Comment of the Day: Elevating Houston’s Freeways To Global Mascot Status

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ELEVATING HOUSTON’S FREEWAYS TO GLOBAL MASCOT STATUS Inner Loop“If you want transit to be ‘Great for Tourism,’ then you’ve got to look at transit systems such as in NYC, London, and Tokyo that are not only exceptional but that serve as cultural iconography for the city. There has to be some showmanship. Houston’s METRO was never building a cultural icon, even if some people embraced it as such back in 2004 for lack of any sort of imagination otherwise. Ironically, I’ve given rides to the airport from international visitors from places as different as India and Australia, and they seem to really enjoy riding on the freeways, taking in the vast expanse of concrete and the tangle of overpasses and underpasses. Houston’s freeways are a spectacle! Houston’s freeways are cultural iconography!” [TheNiche, commenting on Feds: Unused Richmond Light-Rail Funding Offer Now Expired, Getting Thrown Out] Illustration: Lulu

14 Comment

  • Not to mention vast majority of tourists rent a car when they get here so they can go Anytime and Anywhere, the toy train is useless for such things.

  • Right, the kind of showmanship that says: “look at how many lives we’re willing to sacrifice by locking people into an extremely dangerous transportation system!” and “look at how much we don’t care about climate change – we’ll pollute all we want!” Sure, it’s awe-inspiring, but in the same way the Berlin Wall is awe-inspiring.

  • I think Tillman Fertitta should buy the Pierce Elevated and turn it into a Pierce ‘Kemah’ Boardwalk. Would be incredible for the city and for tourists.

    Could be a better Highline in NYC that would include restaurants and rides plus a jogging/ walking trail and you get to see the best skyline in the world from a different perspective.

  • @CB PRICELESS and actually not a bad idea!! ;-)

  • This is another reason to oppose the Pierce Elevated removal. Look at Lulu’s illustration above. Look at how Zen it is, with the circle inside of the circle. (not shown: two more circles). Imagine how much of that Zen will evaporate when the “Downtown Ring” is gone and all the region’s traffic is wedged in between Hamilton Street and the Cheek-Neal building. The chi will all flow outwards. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.

  • swamplot needs to cover more Houston transportation news. I agree our freeways are our NY subways and move far more people a day. however if Houston wasn’t exploding in population we wouldn’t even discuss rail cause freeways would accommodate. but now that 45N, 10W, 59S, and 290W are all at maximum eminent domain capacity or will be once construction is finished. these new Straddling Buses would be something to have on all of our highways and will actually take about 1000 cars for each bus off the road!

  • this is an interesting point, and certainly those I’ve seen who aren’t from here have the same reaction. Maybe TxDOT could offer tours underneath some of our older Global Mascots and explain what a structurally unsound bridge looks like. They could also explain how TxDOT won’t have the money to repair that bridge for another 40 years, and perhaps even provide statistics on how many other bridges across the nation are in the same boat. It’ll be a cultural attraction for sure.

  • Ooh GREAT idea: Model the light rail trains after Apollo rockets – huge blasts of fire and smoke emanating from the last section when pulling out of every station! Houston could really be famous for mass transportation

  • Yeah, and Williams tower is the Eiffel tower.

  • The reaction I have always heard from out of town visitors to our highways is usually a mix of “do people really deal with that traffic every day?” to relief after being shown around River Oaks, Rice and the Heigts that Houston isn’t as ugly as all the crud that lines our highways. Houston’s highways are nothing special. Every major international city has a comparable highway system. The main difference is that most other countries do a much better job maintaining public infrastructure and have much nicer roadways.

  • Elyse Lanier did her damned best to beautify the hwy approaches to Houston.
    But what can you do? The driver/cab-fare is ensconced in the vehicle to get from A to B, not to interact with any place along the way…

  • movocelot, that’s brilliant.

  • @ Old School: NYC has the longest commute times of any metropolitan area in the United States. Despite booming growth, there isn’t a single metropolitan area in Texas that cracks the Top 10.
    Say what you will, but a well-designed freeway system and a mostly-intact grid of major thoroughfares does seem to provide good mobility. You can contrast the situation in Houston or Dallas with Atlanta or Austin if you want to see how traffic becomes a problem in cities with fewer people and fractured or bottlenecked freeway/thoroughfare systems. The functionality is impressive and broad ribbons of flat pavement in wide ROWs offer a kind of future-proofing against all varieties of technological change.
    But more to the point — and whether you think they are functionally or symbolically “good” or “bad” — freeways in Houston are an undeniably authentic cultural artifact; they are shaped by and re-shape the geography. The same could be said about levees in Amsterdam or in New Orleans, Venetian subsidence and its gondolas, subways in NYC or London, or gigantic port complexes in Shanghai and Singapore. Whether good or bad, they lend Houston an identity. They make it memorable; and being memorable is the first step on the path to nostalgic appeal.

  • They’re a spectacle in a watching a wreck in slow motion kind of way (often literally, both the wreck and the slow motion part). People probably never knew a freeway could be so trashy until they set tire to 45 North.