Facts and figures about the country’s fourth-largest city. To really get an accurate picture of the Houston region, you need to have a sense of how truly large it is. The city of Houston encompasses approximately 640 square miles, and the metropolitan area covers more than 10,000 square miles. Houston is located in Harris County, the nation’s third most populous county. The population of the city of Houston is more than 2 million. Only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are larger. Houston’s metropolitan area has 5.6 million residents, making it the sixth-largest metro area in the country. In January 2005 the City of Houston launched a mandatory freeway vehicle-towing program called SAFEClear. The program was implemented to address safety and congestion concerns associated with disabled vehicles on freeways inside the city limits of Houston. Prior to December 1, 2005, only the exclusive contracted SAFEClear tow operators were allowed to provide roadside assistance on these freeways. Currently, two SAFEClear operators are required to provide a free tow to a safe location off the freeway within one mile of the nearest exit to any motorist whose vehicle is not in a moving lane on the freeway and has a flat tire, a mechanical failure, or an empty gas tank. If the vehicle has a flat tire and a good spare, the SAFEClear tow operator will change the tire without charge. If the vehicle is out of gas, it will be towed for free to the nearest gas station, even if that is beyond one mile after the nearest exit. The program also allows motorists to call a roadside assistance service provider of their choice in many situations.
Airports The Houston area is served by two major airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). IAH offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other airport in the country and provides nonstop service to approximately 170 destinations—third in the United States behind Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD). When it comes to performance and customer service, HOU is among the world’s best, according to the Airports Council International (ACI). Hobby came in at number four in both categories in the 2008 ACI Airport Service Quality Awards. A third site, Ellington Airport (EFD), is a joint-use civil and military airport serving the needs of the U.S. military, NASA and general aviation. Check individual airlines to see which airports serve a particular carrier.
Living Well Is Easy In Houston
• The Q3/08 ACCRA Cost of Living Index shows that Houston’s overall after-taxes living costs are 10 percent below the nation-wide average, largely due to housing costs that are 23 percent below the average.
• In the context of the 27 metropolitan areas with more than two million residents, Houston’s cost-of-living advantage is even more pronounced. Houston’s housing costs are 42 percent below the average for the large metro areas, and its overall costs are 20 percent below the average for this group.
• Houston has the third-lowest housing prices among the 27 large metros. Houston’s grocery prices, 18 percent below the major metro average, are the lowest within this group. Its utility costs are 1 percent below the major metro average, its transportation costs are 9 percent below the average, its health care costs are 8 percent below the average, and its costs for miscellaneous goods and services are 4 percent below the average.
• Texas does not have a state personal income tax. The city, the state and METRO charge a sales tax. The Harris County Appraisal District provides the appraised value of property, and each jurisdiction sets its own property tax rate. The city and county charge fees for franchises, licenses and permits to pay for services. Some taxing authorities such as school districts can collect taxes independent of the county tax assessor-collector. In certain instances, taxing authorities offer tax exemptions for residents, people over age 65, veterans, and people with disabilities. For more information, log on to statelocalgov.net.