04/07/17 11:15am

Proposed Hyperloop Routes

A couple of possibilities for Houston-terminal hyperloop tracks have made the latest cut in Hyperloop One’s global design your own economically feasible route contest. The company, one of a couple firms working to bring Elon Musk’s ultra-quick travel-by-tube-suction concept out of literal pipedream territory, will eventually pick a handful of winning teams to give a technological and financial boost. The Texas-centric network shown above would connect Houston, Austin, Laredo, San Antonio, and Dallas, apparently with special stops for DFW and the Ship Channel. (A direct Dallas-Houston leg wouldn’t be high priority, in case the bullet train actually happens, according to designer Stephen Duong). The other Texas-inclusive route that made the cut, going by the name Rocky Mountain Corridor, would connect the Bayou City to Cheyenne, WY, by way of Denver and Amarillo:

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Texas Pipedreams
03/29/17 4:30pm

BIG I-45 DOWNTOWN REROUTING, GRAND PARKWAY EXPANSION GET GO-AHEADS Proposed Changes to I-45, I-10, and I-69, HoustonYesterday was a big day for Houston freeway expansion and reconfiguration: On Tuesday, the Texas Transportation Commission gave the go-ahead for construction to begin in late 2020 on the first of 7 separate projects that will move I-45 from the west and south sides of Downtown to its east side, paralleling U.S. 59 behind the George R. Brown, reports Chron transportation writer Dug Begley. Separately, the commission also selected design and construction crews for the next segment of the Grand Parkway, from I-69 near New Caney to I-10 east of Baytown. How grand that section of the Grand Parkway actually ends up being may depend on your perspective: This segment of the Houston area’s fourth ring road is expected to cost $1.25 billion and open in 2022 — but the tollway will have only a single lane in each direction. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Diagram of I-45 rerouting: TxDOT  

03/28/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NO-BIKE-LANE BIKE PLAN Bike Rider in Traffic“There’s even a more simple plan: Make the right lane 12 ft. (or more) and the left lane 10 ft. Don’t stripe new bike lanes or overly alter existing regulations. Don’t plan. Don’t get approvals. Don’t p/o motorists with the silly bike lanes that bikers fear and never use. We just need a little extra space for cars to pass us by. And: Motorists will like having buses and other heavy vehicles in the larger right-lane, too . . . you don’t even need signage.” [Chris M(2)., commenting on Comment of the Day: Houston’s New Bike Plan Is Just a Plan] Illustration: Lulu

03/24/17 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON’S NEW BIKE PLAN IS JUST A PLAN Bike Lane“The plan is really just a recommendation of where to put lanes. The decision of actually putting in the bike lanes in a given spot will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, mainly as roads are rebuilt. Most of the money can come from TxDOT, TIGER, TIRZs, etc. It’s much easier to get that funding if you have a plan already in place. An example: Maybe your local CIP project involves tearing up a road and replacing it. Instead of repainting the road with the old 12-ft. wide lanes, maybe make them a reasonable 10-ft. wide and spray in a line for a bike lane. That’s a cheap addition to a project that doesn’t involve a lot of overhead that would normally come from a separate project to put in a new bike lane somewhere.” [Biker, commenting on Houston Bike Plan Up for a Vote Again This Morning Amid More California-ization Fears] Illustration: Lulu

03/22/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO TILT THE ZERO-SUM HOUSTON TRANSIT GAME parking-garage“‘The overlooked reason why cycling isn’t more popular is because driving and parking are far, far easier in Houston than in Amsterdam.’ You‘re right. So you know what would help increase the use of bikes? Allowing the market to determine the number of parking spaces. If [a business] gets it wrong and offers too few spots, they’ll suffer. But give them the choice. Right now business are required to supply tons of parking, making driving the dominant way people will always get from point A to point B. At least loosen up the regs in areas like Midtown and Montrose where we have a population that’s far more willing to walk, bike, skate, rail, etc. (or even Uber, which, while it puts cars on the road, lowers parking demand.)” [Cody, commenting on Houston Bike Plan Up for a Vote Again This Morning Amid More California-ization Fears] Photo: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

