Positioning the Final High-Speed Rail Stop; Lighting Up the Astrodome


Photo of Waterwall Park: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool


24 Comment

  • Tear down the dome. I can’t believe that people that want the best for this city are so intent on keeping that dilapidated eyesore (I suspect they aren’t from Houston originally).

    Having high speed rail go to the NW Corridor (or whatever 290 and 610 is called) is a dumb idea. It should either go downtown or not at all. It’s private money, so if they want to waste it on the current proposal, then I guess I can’t really object. I would just rather see it go into the city as opposed to a huge parking lot in the suburbs.

  • So Council Member Green, who doesn’t represent the neighborhoods affected, thinks the City has money to do a study of a private enterprises’ plans when we don’t have enough money to continue glass recycling, fix streets, or maintain the parks?

  • Vexillography: the design of flags. City of Houston’s is bad and needs changing: lose the seal and all the lettering. It should be simple, and recognizable from >100 yards. The white star on blue field may be a good start, but one more element is needed, I think……

  • Dallas-Houston high speed rail is not happening, it’s vaporware. I’d go as far as saying its a scam perpetrated by a few individuals to bilk early investors outs of some money and claim project didn’t pan out down the line. The show “The Producers” comes to mind.

  • @htwnproud. Northwest Mall is hardly the suburbs. If Loop 610 is the nucleus of the City, this is right outside its border. Besides it much more convenient to The Galleria and Energy Corridor. This train may never happen but it would be a welcomed relief from the hugely inconvenient and ill planned airports. For those travelers who haven’t tried Vonlane Luxury Bus to Dallas, try it. It’s worth it.

  • Boondoggle high-speed rail from Dallas: Not going to happen and I’d even bet $10 that it doesn’t happen in 10 years. That being said, we should bill the study to whatever local TIRZ is out by Northwest Mall.
    And, ditto to htownproud’s comment to tear down the Dome. (I’ve been a Houstonian for almost 30 years now.)

  • While I’m certainly skeptical that the HSR is financially feasible / possible and therefore highly unlikely to happen, on the slim chance it does, people need to think about the Houston station more as a compact airport than as an urban rail terminal, in terms of the kind of travel it would serve. Thus a location at 290/610 (which is certainly not “in the suburbs” by the way) is pretty much just a good as a downtown location, as far as serving the traveling population and providing access to major business centers (of which downtown is but one of several in the urban core and inner suburban area). Compare it to Love Field in Dallas, which is convenient not just for downtown Dallas but for a large share of the population and businesses on the east side of the Metroplex due to its more central location vs. DFW. Or, to a lesser extent, Hobby Airport here, though I suspect many on the west and southwest sides of town find both HOU and IAH equally inconvenient to access, especially around rush hour.

  • Barf, Flood Queen Annise Parker is back on the public dole at rice university (they receive federal funds, y’all). Anyone else with her record of failure would be unemployed. Guess they weren’t impressed with her at Harvard – she prob wanted to pull a Hillary and go someplace East Coast but they wouldn’t take her. Get a real job, Annise!

    Downtown is a terrible spot for the light rail. No one lives here in comparison to the other proposed spot. It is a huge pain to get here and there isn’t anywhere to park in expensively since the city is intent on driving out uber.

  • Meant high speed rail not light rail. I was distracted by the apocalyptically bad decision by Rice to hire the flood queen Parker who had years of booming oil prices to fix our problems but failed spectacularly.

  • @MajorMarket The spring branch management district is going to be applying to create a TIRZ and it will indeed cover the northwest mall and karbach brewery area. They don’t exist yet to foot the bill but they are coming to take all the money in that area.

  • Save the dome. I’ve been here a long time, too. Not everyone agrees with you.

  • Worth remembering that downtown/CBD is NOT the center of Houston’s population or the nucleus of this city. Placing it at 290/610 saves an absolute fortune on land costs and is closer to the center point of population. As a private business I wouldn’t even consider trying to go inside the 610 loop, makes no business sense. Make the city do the work for you if they want to connect it to their boondoggle light rail.

  • Re: High Speed Rail
    HSR should be the last thing on Houston’s priority list. The rail studies should be:

    1. For a MetroRail NW Line: extending from downtown along the Washington Avenue corridor to Wescott; and up Wescott over I-10 to the NW Metro Transit Center.

    2. A MetroRail Green Line extension from the Magnolia Station to Hobby International Airport (HOU).

    3. Commuter Rail connecting Downtown Houston and Ft. Bend County/Sugar Land.

    4. Commuter Rail connecting The Woodlands/Kingwood to IAH, then Southward along the Hardy into Downtown Houston.

    5. Commuter Rail connecting Far NW Houston/290 along the 290 corridor to the Metro NW Transit Center, where a transfer could be made to MetroRail into Downtown Houston.

    6. Commuter Rail connecting League City/NASA/Bay Area along I-45 to Hobby International Airport (HOU); where a transfer could be made to MetroRail into Downtown Houston.

