD Anderson Cancer Center has consistently ranked as one of the top two U.S. hospitals specializing in cancer care by U.S. News & World Report since 1990. The Menninger Clinic, a renowned psychiatric treatment center, is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital System. With hospital locations nationwide and headquarters in Houston, the Triumph Healthcare hospital system is the third largest long term acute care provider nationally.

Highways



The predominant form of transportation in Houston is the automobile with 71.7 percent of residents driving alone to work This is facilitated through Houston's freeway system, comprising 739.3 miles (1,189.8 km) of freeways and expressways in a ten-county metropolitan area. However, the Texas Transportation Institute
Texas Transportation Institute
The Texas Transportation Institute in College Station, Texas is the largest transportation research agency in the United States. Created in 1950, primarily in response to the needs of the Texas Highway Department , TTI has since broadened its focus to address all modes of transportation–highway,...

's annual Urban Mobility Report found that Houston had the fourth-worst congestion in the country with commuters spending an average of 58 hours in traffic in 2010.

Houston's highway system has a hub-and-spoke
Spoke-hub distribution paradigm
The hub-and-spoke distribution paradigm is a system of connections arranged like a chariot wheel, in which all traffic moves along spokes connected to the hub at the center...

 freeway structure serviced by multiple loops. The innermost loop is Interstate 610
Interstate 610 (Texas)
Interstate 610 is a freeway that forms a forty-two-mile loop around the downtown sector of city of Houston, Texas. Interstate 610, colloquially known as "The Loop", "Loop 610", "The 610 Loop", or just "610", traditionally marks the border between the inner city of Houston and its surrounding areas...

, which encircles downtown, the medical center, and many core neighborhoods with around a 10 miles (16 km) diameter. Beltway 8 and its freeway core, the Sam Houston Tollway, form the middle loop at a diameter of roughly 25 miles (40 km). A proposed highway project, State Highway 99 (Grand Parkway), would form a third loop outside of Houston. As of 2010, only two out of eleven segments of State Highway 99 have been completed. Houston is located along the route of the proposed Interstate 69 NAFTA
North American Free Trade Agreement
The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA is an agreement signed by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada – United States Free Trade Agreement...

 superhighway that would link Canada, the U.S. industrial Midwest
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

, Texas, and Mexico. Other spoke freeways either planned or under construction include the Fort Bend Parkway, Hardy Toll Road
Hardy Toll Road
The Hardy Toll Road runs from Interstate 610, near central Houston, to Interstate 45, north of Houston just below the Harris County line. The road generally parallels Interstate 45. The portion from I-610 to Crosstimbers Road is known as Spur 548, although this is unsigned.Construction on the...

, Crosby Freeway, and the future Alvin Freeway.

Houston's freeway system is monitored by Houston TranStar
Houston TranStar
Established in 1993, Houston TranStar is a partnership of four government agencies that are responsible for providing Transportation Management and Emergency Management services to the Greater Houston, Texas Region...

—a partnership of four government agencies that are responsible for providing transportation and emergency management
Emergency management
Emergency management is the generic name of an interdisciplinary field dealing with the strategic organizational management processes used to protect critical assets of an organization from hazard risks that can cause events like disasters or catastrophes and to ensure the continuance of the...

 services to the region
Greater Houston
Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown is a 10-county metropolitan area defined by the Office of Management and Budget. It is located along the Gulf Coast region in the U.S. state of Texas...

. Houston TranStar was the first center in the nation to combine transportation and emergency management centers, and the first to bring four agencies (Texas Department of Transportation
Texas Department of Transportation
The Texas Department of Transportation is a governmental agency in the U.S. state of Texas. Its stated mission is to "work cooperatively to provide safe, effective and efficient movement of people and goods" throughout the state...

