Comment of the Day: How About a Rail Line Along the Bayou?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ABOUT A RAIL LINE ALONG THE BAYOU? Rail Line Along Memorial Dr., Buffalo Bayou“I always thought a line down Memorial Drive along Buffalo Bayou would be awesome. It seems like it would be pretty easy to adapt the stretch of Memorial from downtown to Shepherd in to a rail friendly street — there are pedestrian crosswalks already, abundant lanes, and no stop-light intersections to contend with. They could take a lane or 2 from Memorial Drive, make a new right of way down the park, or even make an elevated line (which all of them should have been). The stops could tie in with cross streets or some the existing pedestrian bridges. This could be a real ‘showcase’ line for the city being right next to what seems to becoming Houston’s prime inner city park location. The line could continue all the way into Memorial Park and maybe even somehow get to the Galleria. And of course Swamplot is the best forum for me to lobby my vision.” [actualarch, commenting on What’s the Point of Metro’s New Buffalo Bayou Bridge Under I-45?] Illustration: Lulu

62 Comment

  • And stop people from flying down Memorial at 60 mph in a vain attempt to avoid highway traffic? Crazy talk

  • I’ve always thought the same thing. I like the idea of elevated rail and the potential of in some part hiding it behind trees through Memorial Park and into Uptown. If the rail went through downtown to the convention center it could be a great connector for hotels and bringing in larger conventions to the city. I think it would be smart to have a fairly limited amount of stops to make the trip to downtown as fast as possible. Potential stops: Galleria, Uptown Park, Memorial Park, Shepherd, Studemont/Montrose, Main, and Minute Maid Park/Convention Center. Maybe you add a stop at Heights or Sawyer but not if it will make the trip a lot slower between Houston’s two main business and entertainment centers.

  • I also agree just also include maybe one extra stop at Houston Ave for access to the courts…cause the parking there is horrible and it warrants more broad usage than just Uptown Downtown Flyer! And maybe a branch splitting at Memorial Park going to the NWTC for better bus connections! I would pay tax money for it cause the economic return would be so much greater!

  • Wishful thinking when you have ignorant, teapublican politians at the helm. Attempt to elect more progressive minded leaders first, then revisit this idea and the many more that are holding our city back.

  • With the eventual connection to Hobby INTERNATIONAL Airport by the Green or Purple Line you would have:

    HOU-UH-TSU-BBVA-MM/GRB/Toyota-DT-Theater District-Buffalo Bayou-Memorial Park-Uptown & Galleria all on a beautiful, elegant Line. Just about all Major Hotels in the City within Easy access.

    A few well connected residents near Memorial Park would, however, figure out a way to block the most common sense line that can be laid in this city I fear.

  • How about rail line…umm…I don’t know maybe where it would actually make sense? Out to the suburbs perhaps? Oh yeah that’s right, this is METRO and Houston we are talking about, we only put rail on our already crowded city streets causing more gridlock. I can’t wait to try and drive through downtown when the East End Line opens up. Yippee!

  • I have thought about this as well. Though, I would be more in favor of a subway under the park than an el over it.

  • Though I think this line would be very scenic, I wonder how accessible it’d be between downtown and Shepherd. Unless you’re already in one of the parks, it might be kind of a walk from the homes around it to a stop (which itself would be scenic and not all bad). Also, it seems Washington would be better for business growth, and thus residential.

    That said, if Green and Purple lines did extend north to Heights and west down Washington, it could be feasible for there to be a stop within the park. Perhaps off Sawyer or around Sabine bridge?

  • Jardinero1, subways will not work in Houston with our gumbo soil, high water table and propensity for flooding. That’s also why most houses here don’t have basements.

    MC, we’ve had opportunities to build suburban commuter rail (Commissioner Radack’s efforts to put one along 290 come to mind), but our state and federal politicians keep pouring more concrete. Besides, with any rail system, you have to build from the inside out; not the other way around.

  • That’s gold! Now to figure out how to get to The Galleria. Elevated down Loop 610 to Westheimer to Westpark and back to Main???

    And use Hardy to get rail to the Airport.

  • So spend billions to run a train through low-density residential and no-density parkland areas, both of which would have extremely limited access to said train, just because it’d be “pretty”? That would be progress?

  • Why run another toy train from a place to a place that has no need for people to travel between, through a route that will cross almost no place with people that would ride it. I’m glad we have politicians that continue to block 99% or idiotic ideas Metro tries to peddle.

