Comment of the Day: Why You Have So Much More Free Time in Houston

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY YOU HAVE SO MUCH MORE FREE TIME IN HOUSTON “Every other city has the EXACT same commercial development at major interchanges, except instead of being linear (and easily accessible) it’s clumped together, so you have to wade through a sea of traffic lights to get anywhere. Every trip you take to a feeder-fronting business, whether it’s Best Buy or Kroger, would take several minutes longer if you had to wade through the morass of traffic lights that characterizes freeway-centric commercial developments in the Northwest, the Midwest, or the East Coast. That’s WEEKS of your life back, actual time you spend having sex or playing video games or eating too much queso.” [Keep Houston Houston, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Invention of Feeder Food]

13 Comment

  • As a recent transplant I get frustrating trying to get to a place on the feeder road but which is *directly on the other side of the highway.* Sometimes you need to drive a mile and through several lights to get to a place that is only a couple of hundred yards away!

  • Can you use a U turn?

    That inconvenience isn’t to unusual in other areas of the country.

    It’s not unusual to have a 4 lane (non-freeway) road the has limited cross over points which means U-turns are the order of the day to get where you want.

    KHH, has a good point about the linear development.

    Another point to add that I’ve seen other people make in some posts on here and on HAIF is that the linear commercial development provides a buffer for the residential areas from the freeway.

  • With a linear freeway side development you lose a significant amount of time by having to get in your car, merge back onto the feeder, drive to your next stop etc etc because all of the businesses are further apart. I also lose a lot of time by overshooting because it is not always clear which exit is the correct one for a given business especially when there are extended ramps. Now contrast that with a clustered development at one exit. Get off the freeway, ONE traffic light to get into the commercial area and then just hopping from parking lot to parking lot after that. Far more efficient use of my time.

  • I think that good arguments for or against both tpes of development kjb. For example you could argue that clustered development requires less overall area as both parking and delivery access can be shared between multiple businesses. In a linear development that kind of shared facility can only work for two or three adjacent businesses at a time before the separation becomes too great.

  • Understood, zippy. It’s the illusion of proximity that is frustrating. Imagine though, another place that has a different setup such as here:
    or here
    In either case, even if the business you want to get to is on your side of the freeway, you have to do all of these insane loops to get there. If the business is on the opposite side of the freeway from you, you’re still better off with the Texas setup.

    And in most cases in Houston and San Antonio, you can go up to the next street and just take a U-turn.

  • What about just going somewhere and then being able to walk? Seems to work in lots of other places.

  • Walk? TXDOT doesn’t care about people who walk. Walking is for sissies and socialists. At TXDOT they live, breathe and sleep highways. If you’re not driving a big truck from your front porch to your mailbox, you’re not a real American.


  • Having grown up in California, I find the U-turn lanes here incredibly cool. I’m unfortunately familiar with the feederless gridlocked freeway systems in Los Angeles, where one never knows where you might be able to turn around easily. What I don’t like about Houston freeways are the HOV mazes and overpasses (for surface streets) that require you to do a series of dizzying loops just to turn left. Sometimes when driving down the feeder it’s not obvious whether you should turn right before or after the overpass to go left. The UNDERpasses are far better designed and uniform.
    Uniformity is the key to traffic flow. All crossings basically the same.

  • Nobody has mentioned that feeder roads cost about a million a mile to build. Is that really money well spent?

  • Mies – Malls were made for walking!

  • From finness:
    “Nobody has mentioned that feeder roads cost about a million a mile to build. Is that really money well spent?”
    Is that all?

  • Neat examples, eiioi; thank you.

  • @Mies: Walking is AWESOME. That’s why I live close to Downtown, close to the Med Center, in close proximity to bus routes and bikeways. But it’s pretty ludicrous to think that autocentric, unwalkable suburban development is a Houston or even a Texas thing. No, that’s an *American* thing, because all of the ingredients that go into it – from federally-subsidized homeownership to minimum parking “standards” – are promulgated at a national level.

    @Jimbo: Those kind of shared parking lots typically only exist on a large scale where a single developer has developed the retail. It’s great from a traffic standpoint, but it sucks from a consumer standpoint, because all commercial leases have “most favored nation” clauses so that, for instance, there’s only one taco place or one nail salon or one BBQ joint in the entire center.

    To get agglomerations of similar types of businesses (and thus *competition*), you need individual fee simple lots, which means they’re probably not going to connect in any event. And if you take disconnected parking lots as a given, feeders are the swiftest and most efficient way to get from one to the other.