, Harris County
Harris County, Texas
As of the 2010 Census, the population of the county was 4,092,459, White Americans made up 56.6% of Harris County's population; non-Hispanic whites represented 33.0% of the population. Black Americans made up 18.9% of the population. Native Americans made up 0.7% of Harris County's population...

, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, and the City of Houston) together to share their resources.


Transit systems


The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) provides public transportation in the form of buses, light rail, and lift vans. METRO's various forms of public transportation still do not connect many of the suburbs to the greater city.

METRO began light rail service on January 1, 2004 with the inaugural track ("Red Line") running about 8 miles (12.9 km) from the University of (UHD), which traverses through the Texas Medical Center and terminates at Reliant Park. METRO is currently in the design phase of a 10-year expansion plan that will add five more lines to the existing system.

Amtrak
Amtrak
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak , is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union...

, the national rail passenger system, provides service to Houston via the (Los Angeles–New Orleans), which stops at a train station
Houston (Amtrak station)
The Houston Amtrak station is a train station in Houston, Texas, United States served by Amtrak, the U.S. national railroad passenger system.Of the 19 Texas stations served by Amtrak, Houston was the sixth-busiest in FY2010, boarding or detraining an average of approximately 50 passengers daily.The...

 on the north side of the downtown area. The station saw 14,891 boardings and alightings in fiscal year 2008.

Airports



Houston is served by three airports, two of which are commercial that served 52 million passengers in 2007 and managed by the Houston Airport System
Houston Airport System
Houston Airport System is a department of the City of Houston, Texas, United States that manages city airports. Its administrative offices are on the property of George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It operates Bush, William P. Hobby Airport, and Ellington Airport in Houston.The city of Houston...

. The Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

 and the state of Texas selected the "Houston Airport System as Airport of the Year" for 2005, largely because of its multi-year, $3.1 billion airport improvement program for both major airports in Houston.

The primary city airport is George Bush Intercontinental Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, is a Class B international airport in Houston, Texas, serving the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Located north of Downtown Houston between Interstate 45 and U.S. Highway 59...

 (IAH), the sixth-busiest in the United States for total passengers, and fourteenth-busiest worldwide. Bush Intercontinental currently ranks third in the United States for non-stop domestic and international service with 182 destinations. In 2006, the United States Department of Transportation
United States Department of Transportation
The United States Department of Transportation is a federal Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with transportation. It was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, and began operation on April 1, 1967...

 named George Bush Intercontinental Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, is a Class B international airport in Houston, Texas, serving the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Located north of Downtown Houston between Interstate 45 and U.S. Highway 59...

 the fastest-growing of the top ten airports in the United States. The Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center
Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center
Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center is located at George Bush Intercontinental Airport at 16600 JFK Boulevard, Houston, Texas, United States 77032...

 stands on the George Bush Intercontinental Airport grounds.

Houston was the headquarters of Continental Airlines
Continental Airlines
Continental Airlines was a major American airline now merged with United Airlines. On May 3, 2010, Continental Airlines, Inc. and UAL, Inc. announced a merger via a stock swap, and on October 1, 2010, the merger closed and UAL changed its name to United Continental Holdings, Inc...

 until its 2010 merger with United Airlines
United Airlines
United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which includes the entire holding company United Continental...

 with headquarters in Chicago; regulatory approval for the merger was granted in October of that year. Bush Intercontinental will become United Airline's largest airline hub
Airline hub
An airline hub is an airport that an airline uses as a transfer point to get passengers to their intended destination. It is part of a hub and spoke model, where travelers moving between airports not served by direct flights change planes en route to their destinations...

. The airline will retain a significant operational presence in Houston while offering more than 700 daily departures from the city. In early 2007, Bush Intercontinental Airport was named a model "port of entry" for international travelers by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The second-largest commercial airport is William P. Hobby Airport
William P. Hobby Airport
William P. Hobby Airport is a public airport in Houston, Texas, located from Downtown Houston. The airport covers and has four runways. Hobby Airport is Houston's oldest commercial airport and was the city's primary air terminal until the opening of Houston Intercontinental Airport in 1969...