  • “Ed: Wishful thinking when you have ignorant, teapublican…”
    Hey now, I find myself to be pretty conservative/republican/’tea party’ in the libertarian sense/etc. and I understand the need for spending on public infrastructure projects. I think most conservative small government types understand that one of the few functions that government SHOULD do is public infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.)
    Try not to be so judgmental — ignorant even — when describing a huge swath of people.

  • More silly toy train talk!

  • I don’t get a lot of you sometimes….If not light rail then what????? The light rail encourages density and the people that live near it can stay off your precious freeways so that you can continue to have manageable commutes back and forth to the suburbs. Should we put a cap on the number of people that are allowed to live and work in a given area? At some point so many people are going to live inside the loop and outside the loop that traffic is going to become a nightmare at all times of the day to get anywhere. At that point when the commute to Katy or the Woodlands is a 2 hour trip each way…and getting from one side of town to the other takes an hour maybe some of the negative people on here will change their minds. I hope that a lot of you naysayers are old and will be out of this place soon so that a younger generation can take over and change this city into something great!

  • When I suggested that the University Line could bypass Greenway Plaza and connect to HBU, the answer was an immediate and loud “NO, NEVER… Because if it doesn’t pass directly in front of Greenway Plaza, on Richmond, nobody’s going to ride it.” If METRO’s leadership is consistent in their reasoning, they should shy away from rail on Memorial for the same reason – because once it gets out of downtown, it won’t pass directly in front of any major commercial or residential developments the scale of Greenway Plaza.
    Don’t get me wrong, I want both lines built. I’m just not sure METRO would put light rail on Memorial if they are being so inflexible about shifting a small part of the University Line from Richmond to Westpark.

  • So to everyone that considers METRORail toy trains what do you consider, I swear the internet is filled with so many negative people. METRORail is not for you exuberantly rich that want rail to Airports and Katy which i agree is needed, but yet you WHINE and dont want to put your tax dollars into anything! METRO is right to focus on the core and increasing density, focusing on people like me that dont have cars, and then building out to the “Crime Infested Burbs” (Not All But Stop Calling The Intercity The “Hood” cause all the violent crimes happen far out! How much do you guys really think a 1 cent sales tax can do. Yall have cars rail is an option for yall, its a need for me!

  • The point of mass transit is to move the masses, which can’t be found along Memorial Drive.

    The one street that makes the absolute most sense for a rail line is Westheimer – from Bagby to Highway 6, but it’s never even been seriously considered. The now decades long debate about Richmond vs Westpark has always been asinine, because a rail line from the city center headed West should be, and should always have been planned for Westheimer, preferably under it. Westheimer reads like a core through the growth rings of Houston. Through Montrose and Upper Kirby, through Highland Village and the Oaks, through the Galleria and Uptown, through Briargrove to Westchase, a rail line in Houston makes more sense through here than anywhere else. The currently planned and/or under construction developments along its length further highlight the never-ending prominence of the Westheimer corridor.

    The constant repeating of the “fact” that a subway can’t be built here is laughable. The engineering and construction of a subway tunnel is not comparable to building a basement in a house. Not even a little bit. Perhaps many have never heard of the Chunnel? If tunnels carrying freight and/or passenger trains can be built under the English channel, under San Francisco Bay, and under the Thames, Seine, and Hudson Rivers, then a subway can be built in Houston’s “gumbo” soil. This isn’t rocket science, it’s been done around the world for a 100 yrs; besides if rocket science is required, we’ve got that covered in Space City. Right?

    Would it be disruptive? Sure, but no more than the 4 yrs of misery that the rebuilding of I-10 took or that 290 is about to take. Expensive? For sure, but less than the billions being spent building a “grand parkway” through farmland benefiting far fewer taxpayers, commuters, and tourists.

    Why haven’t we done it? Why do we keep refusing to build the best options? Westheimer? To both airports?

    We spout off about wanting to be world-class, about the $billions made in the energy business, about everything being bigger in Texas, blah blah, blah…but when comes time to put up or shut up, we go silent and slink away to whine and bitch on blogs like this one.

    We’re too cheap, too averse to short-term pain, and too willing to allow a few loud-mouthed naysayers control the debate and outcomes. Man Up Houston, ( Woman Up, if that’s what it’s going to take).