03/22/17 11:00am

HOUSTON BIKE PLAN UP FOR A VOTE AGAIN THIS MORNING AMID MORE CALIFORNIA-IZATION FEARS Existing High Comfort Bike Lanes, Houston Bike Plan ca. March 2017This morning’s city council meeting has the Houston Bike Plan back on the docket, following the most recent round of public-input-based tweaking to the plan (as well as a delay of the vote, which was initially scheduled for earlier this month). Over in the Chronicle Dug Begley recaps some of the arguments being made for and against the years-in-development guidance plan, which have a bit of a chicken-vs-egg flavor: do only 0.5% of Houstonians bike to work because safe-feeling bike paths are scarce outside of certain Inner Loop neighborhoods? Or are those areas where the active bikers are already clustered the only ones where bike path improvements are warranted? Councilman Greg Travis, one of the folks who pushed back the vote at the last council meeting, told Begley he does see a need for some kind of bike safety improvement plan, but adds that he’s “not sure this is the plan for Houston. We’re not Amsterdam or San Francisco, and we don’t know what’s needed here, really needed.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of existing ‘high-comfort’ bike paths: Houston Bike Plan Interactive Map

03/06/17 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOLDING OUT FOR THAT YOUNGER, SEXIER MASS TRANSIT OPTION WE HAVEN’T MET YET Freeways“Great. As I spend the next few years in grinding traffic, I can take comfort in knowing that no new mass commuting options will be initiated in our region, because we are waiting on futuristic autonomous cars to solve all of our problems. People will give up the comfort of their own private transportation for the luxury of riding in a glorified Uber (but without a driver to keep it clean or compensate for navigation errors). From an urban planning perspective, that’s like meeting a beautiful woman with a great personality but never asking her out because you are just certain that if you ever meet Kate Upton, she will find you infinitely attractive and satisfy you forever.” [Shmoo, commenting on Comment of the Day: Wait, So ‘Keep Adding Freeways’ Was the Long-Term Fix?Illustration: Lulu

03/02/17 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WAIT, SO ‘KEEP ADDING FREEWAYS’ WAS THE LONG-TERM FIX? loops“The Chronicle article made a fairly big deal out of the following H-GAC quote: ‘Future growth and the resulting travel is expected to surpass our ability to meet regional mobility needs by relying solely on increased roadway capacity.’ I question the significance of this excerpt. Is that not the case at the present time? Has that ever not been the case?” [TheNiche, commenting on Houston #1 in Sublease Office Space; Downtown Getting a WeWork] Illustration: Lulu

02/07/17 12:45pm

HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN PUTTING THE BRAKES ON ALL THOSE LAWSUITS Map of Proposed Route of Proposed Texas Central RailwayThe company planning to build a bullet train between Houston and Dallas appears to be altering the legal strategy it had been using to try to get landowners to allow crews on their land to survey property along the proposed 240-mile route. Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby says Texas Central Partners has withdrawn 17 lawsuits across the state (including one in Harris County that had a trial scheduled for July) and settled 21 others that had sought court-ordered access. Officials of the private company now say they will seek an “open dialogue” with property owners about letting crews in. The company tells Formby it has already reached land-purchase options with more than 3,000 landowners, accounting for 30 percent of the total number of parcels it needs, and 50 percent in the 2 counties along the route adjacent to Harris County: Grimes and Waller. The company announced last week that the train is now expected to begin operating in 2023. [Texas Tribune; Houston Business Journal; previously on SwamplotMap of proposed high-speed rail routes: Texas Central Railway

01/25/17 10:15am

HOUSTON-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN SHOWS UP ON TRUMP INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT LIST Proposed High Speed Rail Routes MapThe already-in-lawsuit-phase Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail project is number 13 on a list of 50 “Emergency & National Security Projects” floated around by the Trump transition folks, according to a report from McClatchy and the Kansas City Star (which posted the document online this week). The list looks closely related to one sent out by the team to the National Governor’s Association late last year, soliciting other ideas for projects that a hypothetical future investment program might target for funding; the bullet train project shows up only on the more detailed version of the list (which could be just another draft). Both versions of the list include the Cotton Belt Line commuter rail project, which would connect Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Plano. [McClatchyDC via Texas Tribune; previously on SwamplotMap of proposed high-speed rail routes: Texas Central

