02/20/14 1:30pm

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

02/19/14 10:45am

Metro Bridge over Buffalo Bayou, West Downtown, Houston

A reader who’s been watching construction of the new bridge that’s gone up over Buffalo Bayou and fitted neatly under I-45 at the far western end of the new under-construction Southeast and East End light-rail lines wonders what its purpose is. The bridge is beyond the planned Theater District stations, the last shared rail stops for the 2 lines. Is it a bridge to nowhere, or the starting point for some later western expansion along Washington Ave?


Heading West from Downtown
02/06/14 12:30pm

Repair Work on East End and Southeast Rail Line on Capitol St. Near LaBranch, Downtown Houston

As noted in this morning’s Headlines post, yesterday Metro toted around some trains for “clearance testing” on the eastern stretches of the East End and Southeast rail lines scheduled to open later this year, in advance of electricity being brought down the lines. But downtown, repair continues on a 200-ft. stretch of track shared by the 2 lines on Capitol St. between LaBranch and Crawford — where the rails “probably shifted during concrete placement” and therefore didn’t set properly, a spokesperson for the transit agency tells Swamplot. The concrete has been torn up so the stretch can be rebuilt, level. The rework is being paid for at no cost to Metro by the contractor, Houston Rapid Transit, and will not cause any delay in opening the lines, the spokesperson says.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Get This Straight
12/27/13 12:45pm

Repairs on Metro Southeast Line at McKinney, Houston

Why were crews yanking out and replacing a brand-new 240-ft.-long stretch of rail and concrete on the not-even-opened-yet Southeast Line at McKinney St. (above), next to the Columbia Tap trail in East Downtown, earlier this month? Because back on May 30th, a 7.2kV CenterPoint Energy electrical line fell onto the tracks and their overhead line three-quarters of a mile to the south, at Scott St. and Coyle St.


In addition to the McKinney St. burnout, 20-ft. sections of rail and track slab got zapped near crossings at Nagle St. and Elgin. At the incident site, 80 ft. of concrete and anti-vibration insulation had to be scrapped and replaced.


Hot Rails
12/18/13 12:45pm

Installation of Red Line Signage, Preston Station, Main St. Line, Houston

For 10 years, you’ve known it as Houston’s only light-rail line, so what did it matter that we called the Main St. line? But in advance of 2 separate advance lines opening up next year, it’s got a color too: The Red Line. You can see workers installing signage with the “Red Line” designation in the photo above. When was that photo taken?


Metro’s New Colors
12/16/13 10:00am

SNøHETTA’S CENTRAL STATION CANOPY DESIGN IS OFFICIALLY DEAD Proposed Design by Snøhetta for Downtown Central Station, Main St. Between Capitol and Rusk, HoustonWhatever glimmer of hope supporters of a distinctive Central Station were holding out for Metro somehow following through on its design competition or for Snøhetta’s winning canopy design have officially been dashed, Dug Begley reports: “Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman Gilbert Garcia and interim CEO Tom Lambert confirmed [last] week that timing crippled any chance of resurrecting a winning design. Instead officials will build their basic canopy for the block-long stop between Capitol and Rusk streets on Main Street.” [The Highwayman; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Snøhetta

11/25/13 10:30am

Proposed Design by Snøhetta for Downtown Central Station, Main St. Between Capitol and Rusk, Houston

Craig Dykers of Norway-and-NYC architecture firm Snøhetta tells Chronicle reporter Dug Begley his firm has been working for more than a year on its own and with local contractors to lower the construction costs on his firm’s competition-winning design for Metro’s Central Station canopy — in between its work, that is, on a little reconstruction project for New York called Times Square. Snohetta’s design for a canopy made of thin layers of concrete was meant to highlight rainfall, making falling water “a feature of the design.”


Train on Main
11/22/13 10:30am

Snohetta Design for Central Station Canopy, Main St. at Capitol, Downtown Houston

Wondering whatever happened to the competition entries from architects competing for the new Main St. light rail station planned for the block between Capitol and Rusk streets downtown, where the new East End and Southeast Lines cross the existing rail line? After a long silence about the project, Metro board members voted yesterday to scrap the plan for a signature station at that location, and to spend $1.05 million to build a standard canopy there instead.

The winner of the invitation-only competition — which included SHoP Architects, LTL Architects, and Neil Denari from New York as well as Houston’s Interloop—Architecture — was New York and Oslo firm Snøhetta. But who’d have known it?