 (named Houston International Airport until 1967) which operates primarily small to medium-haul domestic flights. Houston's aviation history is showcased in the 1940 Air Terminal Museum
1940 Air Terminal Museum
The 1940 Air Terminal Museum is a museum located in Houston, Texas, United States at William P. Hobby Airport. Collections are housed in the original art deco building which served as the first terminal for passenger flight in Houston...

 located in the old terminal building on the west side of the airport. Hobby Airport has been recognized with two awards for being one of the top five performing airports in the world and for customer service by Airports Council International
Airports Council International
Airports Council International is the association of the world’s airports. It is a non profit organization, whose prime purpose is to advance the interests of airports and to promote professional excellence in airport management and operations...

.

Houston's third municipal airport is Ellington Airport (a former U.S. Air Force base) used by military, government, NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

, and general aviation sectors.

Architecture



Houston has the third tallest skyline in North America and one of the top 10 in the world. A seven-mile (11 km) system of tunnels and skywalks
Houston Downtown Tunnel System
The Houston tunnel system is a system of tunnels below Houston's downtown street system. The system comprises approximately of tunnels and forms a network of subterranean, climate-controlled, pedestrian walkways that link 95 full city blocks...

 link downtown buildings containing shops and restaurants, enabling pedestrians to avoid summer heat and rain while walking between buildings.

In the 1960s, Downtown Houston
Downtown Houston
Downtown Houston is the largest business district of Houston, Texas, United States. Downtown Houston, the city's central business district, contains the headquarters of many prominent companies. There is an extensive network of pedestrian tunnels and skywalks connecting the buildings of the district...

 consisted of a collection of mid-rise office structures. Downtown was on the threshold of an energy industry led boom in 1970. A succession of skyscrapers were built throughout the 1970s—many by real estate developer Gerald D. Hines
Gerald D. Hines
Gerald D. Hines is the founder and chairman of Hines, a privately held real estate firm with its U.S. headquarters located in Houston, Texas, and its European headquarters located in London....

—culminating with Houston's tallest skyscraper, the 75-floor, 1002 feet (305 m)-tall JPMorgan Chase Tower
JPMorgan Chase Tower (Houston)
JPMorgan Chase Tower, formerly Texas Commerce Tower, is a , 75-story skyscraper in Houston, Texas. It is currently the tallest building in the city, the tallest building in Texas, the tallest five-sided building in the world, 12th tallest building in the United States, and the 54th tallest building...

 (formerly the Texas Commerce Tower), completed in 1982. It is the tallest structure in Texas, 10th tallest building in the United States and the 30th tallest skyscraper in the world, based on height to roof. In 1983, the 71-floor, 992 feet (302 m)-tall Wells Fargo Plaza (formerly Allied Bank Plaza) was completed, becoming the second-tallest building in Houston and Texas. Based on height to roof, it is the 13th tallest in the United States and the 36th tallest in the world. As of 2007, downtown Houston had over 43 million square feet (4,000,000 m²) of office space.

Centered on Post Oak Boulevard and Westheimer Road, the Uptown District
Uptown Houston
The Uptown District of Houston is located 6.2 miles west of downtown and is centered along Post Oak Boulevard, Westheimer Road , and the Galleria...

 boomed during the 1970s and early 1980s when a collection of mid-rise office buildings, hotels, and retail developments appeared along Interstate 610
Interstate 610 (Texas)
Interstate 610 is a freeway that forms a forty-two-mile loop around the downtown sector of city of Houston, Texas. Interstate 610, colloquially known as "The Loop", "Loop 610", "The 610 Loop", or just "610", traditionally marks the border between the inner city of Houston and its surrounding areas...

 west. Uptown became one of the most prominent instances of an edge city
Edge city
"Edge city" is an American term for a concentration of business, shopping, and entertainment outside a traditional urban area in what had recently been a residential suburb or semi-rural community...