    I’m a born and raised, life-long Houstonian who doesn’t mind saying that we have just become lame, soft, satisfied with mediocrity – and we’ll probably wind up with a rail line, along Memorial Drive.

  • You’re obviously new to Houston and have no clue about Westside politics and are unfamiliar with Rep Culbertson–this idea has less than zero chance of happening–you’ll see colonization of Uranaus first –I mean, seriously clueless

  • Saying things like “toy train” is very immature and counter-productive, but I guess that makes sense since the anti-rail people who do say such things seldom, if ever, come up with sustainable and forward-thinking alternatives.

  • Cody says “I think most conservative small government types understand that one of the few functions that government SHOULD do is public infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.)”

    I’d like to give you, and said conservative small government types the benefit of the doubt on this, but actions speak louder than words, and over the last decade, our state’s road and transportation infrastructure has fallen further and further behind due to lack of funding. There is no political will to raise the gas tax to fund TXDot. So they defer even basic maintenance. Almost all major freeway construction in Texas is now done as tolled highways, due to lack of political will to commit funds for roads, and to increase the taxes to pay for them. I’ve lived in Texas long enough to remember when we had roadways to be proud of. Sadly, those days are over.

  • The commute patterns are changing, Houston’s employment centers are being spread out (Spring, Energy Corridor, etc.) so the Downtown commute is becoming obsolete. The light rail does not solve any traffic issues, it simply moves bus riders to a fancier seat, it does not take car riders off the roads since it never goes to where car riders live.

    For people who don’t have cars, you certainly made some poor choices while living in Houston, plus the need is already taken care of by the buses.

  • I say build the damned trains but keep them off or elevated over the freakin streets. Why create even more mess that the rail will not solve? Oakland has a very attractive elevated rail under construction going to its airport and it goes through the median/esplanade.

    A decicated passenger train track paralleling the tracks along the Washington corridor would make the most sense which is something already in the exploratory phase . Saw a presentation at a Super Neighborhood 22 meeting and it was, perhaps, the only sensible thing I have ever seen produced by the powers that be,

  • Has no one ever heard of Superneighborhood 22? back when they were coming up with plans to trench the Hempstead rail line through the Washington/Heights area, they also came up with proposals to run light rail down Memorial Dr. (tunneled through Memorial Park), and streetcars down Washington Ave. People act like the idea of rail down Memorial is something new.

  • @commonsense since you have so much commonsense Im a 20 year old full time student trying to pay for school and so thats why I dont have a car not because I made poor choices. I just cant afford it at the moment unless you have time to get from behind your screen and buy me one! I am pro rail because it is simply better and more convenient than buses! And completely agree with John. Cause i study Civil Engineering and am trying to obtain my degree in it! Obviously Houston is content with sitting in hours of traffic cause like i continously stress, everyone wants rail to Katy, Airports and Spring but you expect a FUNKY ASS 1cent SALES TAX to pay for heavy commuter rail! Granted the need for it is warranted but everytime we say tax dollars in Houston or anywhere for that matter everyone goes crazy! Realize this no matter how much oyu BITCH about your TAX DOLLARS not going to use for you, you are never going to have the majority of your tax dollars affect your life. They help kids go to school, they help build infrastructure, they help finance business you dont even patron! SO STOP WHINING HOUSTON. THIS IS TEXAS GROW A PAIR! UP THE METRO SALES TAX lets get Rail down westheimer to Katy, Rail To Cypress, BUSH & HOBBY, SUGARLAND, GALVESTON! Cause apparently will be getting to Dallas first cause some company isn’t scared to pay a few billion all on there own but we cant split that on ourselves here amongst the millions who live here! But while you guys bitch on this blog i will be going to school on your tax funded but cant use it SOUTHEAST LINE! Thanks!

  • Trains, buses.. Bike trails to a point, all are options, but really expensive IF they are not used.

    Two points:
    1. Incentive to take a train over driving a car. Cost? Speed? You can’t find parking at your destination? You can do something else (wish the woman on 610 Galleria traffic doing her nails and driving this am thought of Metro)…
    The consumer has to CHOOSE to ride. This is not Fields of Dreams Metro.. Build it and they will ride it.
    Speed on light rail offers little incentive. However, if you use the power easements, which are opening to bike trails, then you take the rail out of traffic for long runs and they only have to stop for stations. If at rush hour, you can offer a commuter 30 -45 min back of their lives each day..Cost is less of an incentive, but worthy of a marketing campaign…as is the leave the driving to us campaign.

    2. If you do find the incentives, you can use the rail to develop outside areas and manage future traffic to connect new devlopments to the city core. I want to live in XYZ development because it has rail and I can reliable save X minutes on my commute.

    MetroRail offers a great service and enjoys great ridership…during the rodeo. No easy parking..easy get away.

  • Um, while I am not a civil engineer…can everyone please return to your seats, buckle in, and be nice. This tends to be a great place to have intelligent and informed discussions without rants.

  • Any casual walk or ride along the Bayou would show you the poor soil conditions unsuitable for heavy trains. So you’d end up investing 5 years of pounding dirt and pouring cement and end up not with something picturesque but instead with huge earthen carve-outs, overhead wiring, switchgear, and easily-flooded lines all to provide A/C and fertile grounds for the homeless & gangsters. This pipe dream won’t fund itself and only when apartment dwellers vastly outnumber homeowners will it get traction, unlike the wheels on the toy train set.

  • No. In the bayou. High-speed boats. Get rid of the trains altogether. And auto-driving cars will eliminate trains soon enough anyway. At which point the high-speed boats can become low-speed tourist transport.

  • @Adoile, congratulations on your Engineering degree, perhaps you will actually make a living unlike many with Art History degrees on here. I am in my 30s and when I wen to college EVERYONE had cars, beaters cost the same today as they did back then. When I see people in their 20’s I see the most entitled and non-self reliant crowd I’ve ever heard of, perhaps a result of “Everyone’s a winner, and participation trophy” mentality. The society does not owe you anything, it certainly does not owe you a “more convenient” form of transportation. The Katy and Airport rails are just as much pipe dreams as any other and will never happen, and as far as 1% tax, no thank you, METRO is one of the most mismanaged organizations out there, plus it’s 1% today, 2% tomorrow, 3% the day after, you can’t give them an inch or they will take a yard. When you get older and have money to care about, you will quickly change your tune or grandiose feel good community projects with no real benefit but with REAL cost.

  • @Adoile @Commonsense
    Commonsense, that’s what I was thinking.
    Adoile, why not try to get a cheap used car? Or ride the bus? Or ride your bike? Or carpool with another student and pay for their gas money? Lots of solutions which you can do … TODAY. Rail on Memorial, on the other hand, will be ready by the time your kids are getting their engineering degree, if ever.

  • >>More silly toy train talk!<<

    Hey TexMex01, why not enlighten us with your future transportation options for the next 20 years when Houston will have 6-7 million people.

  • Someone hire this guy. Vote for Elle!

  • “And of course Swamplot is the best forum for me to lobby my vision.”

    I even tried to put a trolling disclaimer on my post….

  • Has everyone forgotten the 7 miles of tunnels downtown? Have you seen the burrowing/tunneling brutes that are available today? But can you tunnel anywhere in Houston without hitting a oil/gas pipeline? Does the state own any right of way through the villages on Buffalo Bayou? What a treat to ride from HW6 to downtown through all that shade and views.

  • @roadchick
    A subway WILL work in Houston, albeit at a significantly higher cost. I’m a civil engineer who builds tunnels, nationwide. They’re not even significantly more expensive in Houston than elsewhere. Tunnels in LA, NY, Chicago, Montreal, London etc all have to deal with bedrock – which is very expensive to tunnel through. Instead, Houston uses open-cut excavation and massive soil amendments + ground water pumping to tunnel. For example – the depressed portions of US-59 from Sheperd to Montrose (or the depressed portion of Beltway 8 from Boheme to I-10) are essentially a tunnel with no roof because they’re lower than the bayou and the ground water table; it took expensive soil amendments and pumps to build that, the same as a subway. Our commuter rail tunnel projects in LA are bidding for between $18M-$20M per mile of track, while the at-grade portions are only about $4M per mile. We consistently find that tunnels cost about 4x-5x as much as at-grade track. Meanwhile, elevated track costs roughly $25M a mile (6x at-grade costs).

    The difference between Houston and elsewhere is the lack of funding. Houston (well, all of Texas really) consistently spends less $ per person on transportation than elsewhere because we’ve got no income taxes and our gas tax is lower. It’s not that hard to build a tunnel here – it’s hard to find FUNDING to build a tunnel here. Tunnel’s aren’t “rocket surgery”.

