Texans love their cars. And trucks. In a state this big, a vehicle is virtually a necessity, despite some recent advances in metropolitan public transportation systems. Still, to get anywhere in Texas’s sprawling cities and widespread landscape, a vehicle is the most practical approach. In fact, the state is so spread out, travelers occasionally hop on planes to get from place to place. The drive from Lubbock to Corpus Christi would take about 13 hours by car, but only two hours via plane. Other small cities with airports include Tyler, Waco, San Angelo, Amarillo, and Brownsville.
Texas’s major interstates are well maintained, and drivers are largely courteous, if a bit lead-footed. The stretch of I-35 between Dallas and Austin is a racetrack, with cars and semi trucks regularly buzzing along at a 90 mph clip. That being said, some Texas drivers are notorious for hanging in the passing lane at 55 mph, forcing cars to line up behind them and pass on the right when there’s a break in the “fast” lane. The true Lone Star autobahn experience is in far West Texas, where the posted speed limit is 80 mph, meaning drivers will go even faster since patrol cars are as abundant as trees out there. Incidentally, freeway ramps are unpredictable in Texas—some are only a few hundred yards short, while others seem to stretch for miles. Once you’re off the interstate, be sure to keep an eye out for police, since some small Texas towns rely on speeding ticket fines to help fund their municipal budgets.
Texas has a considerable number of bikers—including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong—but its roadways aren’t considered very bike-friendly. Even Armstrong’s own city (Austin) is a difficult place to get around on two wheels. The best places to ride are municipal and state parks, which contain well-designed and scenic hike-and-bike trails. The state’s tremendous geographical diversity allows for a good variety of terrain, and several Texas locales—Palo Duro Canyon and the Hill Country, in particular—are major destinations for serious mountain bikers from across the country.
With so many “new” cities (less than 150 years old), Texas is known more for its sprawl than dense metropolitan environs. Unlike long-standing urban areas on the East Coast and in the Midwest with well-established subway and train-based transit lines, Texas’s cities have traditionally used buses for public transportation. Light rail can be a challenging system to incorporate on established traffic grids, but it’s been successful in several cities, Dallas and Houston in particular. To find out more about public transportation options in Texas’s major urban environments, visit the following websites: Austin (www.capmetro.org), Corpus Christi (www.ccrta.org), Dallas (www.dart.org), El Paso (www.elpasotexas.gov), Fort Worth (www.the-t.com), Houston (www.ridemetro.org), and San Antonio (www.viainfo.net).
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition