District’s former Transportation Manager helped create an Energy Corridor bus route, CarShare, sidewalks and more
When John Nunez joined The Energy Corridor District in 2010, there was no METRO 75 Eldridge bus bringing commuters from The Addicks Park and Ride to businesses up and down Eldridge Parkway, key sidewalk connections were missing and those taking alternative ways to work did not have the assurances that a car would be available while at work when needed.
But as one of Houston’s foremost transportation mobility advocates retires, he can look back to see momentum rising in West Houston for what he calls “rewarding ways to get to work.”
Dedicated to reducing single-occupancy vehicle use in Houston, Nunez is a man who leveraged creative financing to The District’s advantage, driving home grants to fund projects like the 75 Eldridge, New Freedom sidewalks and Enterprise CarShare, now at four locations in The Energy Corridor.
Nunez also built a strong collaboration with METRO, working to add routes and improve others serving The Energy Corridor. He successfully scored a Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) grant that made the 75 Eldridge bus route a reality that now serves commuters from the Addicks Park and Ride to scores of businesses along Eldridge Parkway.
“John solves problems, and one of our region’s biggest is traffic congestion and air quality,” says Clark Martinson, executive director for The District. “He’s a diligent researcher – a thinker with an innovative mind that’s always looking for traffic mitigation solutions.”
The nation’s first Enterprise CarShare program that served multiple businesses and not sole entities like universities started when Nunez won a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant to fund the program. Today, The District has four CarShare locations that provide cars for reduced rental rates whenever alternative commuters need them.
“That’s important when it comes to encouraging people to take buses, vanpools, carpools, bicycles or their own two legs into work,” says Martinson. “Having a vehicle available at work overcomes the top concern people have for leaving their personal vehicles at home.”
Legacy just beginning
Though retiring, Nunez’ impact on improving transportation mobility for West Houston has just begun.
With Kelly Rector, The District’s TDM program manager, Nunez developed plans to create a bus circulator that will pick up riders from the Addicks Park and Ride and take them to major employer destinations. He also researched and helped developed plans to launch a transit service from Fort Bend County – a major departure point for many Energy Corridor employees – with a future goal of adding service from Katy and Northwest Houston.
But Nunez’s efforts went beyond developing and implementing transportation mobility programs and policies, finding and leveraging funding, and advising its board of directors. He was instrumental in creating a “Rewarding Ways to Work” destination guide now displayed in METRO bus shelters and other locations that identified in four languages the Energy Corridor businesses, retail, restaurants and more served by buses.
Nunez takes an inclusive view of transportation mobility solutions. Enhancing pathways, he has said, not only helps residents and employees access employment, shopping and parks, they also help individuals with disabilities better integrate into society. The District’s New Freedom Sidewalks – with four phases completed in 2014 – were built using a federal grant Nunez obtained to improve accessibility and remove barriers for the disabled.
The path to becoming one of Houston’s renowned transportation mobility advocates was not a straight one for Nunez.
He was a top, national recruiter for energy companies; managed the first Houston office for the Resolution Trust Corporation (tasked with liquidating the assets of failed savings and loans); and specialized in recruiting, compensation, and labor/employee relations for the U.S. Department of Treasury.
A career change landed him at METRO, where he began developing an affinity for ridesharing. Nunez nurtured relationships with major Houston employers and led a team that generated significant growth in METRO’s vanpool program.
It was then on to 2Plus of Texas where as project manager Nunez was responsible for business development and customer support for a regional vanpool program with 740-plus vehicles and 8,000 customers.
Nunez will continue to advise The District when needed, says Martinson.
“John may be ridesharing into the sunset but we hope he’ll continue to share his ideas and passion for improving transportation mobility in Houston,” Martinson says.