  • great idea, that way in addition to the crumbling and dangerous parts of memorial drive we can add a rail line we’ll never be able to afford to maintain as well.

    just think all talk of mass transit projects should be put on hold until we raise gax taxes and actually ensure our current infrsastructure doesn’t become more dangerous. i’d have to say for that reason a gas tax raise is more urgent at the time being than a sales tax raise to pay for more mass transit projects.

  • For a toy train, you would think the novelty would have worn off already… wonder why the train is jam packed from 7-7 ?

  • For those advising the purchase of a beater car: it is not only the initial cost of the car that people must take into consideration. The cost of insurance, let’s say $75/month, dont drive unless you are insured. Gas, for the most part older models aren’t known for great gas mileage, so maybe $100/month. Routine maintenance: oil changes, registration, inspection — $200/year. Repairs, yes you can buy a quality used car, but going into the purchase of maybe a 7 – 10 yr old car i would expect to need maybe a grand in reserve for the transmition or something else catostrophic.
    These are major expenses for say students or people earning at or close to minimum wage. I think it is in the best interest of city for its workforce to be able to connect rapidly and at much lower cost to jobs and educational opportunities. A good interconnected mass transit (bus, rail, bike, road) provides this. Yes tax dollars are spent to build and provide the service, but how many potential dollars are lost by limiting a noteable portion of the city due to the inability to connect.
    Tourism. i work at Bush and have had a few conversations with international travelers who find thmselves with long layovers at IAH and are astonished when I inform them there is no metro to the city. When I direct them to cabs ($60d I think) or the bus, they have all said never mind.
    Attracting talent, industries looking to move need to attract their workforce to move with them and to attract new talent. The ability for that workforce to move around quickly is also taken into consideration probably. Varied modes of transportation is probably an attractive thing to an established or new company.
    The city could improve the bus situation by providing more information at bus stops. When is the bus supposed to show up? What is the line? Where is it going? A bench (maybe) and a blank steel pole is not an enticing start.

  • The largest subsidized mode of transportation is the automobile. Car owners feel they have the right to drive their cars and trucks to every inch of the city and the government must a find way to make driving convenient and smooth. Uh no it doesn’t. You want better roads? Raise the gas tax and pay for them or build tollways everywhere. Who said that the ideal or preferred method of transport should be the automobile? To own a car is a privilege not a right so stop being cheap and hiding behind a “no big government” ideology and pay for your “preferred pleasure”. Metro was organized to be a TRANSIT AUTHORITY not a public works dept., last time i checked PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENTS are responsible for road maintenance. Metro should only be giving money to road projects to fund bike lanes, sidewalks, bus shelters and rail; that was the reason for the 1% sales tax. Somehow concrete suppliers, road construction companies and well “subsidized” public officials have manage to circumvent the Metro Charter in order to further pave Houston into a transportation nightmare while at the same time flooding the city because roads, parking lots, driveways etc prevent the ground from absorbing rain water. If roads contribute to drainage problems, why isn’t the drainage fee applied to automobiles? Sure the automobile is independence but free isn’t free nor is it cheap. I am tired of my money going to help “some” speed, drive drunk, race, drip oil all over town, pollute the air, kill cyclists , hit and run innocent pedestrians, rob banks and stores, kidnap kids, distribute drugs, traffic human slaves, drive insurance rates sky high, play loud music, horns, and just make their lives easier. See how ridiculous your “pro car” arguments sound? Its simple, 90% of the population in the region lives within 2 miles of a freeway; so rail “trunk” lines in the HOT lanes that spur off to close that 2 mile gap. Bus service down major streets, bike lanes and sidewalks to connect to residential areas. I think perhaps if Metro was headed by people who actually use public transit and not those who “drive-in” we would not have to listen to morons who believe the answer is more cars and roads, of course to make THEIR commutes better. peace

  • @SipleSid: Who is your rant directed against exactly? You’ve set up a nice straw-man, but no one here’s saying Metro should build freeways instead of rail…

  • Get rid of parking *requirements*. It’s hard to support other modes of transportation when they have such a built in disadvantage via government laws.
    Why MUST (via government force) we build buildings with supporting cars in mind? We wanted to build a cool new apartment complex that would have a lot of green space, gardens, etc. but it’s impossible to do so when the city REQUIRES you to have 1.x spots per unit. So the designed ended up being dull and dumb so we gave up.
    Well what if we’d like to build something that targets people with no cars that would rather have a spot to grow food than a spot to park a ton of metal? We’d be smart and build it near walkable transportation and services. And if we build something like that, and the market laughs at us and we get no renters, then that’s on us — we’ll suck it up and pave our green space. But let us at least try to offer housing w/o so much damn ugly parking and see if there are any takers.