No Snøhetta for Main St.
11/05/13 3:45pm

There’s been a Metro train siting at the new Quitman station of the North Line extension, just south of the train’s turnoff from North Main, reader Joel Balderas reports. Unlike earlier appearances, the train appears to be operating under its own power. Here’s the photo evidence:


10/17/13 10:05am

That no-tracks land along Harrisburg Blvd. between 66th and Cowling on the East End Line is supposed to look something like the underpass that these new renderings depict. Right now, though, Harrisburg isn’t passing under anything — but lying in wait instead between the nearly completed eastern and western sections of the line that stop here dead in their tracks. Though Mayor Parker announced more than 2 years ago that the East End Line would get $20.6 million in diverted funds to build the Hughes Underpass below the Union Pacific East Belt freight rail line, construction hasn’t started. Why? Well, it appears that Metro hasn’t selected a company yet.


10/08/13 10:15am

Here are the renderings of the apartments that Mill Creek wants to build right across the street from the gameday roar and glare and incessant rhythmic drumming that goes on at BBVA Compass Stadium. Dubbed EaDo Station, the 5-story, 315-unit complex will sit at the corner of Dowling and Texas. Mill Creek tells the Houston Chronicle that the goal is to have these apartments ready to go to coincide with the running of the light rail, still under construction itself, next August.


10/01/13 12:00pm

GOT ANY BIG IDEAS FOR METRO’S FUTURE? You know you’ve thought about Metro. And it just so happens that Metro has been thinking about you: Officials plan to spend the next year and a half imagineering a revamped transit system, almost as though from scratch, and they’ve set up a 15- to 20-minute survey to solicit feedback from folks who actually ride the things. Metro’s Christof Spieler explains to KUHF: “You can’t bring in an expert and get the right answer because there’s no one right answer to [the] question. So the first stage of this, which is what we’re getting public input on right now, is actually what should our goals be. What kind of system are we trying to operate? What is the purpose of that system?” If you wanna chip in and take the survey, click here. [KUHF; Transit System Reimagining; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West

10/01/13 10:00am

Here are a couple of new renderings from Gensler and more of the details for that pedestrian- and transit-friendly development proposed to go up beside the light rail in Midtown: The Houston Chronicle reports that RHS Interests is planning for the west side of the 3500 and 3600 blocks of Main St. a 363-unit apartment building dubbed the Lofts of Mid Main, a 773-space parking garage, and 30,000 sq. ft. of retail.

And that huge garage would be shared by the cool cats coming to and from the MATCH, the Ensemble Theater, and those other restaurants, bars, and shops there around the Ensemble/HCC station between Alabama and Holman.


09/24/13 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WITH OR WITHOUT LIGHT RAIL “I would dispute that the light rail has had any substantive quantitative impact on Houston’s development patterns, except to shuffle around the placement of some developments within a distance of several blocks. (That is to say, for instance, that downtown was destined to pick up a few big highrises over the last decade, but perhaps they were closer to Main rather than Allen Center.) A lot of people forget that the re-gentrification of the Heights took place over a span of decades — without light rail. The gentrification of 3rd Ward, the East End, and the Near Northside has been ongoing for a shorter period of time, and these neighborhoods simply aren’t as well-located as Rice Military — which also transformed without light rail. I would suggest that these neighborhoods are all destined for gentrification, that it will happen slowly because we’re talking about a huge geographic area — and that it would’ve happened with or without light rail, just as with other neighborhoods. I might be swayed if it were the case that some meaningful number of people move to Houston because it has light rail, but aside from some extremely narrow subset of people, that strikes me as bullshit. It’s not an effective economic development tool, and certainly not without zoning (which I also oppose).” [TheNiche, commenting on A First Look at the Strip Center-and-Apartments Combo That Could Go Up Between UH and TSU] Illustration: Lulu

09/23/13 11:05am

Here’s a plan that looks to plug in to Metro’s still-under-construction Southeast Line and redo about 8 blocks along Scott St. in the Third Ward between UH and TSU. Though the plan, drawn up by LAI Design Group and dubbed “University Place Redevelopment,” is provisional, it appears to have in mind something like what the rendering above shows: A reshaped streetscape on Scott St. that would combine apartments, restaurants, shops, offices, and community buildings.

The first phase appears to call for a strip center facing Scott between Holman and Reeves, with 289 1- and 2-bedroom apartments and a parking garage in the rear: