COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW HOUSTON’S PARK(ING) PROPONENTS SHOULD TAKE IT TO THE STREETS “While I understand, generally, the sentiment behind this initiative, I think in Houston it may be a little misguided. If we want a more walkable environment, with fewer buildings set back behind parking lots, we actually need more on-street parking spaces (to both accommodate business patrons arriving by car and help buffer pedestrians on the sidewalk), and fewer off-street ones.” [LocalPlanner, commenting on The SUV-Sized Parks Parked By City Hall Will Expire in About An Hour] Photo of Park(ing) Day: Allyn West
For a few early hours this Sunday, the Southwest Freeway will be the only conduit into or out of the box of land framed by Kirby Dr., Montrose Blvd., Bissonnet St. and W. Gray St. (give or take a traffic peninsula leading up to Allen Pkwy., which will also be closed for much of the morning).
The Houston Marathon will launch from 4 corrals leading to Congress Ave. at San Jacinto St., and loop through the city along the route outlined in black above. The Half Marathon route (outlined in yellow) will pant alongside until just before mile 8, when it will skive off north back toward the shared finish line at Discovery Green.
A larger version of the map is show in 2 parts below, complete with start and end times (in red and green respectively) of each mile marker’s street closure:
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE’S OUR MEMORIAL PARK BYPASS? “This ramp will now allow more traffic to use Shepherd as an alternate to the freeway system. Thus creating longer delays for those who use surface roads to travel. What is sorely required is a road that would flyover Memorial Park adding a much needed way to travel from the inner loop north. Currently, the only options are the West Loop and Kirby/Shepherd. Both of which are overly congested at most times of the day. It doesn’t help that Shepherd is down to two lanes from four in stretch from Westheimer to Dallas while the city installs much needed storm drainage.” [jgbiggs, commenting on Your Upgrade from Shepherd Dr. to the North Fwy. Will Be Much Smoother Starting Today] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: NAVIGATING HOUSTON’S HEAVILY CONGESTED FUTURE “I’m for better transit (I won’t be mode-specific here), but it should never be sold as making the streets less congested for you to drive around on. While it may take some cars off the streets, Houston’s congestion is likely to be massive enough that you’d never notice. Do NYC and LA have uncongested streets? Obviously not, even though both cities have much much better transit than Houston — meaning they have better alternatives to being in congestion and having to find parking. Congestion and difficult parking are our future (I wager even with self-driving cars, if they’re all personally owned) — everyone needs to be at peace with that.” [Local Planner, commenting on Killing Any Chance of Later Rail Conversion on the New Post Oak Bus Lanes; The Bedbugs of Beverly Hill] Illustration: Lulu
The closest thing Houston has to a Bermuda Triangle — also known as various patches of curing roadway concrete known to appear in and around the intersection of Kirby Dr. and the Southwest Fwy. — claimed its third (known) victim over the weekend. It wasn’t a Lexus this time, or a Jaguar, but a bright red Mustang that found itself solidly rooted in the recently poured stew on the westbound feeder road between Greenbriar and Kirby Dr. early Saturday morning.
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Feeder Road at a Standstill
COMMENT OF THE DAY: IT’S DRIVE-THRUS, NOT APARTMENTS, THAT ARE THE REAL TRAFFIC-CAUSING MENACE “Feared traffic density related to construction of highrise apt/condo buildings is severely overestimated. Traffic flow in and out of the garages is spread out throughout the course of the day, so the increased number of cars will be mostly unnoticed at any point in time on any given day. There are more traffic concerns associated with a drive thru at Starbucks when the line backs up onto the street, thereby interfering with cars which are trying to get around the line. People do crazy things with their cars when trying to get in line for their coffee.” [Escout, commenting on Construction Work Has Begun on the Ashby Highrise] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THERE’S SO LITTLE TRAFFIC DOWNTOWN “Downtown traffic is some of the easiest traffic of any US city downtown I have ever been to, and actually some of the best traffic in all of Houston. Why? As near as I can tell, it’s because: (1) street parking is virtually not allowed or limited to one side of the street, which prevents people from aimlessly circling around looking for that one free spot; and (2) one-way streets. People complain about one-way streets as confusing but when there is a good grid like downtown or midtown, they work perfectly. I can’t ever recall sitting through more than one cycle of a light in midtown. There are other areas of Houston where this can easily be done. And ban street parking completely on major roads after 4pm. It’s just valets making money off blocking traffic after a certain hour.” [John Chouinard, commenting on Comment of the Day: A Few Remedies for Those Traffic Problems You’ve Been Having] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A FEW REMEDIES FOR THOSE TRAFFIC PROBLEMS YOU’VE BEEN HAVING “Number one. Eliminate dead ends inside the loop. Every neighborhood in Houston has blocked off 99% of its streets. There are times when I need to wait multiple cycles at a light because it’s the only ingress into the development. Houston is a CITY.