  • @Cody: Is there any way to *prevent* your residents from owning a car? Maybe a clause in the lease that says “thou shalt not own a car”? If you only allocate 4 parking spaces for 40 units, and turns out 50% of your units end up owning a car, those 16 extra cars are just going to be a nuisance the neighbors. I’m all for providing no parking, but how do you make sure that only 4 of your 40 residents have cars?

  • Getting rid of parking requirements makes sense to me. Parking would be centralized in garages as the “highest and best use” and people would have to walk a little more to get to their places, perhaps making ground floor retail more viable in a 100% organic way.

  • It’s true, stable basements and tunnels can be built and in fact already exist in Houston. It’s also true, they don’t cost especially more than tunnels elsewhere. It’s true that tunnels leak, but that is what pumps are for. (New York City’s subway systems would completely fill with water in only a few days if it weren’t for sump pumps.) There is nothing from an engineering perspective about tunnels that prevents us from using tunnels.

    It is true that tunnels flood. On a right-of-way that cuts through land owned by the Harris County Flood Control Authority, flooded tunnels add to stormwater detention capacity. This is a feature, not a bug!

    However, if we are going to dig up and bury infrastructure, might I suggest that we do it to Memorial Drive instead of light rail? If a road tunnel floods (by design, in order to keep water off of other roads and out of buildings), then trip demand can easily divert to parallel routes. There will be some congestion, but it will not shut down an entire section of the city to drivers. If a tunnel used for rail-based transit floods then it is tremendously disruptive to the people that use transit; the more successful anybody thinks that the tunnel would be, the more users, the more disruptive a flooded light rail tunnel.

    Light rail should be built in locations that are not frequently susceptible to disruption. And as aesthetically appealing as a park route seems like it might be to transit users, the lowest-ridership stop along the Red Line serves Herman Park. I would strongly suggest putting light rail at a higher elevation and in a location where there are more businesses and developable land than there is in a park. That’s Washington Avenue.

    If actualarch is going to pitch their pet project to Swamplot, then so am I:

    Bury Memorial Drive. Remove it as an obstruction to pedestrians and cyclists. Create stormwater detention capacity. Modernize it and increase the speed limits. Place tolls on it. Put underground grade separations (similar to Wayside & Lawndale) all the way past Loop 610. Toll each one of them. Develop a toll road along the Union Pacific tracks from Interstate 10 down to Braeswood, and then tie into the planned US 290 toll road, the Katy Freeway Toll Road, the Westpark Toll Road, and the Fort Bend Toll Road. Relocate the freight railroad into the tunnel in order to remove at-grade crossings.

    There are few viable rights-of-way for new limited access freeways serving that southwest-to-northwest arc of Houston, but this is one of them. Plus, it’s flood control, creates new park space, enhances existing park space, and removes freight rail crossings at San Felipe, Westheimer, Richmond and points south.

  • @Ornlu
    Yes, it should be obvious that it’s possible to build a tunnel in Houston’s soils, but it’s not to many people. It’s like an urban legend almost and many uncritically accept it.
    I’m not sure I like your example though. A depressed section of freeway with no ground above it is very different from a tunnel which must be counted on to support buildings or traffic above it. Personally, I see absolutely no point in constructing a subway in Houston if roads can’t be supported on top; you basically have to reserve that ROW at the surface but spend all the extra money making it at a lower level.
    It was a missed opportunity to build the LBJ express lanes as tunnels. Though Dallas’s soil can be different from Houston’s, it would’ve given TxDOT some expertise in building tunnels, increased Texans’ familiarity and comfort with freeway tunnels and maybe then I-45 would still have a tunnel option on the table?
    Can TBMs be used in heavy clay soil? What are the latest developments in this area (if you know any)?

  • Great ideas, TheNiche, but there is massive funding shortfall and tunnels are to TxDOT as magnets are to Insane Clown Posse.
    Also, would those road tunnels on Memorial be 50 ft radius for cars and 15 feet for rail?

