08/29/16 1:30pm

FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS TO TALK THROUGH HOUSTON’S RELATIONSHIP WITH SIDEWALKS Broken Sidewalk, Boulevard Oaks, HoustonTaking together a recent rash of of essays complaining about Houston’s walkability, public transit, and sidewalk situation, Joe Cortwright over at City Observatory offers some thoughts on why it might be harder for city planners to buff up the city’s walking infrastructure than focus on its car standards: planners, both locally and nation-wide, don’t have as many ways to measure unpleasant walking experiences, or sufficient language to describe them. Cortwright writes that the anecdotes and narratives put forth by Houston’s frustrated would-be walkers are “rich and compelling in their detail, but lack the technocratic throw-weight of quantifiable statistics or industry standards to drive different policies and investments in our current planning system. [ . . . But] this isn’t simply a matter of somehow instrumenting bike riders and pedestrians with GPS and communication devices so they are as tech-enabled as vehicles. An exacting count of existing patterns of activity will only further enshrine a status quo where cars are dominant. For example, perfectly instrumented count of pedestrians, bicycles, cars in Houston would show — correctly — little to no bike or pedestrian activity. And no amount of calculation of vehicle flows will reveal whether a city is providing a high quality of life for its residents, much less meeting their desires for the kinds of places they really want to live in.” [City Observatory] Photo: Flickr userbpawlik

08/02/16 11:45am

LAND PURCHASES BEGINNING ALONG PROPOSED HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN ROUTE Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo Osaka LineTexas Central Railway’s CEO tells Realty News Report’s Ralph Bivins that owners of some properties in the projected path of the planned Houston-to-Dallas 200mph rail line have already agreed to sell their land to the company, which is hoping to get started on construction of the 90-minute route next year. Tim B. Keith says he’s “encouraged with the progress” of what he refers to as the project’s “voluntary land purchase program.” He notes that “Texas’ Constitution and state statutes have long granted eminent domain authority to railroads such as Texas Central, as well as pipeline companies, electric power companies and other industries,” but calls eminent domain “a last resort.” The line’s Houston station is now planned for “the area along the 610 Loop between 290 and I-10″ after a Federal Railroad Administration review rejected the idea of a Downtown stop because of projected high costs and environmental impacts. [Realty News Report; Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka line: Texas Central Railway  

07/22/16 4:30pm

METRORail Light-rail Map

In response to word from the Chronicle‘s Dug Begley this week that the Red Line’s Reliant Park light-rail stop might get its station name updated to an even older name, a Swamplot reader jumps on the case with a system-wide list of potential station name changes that might remain unaffected by the sale, rebranding, or demise of any nearby venues or landmarks. Begley notes it could cost Metro around $486,000 to change the Reliant Park stop’s signage. The agency says it would prefer to make the switch at the same time as 2 other station name changes currently under consideration (if they’re approved) — but not until after the Super Bowl, for which a set of cheaper temporary stickers will be deployed to help visitors find NRG Stadium.

The reader, in the spirit of Houston’s budding redesign-it-yourself urban planning scene, suggests that paying up now to swap out all the names that might become a problem later might actually be a long-term cost-saver. The proposed scheme makes sure every station name mentions a cross-street (or maybe a bayou), and keeps some references to existing transit centers, parks, or neighborhoods.

Here’s the full list of suggested switch-outs, separated by rail line, with the current names on the left:


What’s In a Name
06/02/15 10:45am

WOODLAND HEIGHTS BUS MAPPERS TO METRO: YOUR NEW ROUTE PLAN MISSES THE TARGET Proposed New Bus Alignments Around Woodland Heights, HoustonMetro says it’ll be ready to go with its new bus network on August 16, but that hasn’t prevented various groups from petitioning the transit agency to make late adjustments to its route map. One group of Woodland Heights residents is trying to get the new 30 route, which late in the process was shifted east to parallel the new 44 route down Houston Ave into Downtown, shifted west to Watson, Taylor, and Sawyer streets between Pecore and Memorial Dr. before entering Downtown from the west. The current proposed alignment leaves the Sawyer Heights shopping center and its Target without a bus stop. [Not of It] Diagram: Philip Teague

05/20/15 12:00pm

METRO KEEPING NEW BUS ROUTES UNDER WRAPS UNTIL AUGUST 16 Bagged Bus Stop Sign on Bellaire Route 2, Bellaire, TexasEvery route sign at every bus stop in Metro’s service area should now have a plastic bag over its head, the transit agency says. Printed on those bags: the same old bus route numbers that’ve always been there, along with a couple of helpful phone numbers. Info on how the route will be changed come late summer should appear on vertical add-on signs lower on each pole. The great citywide bus-stop-sign unbagging (revealing the sign makeovers hidden underneath) is scheduled to take place just before August 16, the day Metro’s revamped route network debuts. [Metro; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Metro

05/18/15 4:30pm

SAVING UPTOWN, HOUSTON’S MASTERPIECE, FROM THE SCOURGE OF DEDICATED BUS LANES Website of The Uptown Property and Business Owners CoalitionThe Uptown Property and Business Owners Coalition is out today with a new website (portrayed here) meant to drum up opposition to the Uptown District and Metro’s plans to install dedicated bus lanes down Post Oak Blvd. The lanes, the last vestige of what was once a plan for an Uptown light rail line, would run from dedicated bus lanes linking to the Northwest Transit Center all the way to the proposed Bellaire/Uptown Transit Center near U.S. 59 and Westpark, where they might someday intersect with a University Line traveling eastward from that point. But the team behind the website wants none of it: “Uptown is a Houston masterpiece. Why do they want to ruin it?” reads the copy on the home page. Meanwhile, an introductory blog post on the site encourages readers to attend a friendly “town hall” meeting, tomorrow night at the Uptown Hilton, in the company of “hundreds of angry business owners and Uptown area residents.” [Save Uptown; previously on Swamplot]

04/27/15 2:45pm

THE MCCONAUGHEY IS STRONG IN THIS ONE A mere 6 months after Jim Carrey, Metro is out with its own riff on last year’s series of commercials for the Lincoln MKC emceed by a dusk-cruising Matthew McConaughey. But there’s no Texas Longhorn blocking the road for Metro’s version (above), meant to uh . . . re-introduce the transit agency’s newly reimagined bus service, scheduled to kick off in 4 months. Mixed into the atmospherics is a bus driver’s subtle diss of folks’ reliance on some of the old, less popular routes axed in the bus-map redo: “Where’re you really going on the road less traveled? Probably nowhere really great.” [Metro] Video: Metro

03/26/15 11:00am

LATE MAY OPENINGS FOR SOUTHEAST AND EAST END RAIL LINES Metro Central Station, Main St., Downtown HoustonAn official opening date has finally been set for Houston’s 2 new light-rail lines — and it’ll be later than the expected early-April debut. The East End and Southeast Lines will both open May 23rd, the Metro board announced this morning. [Houston Metro on Twitter; previously on Swamplot] Photo of new Central Station downtown: Metro

02/11/15 2:15pm

After a year and a half of redrawing, presenting, and tweaking, Metro’s “reimagined” transit plan was approved by the transportation agency’s board today. The interactive map above shows the whole system in all its reconfigured glory, including the new rail lines currently scheduled to begin running in April. Bus routes will switch over to the above route system in August.


All Approved for August
11/03/14 1:30pm

TXDOT LIKELY TO CUT FUNDING FOR WEST LOOP BUS LANES, SHIP MONEY SOUTH Proposed Dedicated Bus Lanes on Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, HoustonIn a move that could spell doom for the Post Oak Bus Rapid Transit project, TxDOT’s planning director said Thursday that his agency is now recommending it ax a $25 million commitment to expanding connecting bus service along the West Loop. The plan called for elevated bus lanes  running along 610 from Post Oak Blvd. to the Northwest Transit Center near the Katy Fwy. and 610. The agency now claims that the $25 million would be better spent on an improved Texas 288–Beltway 8 interchange. [The Highwayman, previously on SwamplotRendering: Uptown Houston   

10/31/14 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: TURNING HOUSTON INSIDE OUT Trains to Office Buildings“It might be that the best outcome for Houston is for the Inner Loop to have an exurban quality of life. Send commuter rail out to the suburbs — not for the suburbanites to commute to downtown — but for the Inner Loopers to commute outbound in the mornings to densely clustered (out of necessity) suburban tall office towers surrounding the stations, and then back into town in the evenings. This is more viable than the traditional idea of New Urbanist suburbs with transit connecting them to a downtown core since politically none of Houston’s suburbs are on board with cultivating a small town ambience, but are ok with letting office builders do their thing. To be sure, suburbanites would still commute to downtown but it will be seen as an aberration. Downtown will still have things to do after dark, but other areas of the Inner Loop, connected by LRT/buses/cars/bikes/sidewalks, will do a much better job of providing the QOL aspiring exurbanites may crave. Suburbanites will, of course, still commute to a large extent to the office towers in their suburb. But they will do so by car, and won’t care about the urbanist quality of life (in other words, nothing will change for them).” [anon22, commenting on Here’s the Freshest Satellite Photo of Downtown Houston You’ll See All Day] Illustration: Lulu

09/25/14 12:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ODE TO THE SOUTHEAST LINE CLEARANCE TESTING REGIMEN Drawing of Light Rail Car, Houston“9:53 pm and I can hear the hollow, electronic train horn from my study window, the sad woot of the empty car. Despite the fact that I cannot ride the Metro train, it runs. Past me on my morning commute, it runs. Stopping traffic for 10 minutes on my way home. Always, it runs.” [crunch, commenting on Why Metro Trains Are Already Rolling Around UH] Illustration: Lulu

09/24/14 10:00am

WHY METRO TRAINS ARE ALREADY ROLLING AROUND UH Map Showing Testing Area for the Southeast Line, HoustonNo, the new light-rail lines won’t be ready to carry passengers anytime this year — if you’re looking for a ride, check again in 2015. But over the next couple of weeks, you may see a Southeast Line train or 2 skirting the western and southern borders of the University of Houston. Starting today, Metro will be shuttling vehicles along the path shown in red on the Purple Line map at left, from the corner of Elgin and Scott Streets through MacGregor Park to the vehicle storage facility just past the Palm Center Transit Center — for safety testing. Map: Metro

09/15/14 12:00pm

Designs for Overpass on Harrisburg Blvd., East End, Houston

Designs for Overpass on Harrisburg Blvd., East End, Houston

Metro has posted the latest designs for the enormous Hughes St. overpass along Harrisburg Blvd. on the far-east segment of the East End rail line. The $27-to-$42-million bridge is meant to carry cars and Green Line passengers over the Union Pacific East Belt freight rail line that runs north-south just west of Hughes St., between the soon-to-open East End line’s between the future Altic and Cesar Chavez stations. The posted design concepts, Metro notes, combine a “garden” wall and a wall noting a few 4-digit numbers important in the history of the neighborhood with a ribbon of white LED lighting above and blue accent lighting underneath and along the columns:


At the End of the Green Line
08/29/14 11:15am

METRO ADJUSTS ITS REIMAGINED BUS ROUTES Metro Reimagining Map WeslayanSo the reviews of the proposed “System Reimagining” of Metro bus routes are in and . . . generally positive, but a big bunch of letter-writers hated what the new layout might or might not do to public transit along Weslayan, Jones Rd. and Jersey Village, and the Louetta and Vintage Lakes area. So the newly revised map, which Metro unveiled at its board meeting yesterday, recommends some adjustments to proposed service changes in those areas. The new 48 line, for example, which formerly was planned to run straight down Weslayan to the South Loop, would now connect the Northwest Transit Center to Greenway Plaza, the Rice Village, and the Med Center; the new 10 route down Kirby Dr. would now extend further south to S. Main St. Don’t like these changes to the changes? A few alternative route adjustments were presented as well. If the new plans are approved at next month’s meeting, the new bus routes and schedules should go into effect next June. Here’s the whole revised reimagined network map in one big PDF. [Metro; previously on Swamplotall plan materials]