ONE WAY TO GET RID OF THAT PESKY TRAFFIC: TAKE AWAY THE STREETS Signs are up around the Memorial City Apartments at 872 Bettina Ln., immediately south of the Memorial City Mall and adjacent to Frostwood, announcing a request that the city abandon portions of Bettina Ct., Strey Ln., and Kimberley Ln. (where the above photo was taken). The request was submitted by the limited partnership that owns the apartments. Its purpose, according to the city’s public works department, is “to reduce the amount of cut-through traffic in the neighborhood.” If granted, the complex would grant the city utility easements over the existing right-of-way. There’s more to it, according to the public works department: “Right-of-way will also be conveyed back to the City for a cul-de-sac to be constructed at the new terminus of Kimberley Lane, which will provide a connection to the driveway in to Bunker Hill Elementary. The cul-de-sac will also contain a 911 emergency gate to allow emergency vehicles to access the apartment complex from Kimberley Lane. Access to Bettina Court and Strey Lane will remain open from Barryknoll Lane, but any traffic turning on to these streets after the abandonment will only be able to access the apartment complex. Signs notifying the public of the subject request were posted April 3, 2015 and will remain up for 30 days.” So is everyone on board with this? So far, only 9 calls have been made to the city in response to the signs, with just one objecting to the deal. Photo: Swamplot inbox
Occasional downtown parker Monica Savino notes the recent traffic signal now operating outside the north exit of the Hobby Center parking garage facing Rusk St. just west of Bagby (pictured above and at left), and wonders how other midblock parking garages with difficult exits might be able to get in on this kind of automated car-stopping action: “I’m sure it’ll be very helpful for that mass exodus after an event but was wondering about a couple things. How does a parking garage get its own traffic signal? Also, who funds this infrastructure? Is this a private initiative or a CoH move? I imagine that there are several other downtown parking garages that would like a signal of their own especially if the City’s providing them.”
Photos: M. Kusey
Update, 8/26: The headline has been corrected.
If you’re wondering what the late-night traffic holdup is in and around Main St. and Texas Ave. over the weekend, here’s your explainer: 180 mixing trucks are going to be lining up to pour a continuous stream of concrete onto this site surrounded by Main, Texas, Fannin, and Capitol streets downtown, where D.E. Harvey builders is putting together a little office building — now slated to rise 48 stories — for the Hines CalPERS Green development fund. The action starts at 7 pm on Saturday and should finish up around 3 in the afternoon the next day.
In all, about 14,000 cubic yards of concrete will go into the mat foundation of the 609 Main St. building during those 17 hours. The Texas Tower, formerly known as the Sterling Building, was dismantled on a portion of the site earlier this year.
Photo: Hines. Rendering: Pickard Chilton
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
A LONGTIME HOUSTONIAN’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE RECENT ONSLAUGHT OF NEW DEVELOPMENTS AND RESIDENTS She throws in a few traffic tips for good measure (“never take Kirby to south side of 59 unless you have to, especially on a Friday, opt for Alabama vs. Richmond when driving towards town, and my new favorite: never go to the Galleria unless someone pays you”) but native-born Houstonian Sarah Lipscomb’s advice for herself and others who feel “like the city is closing in on me” includes a restatement of purpose: “to ensure that Houston, its people old and new, be reminded that there is still a culture here that hasn’t changed.” Which leads her to a quick but still traffic-filled driving tour of 5 longstanding Houston institutions that have somehow escaped demolition (so far), for reassurance. Her picks: Nielsen’s Delicatessen on Richmond (“same sandwiches, same service, same spread” for 60 years); Southland Hardware (pictured above) at 1822 Westheimer; Bellaire Broiler Burger on Bellaire Blvd.; the River Oaks Theater on West Gray (“same seats, same smell, same popcorn; don’t eat it though”); and M and M Vacuum on Kirby. [Slips Photo Blog; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Sarah Lipscomb
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
This photo of a Jaguar F-Type V8 S stuck in a patch of freshly-poured concrete started making the rounds of internet auto-fan sites last Friday afternoon. The earliest online reference appears to be this tweet from SpeedSportLife before noon — but the Houston car publication was apparently just passing on a photo it had no more information about. In several forum appearances readers immediately speculated that the scene had likely taken place in Houston, and on the Houston Reddit board a poster tersely declared that the site was the intersection of Weslayan and 59. But a couple of other commenters help peg the incident location a couple of overpasses to the east:
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Stuck in Traffic
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: ADMIRAL LINEN AND THE WAY OF KATYVILLE “. . . Yes, it’s initially going to be utilized as an employee parking lot, but [it’s] hard to believe that long term Admiral Linen will stay. The trend . . . for any company with strong dependence on warehouse/distribution needs in the area has recently been to sell to developers and move out of the area. The increasing traffic on Center/Studemont/Washington makes the area increasingly difficult for trucks to move in an out of the area. Also the steady increase in land values will at least lead to any business owner with a brain and with a large parcel of land in the area to look at the possibilities of moving . . . as was the case with San Jacinto Stone (new LA Fitness, Guitar Center, Sprouts), Trinity Industries (Walmart) , Grocers Supply (400+apts, retail, movie theater), Studemont Kroger, Detering Lumber (on sale now). Living in the area, I’ve noticed my commute time to downtown increase by a factor of 2 (from 5 minutes to 10 minutes). Hard to believe that the traffic situation will get any better with Archstone Memorial Heights converting their complex to a high density property, 400+ new apts in the Grocers Supply site, and a new 24 floor office building being built behind the Bank of America on Washington. All of this development with absolutely zero changes in the surrounding infrastructure as of now will lead to some nightmarish traffic on S. Heights Blvd, Studemont, and Washington . . . the 3 main access roads for Admiral Linen . . .” [Debnil, commenting on Center St. Recycling Center Is Now Closed; Site Ready for Recycling] 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