  • My favorite non sequitur comment is “get rid of the rules [parking regulations] so I can make money.” Great idea! What else can the people that are just trying to live here do to further enrich those looking to profit?

  • I love this idea. I’d also like to run a rail line from downtown along White Oak bayou, elevated to run parallel to I10 on the east bound side, with stops at Houston Avenue, Taylor, Heights, Wescott, the loop and then out to Katy.

  • Good thread–valid points on both sides–I support rail, but realize that most Westsiders do not and Culbertson is very powerful, so yeah, none of this Westside dreaming will happen in at least a generation–too bad, but let’s all be realists

  • Errr, a big NOOOOO to burying Memorial–it’s the prettiest drive in the city!!!!!–and Union Pacific won’t give up their tracks–are you nuts?

  • This is some info worth reading for all that are interested in mass transit through this corridor. Now whether anything will ever come of it………

    Go to the projects tab, then transportation and scroll to page 10 or so to see the detailed proposal for rail/mass transit in the Memorial Drive /Washington Ave corridor. To me, this seems very logical and integrated to a comprehensive issue.

  • Mel “My favorite non sequitur comment is “get rid of the rules [parking regulations] so I can make money.” Great idea! What else can the people that are just trying to live here do to further enrich those looking to profit?”

    Not sure if that was directed at me, but it wasn’t a non sequitur. Here are two options we looked at when we were gong to build in 3rd ward (Note, the ‘no parking’ one being more risky and likely less profitable, but close enough where I wanted to do it anyway since I hate how much land we give to parking):

    Put an 6-8 unit ‘test’ building on our lot, with ~8 parking spots in front of it. However, when I was presented with the sketch, I hated it. It was a blob of building + parking lot. I said there are a lot of students there, or people who car share, bike, use light rail, walk, etc. so I said ‘what if we had 6-8 units but rather than ugly parking, we put in a garden “spot” for each tenant. I realize some tenants value a parking spot. We wouldn’t get those tenants. But I figured we’d get those tenants that would rather have their own “yard” and green space. Even if those types are the minority, there should be enough of them to fill a few buildings — maybe to start a conversation?
    We have buildings in Montrose and midtown that have less than 1 spot per tenant and those lots are not 100% full. Meaning there are people that can get by w/o a car. Look at 219 W. Alabama. 32 units. 20’ish or so spots. Guess that was done before the government decided to tell people how many spots they must have.
    But forget all that. Here is why it wasn’t a non sequitor: When we talk about pushing or promoting light rail, or walkabout neighborhoods, or whatever — how can that be done at the same time we INSIST every building is built with a car in mind BY LAW. We don’t require people make their properties ‘walkable’ or provide a link to public transportation… But be damned if you build something that doesn’t allocate some magical 1.x spots or unit (or else we won’t LET you build). If someone wants to build w/o parking, let them. People will STILL build with parking as for most places, there is a market demand for it. However, maybe a few places will be built with less parking. Then you have more support for walkable neighborhoods because the car doesn’t have the force of government law encouraging its use.

  • @Cody: you can do detention off-site, why not parking? I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to build a parking garage, or a surface parking lot somewhere, and use that to satisfy the parking requirements for several nearby apartment complexes. Especially in the denser, funkier neighborhoods where you work, Cody.
    I actually think that Houston has about the right amount of parking, and the right parking requirements overall. The problem is that we have shortages in some places, and it has created a feudalistic approach to parking in those areas. If there’s not a lot of parking, businesses tend to claim parking spaces as their own, and they can be downright draconian when it comes to towing people. The result is really a lot worse than people would like to believe. It kills the urbanity of the area, since people can’t come for an afternoon, park their car, and go from store to store (or bar to bar). It damages the environment, because now people drive across the street to avoid being towed. And of course it hurts business, because visits are more stressful than they should be.
    You won’t hear about these problems, because common wisdom these days is that we should limit parking and force people to take the bus. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

  • @ZAW that is a good idea. Houston can even start a market for parking credits! They can even be used to incentivize developments instead of giving up tax revenue (or whatever is traditionally done).