Number two. Learn how to merge. There is construction at Mid Lane at San Felipe eastbound, and traffic is backed up to 610 because everyone is terrified of being in the barren empty right lane, which in turn is because they know people will be hostile to allowing them to merge. This is the single most stupid driving behavior I can think of. You need to queue AT the point of the merge, and alternate left and right lanes, quickly, cleanly, efficiently and politely. A whole mile of road empty? Come on people.
Number three. Get out of the way of people behind you who want to be in the left-turn lane. Many of those turnlanes have sensors, and will not give a left arrow if no cars are at the line — AT THE LINE — when the other side’s light turns red. Or yellow! There are multiple examples of lights where you don’t get an arrow unless you beat the other side’s yellow. So every time I see a driver with two empty car lengths in front of them, and a driver with their left-turn signal behind them, I just wonder. (The reason I stressed ‘at the line’ above is that I was once behind someone who was a car’s length away from the line. I asked myself, should I honk or shouldn’t I? I wasn’t sure about this light, so I bit my lip. You can guess the rest).
Number four. Make all streets one-way. Every single one. Even Westheimer. In residential neighborhoods you can only get one car through anyway, because everyone is parked on both sides. Just get it over with already. The left and right turns will also be that much easier.” [J.V., commenting on Comment of the Day: We Have Met the Traffic, and It Is Us] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE HAVE MET THE TRAFFIC, AND IT IS US “. . . Next time you are stuck in traffic, remember that you ARE traffic. You don’t really have much of a right to complain about the traffic you are sitting in, because, well, you are part of the problem. And when did people think they could live in the urban core of the fourth largest city in the United States and not have to deal with traffic? Saying that a new development will result in ‘increased traffic’ really is the most ridiculous rationale that one could provide against such a development. I dislike traffic as much as anyone else, but I also like density and density means more traffic. Maybe if some of our representative politicians didn’t fight tooth-and-nail against alternative forms of non-automotive transportation we could all enjoy the benefits of increased density without increased traffic.” [thedudeabides, commenting on Grocers Supply Sale Will Supply 15 Acres for Apartments, Shops Across from Studemont Kroger] Illustration: Lulu
In February, the Art Guys went for distance, walking the marathon that is W. Little York Rd.; tomorrow, they’ll be going for danger. The 9th of their “12 Events” requires Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth to maintain pedestrian safety techniques and situational awareness as they cross the street, all day, at Westheimer and Hillcroft/Voss, what they’re claiming is the “busiest intersection in Houston.”
Here’s the deal: They’ll start their day off walking clockwise, and, presumably to avoid the monotony, switch things up and go counterclockwise the rest of the afternoon. It’s unclear whether they’ll be taking advantage of the various muscle supplements and joint remedies at the nearby Vitamin Shoppe in the Westhill Village Shopping Center there on the southwest corner.
Photo of Art Guys on W. Little York Rd.: Everett Taasevigen
COMMENT OF THE DAY SECOND RUNNER-UP: NO ZONING MEANS WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE TRAFFIC SURPRISES “If there was only a way to plan for traffic and infrastructure by knowing the density that a site will have in the future . . . Oh yeah, its called Zoning. Then you know the worst case development scenario. And if you ever want to build bigger than you have to upgrade the infrastructure first. Nah, why do that, we can just let people build as big as they want and try and fix the problems later. Unless you are for zoning and rules than you can’t complain about traffic. They are the same. [DD, commenting on A Second Midrise Alexan Planned Right Beside the First One on Yale]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE LIES HOUSTON DRIVERS TELL THEMSELVES “I’m convinced that everyone in Houston lies to themselves (and others) regarding their commute. Ask someone who works downtown and lives in Sugarland or the Woodlands what their commute is. ‘30 to 45 minutes, it’s not that bad’ will be their response. What a lie! It takes 10-20 minutes just to get from a downtown garage to a freeway most days. Perhaps they are only spending 30-45 minutes on the freeway (on a good day), but they are forgetting the 15 it took on get on the freeway and the 15-20 it takes to get from the freeway to their driveway. But its not just people from the burbs that lie about their commute. Talk to someone who lives in Montrose or the Heights and they’ll brag that their commute to downtown is only 10 minutes. Total crap! There are intersections that take longer than that to get through. People who live in Midtown might have a 10 minute commute, but that’s on a good day. So here’s the formula I use when calculating someone’s average commute. If they live inside the loop, double whatever commute time they give you. If they live outside the loop, multiply by 2.5. Try it out when talking to coworkers some time, you’ll find that its fairly accurate.” [Walt, commenting on Comment of the Day: How To Drum Up Support for Better Public Transportation in Houston, and Faster] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO DRUM UP SUPPORT FOR BETTER PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN HOUSTON, FASTER “Here’s what I say: make drivers suffer. Yeah, I’m going there. Make it worse to drive. Make the traffic back up. Don’t expand any highways for another 20 years. Don’t do it. Force public transit on this town.