. The tallest building in Uptown is the 64-floor, 901 feet (275 m)-tall, Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson
Philip Cortelyou Johnson was an influential American architect.In 1930, he founded the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and later , as a trustee, he was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and the first Pritzker Architecture...

 and John Burgee
John Burgee
__notoc__John Burgee is an American architect noted for his contributions to Postmodern architecture. He was a partner of Philip Johnson from 1967 to 1991, creating together the partnership firm Johnson/Burgee Architects. Their landmark collaborations together included Pennzoil Place in Houston...

 designed landmark Williams Tower
Williams Tower
The Williams Tower is a skyscraper located in the Uptown District of Houston, Texas. It was designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, in association with Houston-based Morris Architects , and erected in 1983. The tower is among Houston's most visible buildings...

 (known as the Transco Tower until 1999). At the time of construction, it was believed to the be the world's tallest skyscraper outside of a central business district. The Uptown District is also home to buildings designed by noted architects I. M. Pei
I. M. Pei
Ieoh Ming Pei , commonly known as I. M. Pei, is a Chinese American architect, often called a master of modern architecture. Born in Canton, China and raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pei drew inspiration at an early age from the gardens at Suzhou...

, César Pelli
César Pelli
César Pelli is an Argentine architect known for designing some of the world's tallest buildings and other major urban landmarks. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects listed Pelli among the ten most influential living American architects...

, and Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson
Philip Cortelyou Johnson was an influential American architect.In 1930, he founded the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and later , as a trustee, he was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and the first Pritzker Architecture...

. In the late 1990s and early 2000s decade, there was a mini-boom of mid-rise and high-rise residential tower
Tower block
A tower block, high-rise, apartment tower, office tower, apartment block, or block of flats, is a tall building or structure used as a residential and/or office building...

 construction, with several over 30 stories tall. In 2002, Uptown had more than 23 million square feet (2,100,000 m²) of office space with 16 million square feet (1,500,000 m²) of Class A office space.

Sports




Houston has sports teams for every major professional league, except the National Hockey League
National Hockey League
The National Hockey League is an unincorporated not-for-profit association which operates a major professional ice hockey league of 30 franchised member clubs, of which 7 are currently located in Canada and 23 in the United States...

.

Minute Maid Park
Minute Maid Park
Minute Maid Park is a ballpark in Downtown Houston, Texas, United States that opened in 2000 to house the Major League Baseball Houston Astros....

 (home of the Astros
Houston Astros
The Houston Astros are a Major League Baseball team located in Houston, Texas. They are a member of the National League Central division. The Astros are expected to join the American League West division in 2013. Since , they have played their home games at Minute Maid Park, known as Enron Field...

) and Toyota Center
Toyota Center (Houston)
The Toyota Center is an indoor arena located in downtown Houston, Texas. It is named after the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota. The arena is home to the Rockets of the National Basketball Association, the principal owners of the building, and the Aeros of the American Hockey League.Rockets...

 (home of the Rockets
Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are an American professional basketball team based in Houston, Texas. The team plays in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association . The team was established in 1967, and played in San Diego, California for four years, before being...

 and Aeros
Houston Aeros
The Houston Aeros are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League. The team plays in Houston, Texas, at the Toyota Center. They are the AHL affiliate of the NHL's Minnesota Wild.- History :...

), are located in Downtown. Houston has the NFL's first retractable-roof stadium, Reliant Stadium
Reliant Stadium
Reliant Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium, in Houston, Texas, USA. Reliant Stadium has a seating capacity of 71,500, a total square footage of with of natural grass playing surface....

 (home of the Texans
Houston Texans
The Houston Texans are a professional American football team based in Houston, Texas. The team is currently a member of the Southern Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League...