  • I’m not in a position to build a parking structure, and giving up another lot of ours just to pave into parking doesn’t sound appealing.
    IN regards to your final comment, I’m not trying to discurage parking. I’m ont trying to encurage it either. People can make up their own minds (or should be able to) how important parking is to what they’re trying to build. If I’m going to build a big shopping center or a grocery store in the burbs, I’m going to have a lot of parking. Because if I don’t, I’m not going to get the tenants to lease the space as their customers won’t come. And likewise if I’m building a home for myself, I might decide I want a lot of parking (maybe I have an RV, or a boat), or very little (I live in Montrose and almost ever drive. I’ve thought about giving up my car all together and just using my skateboard to zip around).
    I think there is a market for small basic multifamily that is geared and marketed towards people who don’t have cars running their lifestyle. And again, maybe there will be no customers for that product, but we should be allowed to try. It’s my lot — let me build something with green space vs. parking to see if that works out.

  • @eiioi: While Yes, tunnel boring machines can be used in heavy clay, it’s a bad idea. 6 or 8 feet of soil amendments are necessary (~6+% Lime or 8% Lime + Fly Ash) to increase the bearing capacity enough to support rail. You’d have to increase your diameter of bore by like 16 feet, making it not cost competitive for rail. Our utility guys use them all the time though – we’re about to punch a 72 inch diameter line under the bayou, which will use TBM. That’s the cheapest way because the pipe is so stiff you don’t need to amend the soil.
    The reason the LBJ expressways were tunneled had more to do with the way the contract was structured (competitive tender design + DesignBuild) than the benefits of any particular design. Basically, TxDOT just said “give us the cheapest road that has X lanes” and a dozen people competed to find the cheapest design. As a taxpayer, I kind of like that approach…
    @ZAW: I LOVE the idea of putting rail on top and road underneath – it would be beneficial as both flood storage and it might actually be cost competitive. Given that any depressed/tunneled road or rail is going to be open trenched, what’s a few extra feet (50 vrs 30) of width? Still got to pay for both vertical walls of the same height, so the cost increase is small (just excavation). It would be a significantly more usable and beneficial system, with only maybe 30% or 40% bump in cost.

  • @ eiioi: Please read more carefully. I REJECTED the idea that fixed-guideway mass transit should be below-grade on land that is already a floodway (and a park, which is death for ridership). I am also not suggesting TXDoT involvement, I am suggesting toll roads. So, HCTRA. If doubled-up as high-occupancy toll road, then there is a possibility of partnership alongside HCTRA from METRO, which is eligible to receive money from federal sources and probably would not be so unpopular with the local powers-that-be.

    @ Shannon: I am not suggesting that Union Pacific should have to give up its tracks there. Instead, build a wider tunnel. I am not insensitive to Memorial Drive being scenic; it certainly is. Braeswood between 288 and the TMC was also scenic and I was none too happy about the reconfiguration a number of years ago. However, after the fact when I went there on foot and used the new park space, I thought that it was well worth the reconfiguration and was quite happy to have been wrong. To that end, I see burying Memorial Drive as an opportunity to reclaim green space for a higher and better use.

  • Cody is right.
    You can’t have walkability without density, and you can’t have density if half the land area of any development is given over to (usually free, usually surface) parking. And since parking minimums are tied to individual businesses, we use the space very inefficiently. Why can’t the bar and the bank share the same set of parking spaces?
    How about this: abolish parking minimums within 610. Smart meters (which adjust parking prices in accordance with demand) on major thoroughfares. Residents on local streets can decide either to have free parking (which most streets have now), resident-only parking (like many streets in Montrose already have) or metered parking, with revenues passed on to the property owners (compensating them in proportion to the inconvenience).
    If we price parking correctly, it will be used more efficiently. By removing subsidized competition in the form of forced free parking, we will create incentives to build vertical parking. And if the price of parking in certain destinations increases sufficiently, people will have more reason to use the public transport that exists, and lobby for more to be built.

  • Since this thread has turned into a discussion of parking minimums, I’ll throw in my 2 cents worth on that:
    I agree with Cody and others that maybe we should relax the parking requirements on businesses and apartments, especially in the inner loop areas. But there is a major drawback that I can see to this.
    Houston, virtually alone among the top 15 metropolitan areas in the US never really invested in upgrading the street infrastructure by insuring that urban streets have things like curbs and sidewalks, or are wide enough that 2 cars can pass each other while a row of cars are parked along 1 side of the street. Therefore, if businesses failed to provide at least some parking for their patrons, the ensuing large numbers of street side parked vehicles would cause congestion on neighborhood streets.
    It’s incredible to me that a city like Houston, with one of the best and most vibrant local economies in the country can have street infrastructure on par with bankrupt Detroit.