Go ahead, blast me, let me have it. I don’t care. I just spent four fabulous days in Chicago, and I’m so sick to death of all the excuses for why public transit won’t work in this town. We want so badly to be seen as a world-class city, but we’re never going to get there this way. Public transportation can and will work but it’s not going to work if we keep pandering to the drivers who caterwaul constantly about the liberty driving allows us while sitting in the parking lot that is the NW Freeway at rush hour. Oh, but they’re going to get their transportation dollars to drop millions on an expansion of the aforementioned parking lot which will need expansion again in 10 years. What a bunch of garbage.
It’s the old chicken-or-the-egg question. Will it be demand that drives public transit or will it be the reverse? Right now, nobody is giving me much in the way of choices, but I suppose they will say because I drive to work every day, I must naturally love it. If I didn’t, I’d go ahead and pad an hour to my commute by taking the bus. They call this a ‘choice.’
It’s a false choice. Suck it up. Building the kind of public transit that is common elsewhere is never cheap, it’s never convenient, it always comes with a price, but so does catering to drivers. I say, to hell with drivers.
I understand there is some contradiction underlying this argument. The best public transit system would require hard choices in this town. A lot of nice, historic real estate would probably have to come down to make way for more stations and more tracks. And that kind of system emphasizes the kind of urban density we say we want but often oppose in specific cases. I’m guilty of that contradiction myself sometimes, I’ll admit it.
But Houston needs to grow up. Force it on us, go ahead. Make life miserable for the suburban commuters we pander to every time this subject comes up. It’s time. The pennypinchers and the naysayers can shove it.” [Anse, commenting on Federal Money Rolls In for Uptown’s Post Oak BRT] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: STUCK AT THE WEST BELT CROSSING IN THE EAST END “As long as some of those trains take at that awful crossing at Cullen, some people have probably died of old age waiting for the crossing arms to come up (though if you know the neighborhood, all you have to do is get to Milby from behind the old Fingers and you can cross under at Polk. You’re welcome.) That said, while it’s nice that everyone is suddenly so aware of the inconvenience and potential danger of these trains, it isn’t as though this were a new thing. That one Union Pacific line parallel to Harrisburg is just as unpredictable and twice as loud as the one in the article; it runs immediately adjacent to homes for miles. I know; I’ve lived by both. It did this for decades before I got here and no one has done anything about it that I know of, but I suppose that’s the price paid when the neighborhood’s skin isn’t quite as light and its homes aren’t quite as expensive. I understand, though; when the town-home dwelling white folks aren’t happy, nobody’s happy.” [Chris, commenting on Headlines: Waiting for Trains in the East End; Waiting for Dunkin’ Donuts in Montrose]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE COMING AUTO-AUTO UTOPIA WILL SAVE THE GALLERIA FOR WOODLANDSERS “. . . I think you have a good point. Except that ‘travel is good for the soul’ bit. It is, but commuting isn’t travel, and I defy you to find more than a dozen people who think commuting from the Woodlands to the Galleria is good for their souls. (I work with a couple, their descriptions are more along the lines of ‘the soul-crushing hell of my day.’)
But this actually becomes a driver for density. If you have really fast trains and you pair that with dense destinations, commuting by the maglev from Columbus to Houston becomes practical — you have to be able to get somewhere when you hop off that train.
And technology changes will figure into this, which is why ‘freeways vs transit’ is a busted argument. Take a look at the self-driving car technology that’s developing really fast. When that hits usability, and you turn the roads into smart networks, you have a situation where they can handle a lot more capacity (because networked smart cars can use it far more efficiently than distracted primates). You also have the possibility of breaking the one-car-per-person paradigm, when you can order up a self-driving car to show up at work and take you home — cars no longer need to sit unused 95% of the time, and can be parked farther from destinations (‘Car — leave the parking structure to be at my door at 5PM, please’) which also makes density more practical — you don’t have to account for all those cars and junk up the streets with parking.” [John (another one), commenting on Comment of the Day: First We Crowd]