). In addition, Reliant Astrodome
Reliant Astrodome
Reliant Astrodome, also known as the Houston Astrodome or simply the Astrodome, is the world's first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium, located in Houston, Texas, USA. The stadium is part of the Reliant Park complex...

, the first domed stadium in the world. Other sports facilities include Robertson Stadium
Robertson Stadium
John O'Quinn Field at Corbin J. Robertson Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Houston, located on the campus of the University of Houston. It is the home of the Houston Cougars football and women's soccer teams...

 (home of the Houston Cougars
Houston Cougars
Houston Cougars is the name given to the sports teams of the University of Houston. Informally, the Houston Cougars have also been referred to as the Coogs, UH, or simply Houston. Houston's nickname was created by early physical education instructor of the university and former head football...

 football team and the Dynamo
Houston Dynamo
The Houston Dynamo is an American professional soccer club, based in Houston, Texas, that plays in Major League Soccer, the top professional soccer league in the United States and Canada. Founded in 2005 as Houston 1836, the team name was renamed to Houston Dynamo following protests from Hispanic...

), Hofheinz Pavilion
Hofheinz Pavilion
Guy V. Lewis Court at Hofheinz Pavilion, often known as simply Hofheinz Pavilion, is an 8,500-seat multi-purpose arena on the University of Houston campus in Houston, Texas. Located at 3875 Holman Street, it is home to the University of Houston Cougars men's and women's basketball teams as well as...

 (Houston Cougars basketball), Rice Stadium
Rice Stadium
Rice Stadium is a football stadium located on the Rice University campus in Houston, Texas. It has been the home of the Rice University football team since its completion in 1950 and hosted Super Bowl VIII in 1974....

 (Rice Owls
Rice Owls
The Rice University athletic teams are known as the Rice Owls. The name comes from the owls in Rice's crest.Rice participates in NCAA Division I athletics and is part of Conference USA. Rice was a member of the Southwest Conference until its breakup in 1996. Rice then joined the Western Athletic...

 football), and Reliant Arena
Reliant Arena
The Reliant Arena, formerly the "Astroarena", is a 350,000 square feet sports center in Reliant Park, in Houston, Texas, USA. It is one of the state's major arenas and convention centers. Reliant became the home of the Women's National Basketball Association's Houston Comets for what proved to...

. A soccer-specific stadium for the Dynamo—to be located just east of Downtown—is expected to be finished by 2012.

The city has hosted several major professional and college sporting events, including the annual Shell Houston Open
Shell Houston Open
The Shell Houston Open is a regular golf tournament on the PGA Tour. It is currently played in April at Redstone Golf Club in the Houston suburb of Humble, Texas. Shell and the Houston Golf Association are the main sponsors of the tournament...

 golf tournament. Houston hosts the annual NCAA College Baseball Minute Maid Classic every February and NCAA football's Texas Bowl
Texas Bowl
The Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, formerly known as the Texas Bowl, is a post-season NCAA-sanctioned Division I FBS college football bowl game that was held for the first time in 2006 in Houston, Texas. The bowl replaced the now-defunct Houston Bowl, which was played annually from 2000 to 2005...

 in December.

Crime



Houston's murder rate ranked 46th of U.S. cities with a population over 250,000 in 2005 (per capita rate of 16.3 murders per 100,000 population). In 2010, the city's murder rate (per capita rate of 11.8 murders per 100,000 population) was ranked sixth among U.S. cities with a population of over 750,000 (behind New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles) according to the FBI.

Murders fell by 37 percent from January to June 2011, compared with the same period in 2010. Houston's total crime rate including violent and nonviolent crimes decreased by 11 percent.

Houston—due to its size and proximity to major illegal drug exporting nations—is a significant hub for trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, MDMA, and methamphetamine. In the early 1970s, Houston, Pasadena and several coastal towns were the site of the 'Houston Mass Murders' which at the time were the deadliest case of serial killing in American history.

Further reading




External links