11/14/16 3:15pm

SPURNED BY NORWEGIAN, PRINCESS, BAYPORT CRUISE TERMINAL TURNS TO CHILLIN’ FRUIT, FIXING UP CARS Bayport Cruise TerminalBereft of tourist companionship after little more than a pair of brief affairs with Norwegian and Princess cruise lines (both of which ended abruptly in mid-2015), the $108-million Bayport Cruise Terminal is picking up and moving on next month, when the first shipment of automobiles for Auto Warehousing Inc. is scheduled to make landing. Andrea Rumbaugh writes that the company has a 3-year lease to use the former cruise facility to make after-market mods before sending cars on their way to dealerships; port commission chairwoman Janiece Longoria also tells Rumbaugh that port-owned areas near the terminal are being outfitted with more chilled storage space, possibly paving the way for the failed Ship Channel vacation destination to make a comeback as a fruit-and-veggie hub. [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Port of Houston

09/22/16 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DON’T ACT SO SURPRISED WHEN YOUR OUTER LOOPS GROW UP AND TAKE YOUR JOBS Trains to Office Buildings“I can understand the desire to keep jobs Downtown, as our freeway infrastructure was always designed for funneling traffic to Downtown but not through it (which has definitely backfired on us in recent times). Same for those toy trains we’ve just spent a fortune on for the past decade — the more jobs located downtown, the better the chance of seeing population gains and redevelopment in the surrounding areas as well. However, none of this is reason enough to double down on generation-old infrastructure . . . [and] really, Shell’s offices are nowhere near the ‘burbs of Katy. It’s in one of the largest office markets in the entire city that has been around for a long time now.” [joel, commenting on Shell’s Downtown Operations To Shed Offices, Scurry Over To Larger West Houston CampusesIllustration: Lulu

09/19/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW HOUSTON’S PARK(ING) PROPONENTS SHOULD TAKE IT TO THE STREETS Park(ing) Day 2016, 500 McKinney St., Downtown, Houston, 77002“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 HourPhoto of Park(ing) Day: Allyn West

09/16/16 4:30pm

UBER’S SELF-DRIVING CARS HIT STREETS WITH ACTUAL PASSENGERS, DRIVERS JUST IN CASE Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh: As of Wednesday, Uber is letting some of its customers opt into possible pickup by its fleet of heavily tricked-out self-driving Ford Fusions. The rollout is the company’s first testing of the autonomous cars with real passengers in the urban wild; so far, they still come equipped with a prepared-for-takeover human in the driver’s seat (as well as a data-monitoring shotgun rider). Paying passengers interact with the car from the back seat via electronic tablet, which shows them the LiDAR data the car collects and allows them to take selfies. TechCrunch’s Signe Brewster got to check out one of the cars as part of a press preview and reports that the car’s driving was “so normal it got a little bit boring” by the end; Brewster does note that he “had a flurry of butterflies the first time the car encountered an obstacle — an SUV backing into the road. You don’t notice how many unexpected incidents occur during a routine drive until you ask a robot to take the wheel.” [WTAE, TechCrunch; previously on Swamplot]

08/05/16 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE HIGH-SPEED RAIL BUBBA RESCUE SCENARIO Bullet Train Drawing“HSR going bankrupt isn’t the worst deal around. Consider: TCR takes a bunch of Japanese + hedge fund money, fails to pay off capital costs, goes into receivership, forfeits the right-of-way to the state for failure to pay back taxes, TxDOT leases right-of-way for 99 years to a consortium of investors led by Tilman Fertitta, after which all trains have cocktails and coconut shrimp served on board. I wouldn’t complain.” [Purple City, commenting on Land Purchases Beginning Along Proposed Houston-to-Dallas Bullet Train Route]