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CIP Tour examines workings of TranStar

CIP Facilitator Diane Sheridan, center, and others of the CIP group listen to Ben Gillis, tour guide for TransStar, as he explains the functions and facilities in the TransStar building on old Washington Road near I-10. In the background are live television monitors, showing traffic throughout the area.

HARRIS COUNTY – The Galena Park CIP organization (Community Industry Partnership) held their monthly meeting at the TranStar building last month, and were given a VIP tour of the facilities.

Tour guide Ben Gillis, assisted by David Wade and Misty Gunn, showed the 30 members of the group all the control rooms, monitoring stations, and other equipment that the facility has.

Houston TRANSTAR was established in 1993, and is a formal partnership with transportation and emergency management agencies in Harris County.

These include TxDOT, METRO, Harris County, and the City of Houston.

The goals of the transportation part of TranStar are to save drivers time, increase driving speed and minimize delays, and through those activities save money and help the environment.

The goals of the Emergency Management part of TranStar are to save lives and provide help to those in distressed situations. Since 1979, there have been 46 federally declared disasters, averaging more that one per year. These include hurricanes, floods, and other natural and manmade incidents, and manage public safety at major public events such as the Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium and the World Series at Minute Maid Park.

In Harris County, there are 4.7 million people, 34 cities, 56 fire departments, and 125 law enforcement agencies. The purpose of TranStar is to facilitate communication and coordination between these entities, according to OEM head, Judge Ed Emmett.

The CIP group was given a complete tour of the 3 story building and its various departments, with the guides explaining how they work. A second floor conference room had a glass wall overlooking the transportation control room, which is in operation 24/7. The group was able to observe about 30 work stations actively managing the parameters of the traffic in the county.

TranStar provides a variety of travel information for the public. It maintains a network of 130 traffic cameras for Harris County, and 761 cameras for TxDOT, which are available on their website for the public to view. TranStar also maintains traffic maps which indicate roads in the county that have slowdowns or blockages that should be avoided.

TranStar was especially important during Hurricane Harvey with life-saving information and aid to stranded people. Other services include MAP, to help motorists on freeways, and Tow n Go, a new program to help you off the freeway if you have car trouble.

TranStar facility includes two control rooms. The one above is for normal traffic. On the left are monitors and operators for the Metro bus system, and the light rail network. On the right, are operators controlling the traffic signs throughout the greater Houston area, and in the lower right are dispatchers to help in emergencies or traffic jams.