    7. A MetroRail NE Line extending from the Green Line Lockwood Station Northward along Lockwood thru historic 5th Ward, Kashmere Gardens, to 610N, then over across to Homestead Road Northward to 59N…to serve the poorer-lower working class communities out there.

    There, go study that COH. As a matter of fact, I’ve already studied it for you. Now just do it.

  • The train has left the station (pun intended). The new mode of transportation will be autonomous cars. Let’s forget about trying to play catch up and instead focus on what we can do to get ahead of the next innovation.

  • Rice grad here – Parker is an embarrassment. Why not get a job out of academia? Oh…..

  • places like 610 and 290 were the original suburbs (see Bellaire 50 years ago). their classification shouldn’t change simply because developers started building far flung exurbs half way to Austin. and even though 610 and 290 may be near the center of the city’s population today, the business center remains downtown, and only business men and women are going to pay the ridiculous ticket prices to ride this train.
    all of that said, and as others have noted, this train is never getting built so it really doesn’t matter.

  • The rail company has previously noted a particular interest in having real estate options near any rail station, so right away you’ve got to look at what would be a large enough parcel to accommodate their station and parking, and then have enough room left over for some kind of planned development — and you have to ask what kind of an increase in land value they can expect on the developable land. Also, remember that for the rail project they can use eminent domain to assemble land; the real estate deal will be arms-length, so complex land assemblage is risky and your hold-outs are perhaps expensive.
    So, NW Mall. Plenty of contiguous geometrically-friendly land, is certainly very inexpensive compared to anything further-in, is closer to the centroid of white collar employment and of wealth in the Houston metro. Great highway access. Large industrial tracts of land nearby represent expansion opportunities that can be negotiated. And obviously there are savings from capital costs. This is the obvious site.
    So downtown. You’ve got several good sites: 1) Post Office, 2) Hardy Yards, 3) Municipal Courts. The City of Houston owns the better part of the southwest quadrant of Washington & Houston Ave. The facilities are terrible and the City wants to change things up. The City’s ability to do a non-market-rate transaction and then offer tax abatement represents the City’s leverage…or the rail company’s leverage on the City depending on how you want to look at it. The site is extremely close to the Skyline District in downtown and is connected underneath the highway by some very nice parks. The Downtown Mgt. Dist. & TIRZ would already stand to benefit indirectly and may want to expand and provide incentives. Also, the Purple Line comes right up Capitol Street to the doorstep of that property. You could have one platform as high-speed rail and another for LRT, one right next to the other; also most transit infrastructure already converge on downtown, so placing it there enhances transit utilization rates throughout the system. That’s leverage which involves METRO and perhaps federal contributions. It is not a tremendously large site, though. Big drawback. For something bigger in the downtown area, Hardy Yards is the site. But what is the extent of economic rent that is possible? Probably not very much.
    I am going to suggest a third option. The Houston Heights, specifically the southwest quadrant of Yale Street and the Heights Hike & Bike Trail. Oh, oh, oh, now hear me out. You don’t listen very well when you get angry, I know from experience. So calm down, take a deep breath, listen. The beauty in this site is that it would create “traffic” the traffic would piss off Heights residents and cause them to move to The Woodlands where they will be much happier anyway because that’s what they seemed to have wanted in the first place, and also no longer constituents. In this scenario, everybody is a winner. Now. See. I told you. That wasn’t inflammatory at all. /trolling

  • To me the Northwest Mall is the ideal location for the HSR to end.

    The purpose of HSR is to cover large tracts of ground quickly. The distance between Houston and Dallas qualifies as HSR worthy.

    The distance between 610 and downtown… not so much. A lightrail link to downtown would work fine.

    I have heard from various sources that there are big plans for the Northwest mall. I imagine the owners/developers are monitoring the rail situation as it would completely alter the nature of the property.

    What I had heard was a massive new development was being planned complete with a very large tower and mixed use commercial/residential.

    The location is right between Spring Branch and Oak Forest / Garden Oaks and is located very close to the Galleria.

    But yes, as other commenters pointed out the city paying for a study of this does not make much sense.

    If the entire city was TIRZ’s would it essentially just be that many small cities?

  • From this weekends Chron –

    “One motorist collides with a Houston METRO LRT train once every 12 days on average.”

    Dont build anymore rail. Dumb Houston drives drive into it, often.

    Where in the world are they going to get the right of way any how? Take from private land owners for the greater good of the people, like Russia.

  • Houston (and Texas) needs to forget high speed rail. Why do we want to invest billions on 40+ year old technology? Wait a few years and HyperLoop the crap out of Texas. HyperLoop is better of everyone. HyperLoop is cheaper to build; is faster for riders; will have more throughput capacity; and last but no least…… HyperLoop is built over the ground. It’s elevated. You don’t have to build a solid, nearly impenetrable berm through every county between here and Dallas. HyperLoop wins.

  • Why end a rail line in Houston? Maybe ship it down to Corpus Christi or thereabouts. People from Dallas and Houston can build vacation homes there. They can relax, visit a non-polluted beach, sail around on a decent-sized bay, and (of course) go bird watching!

  • Re: High Speed Rail
    It appears the general consensus among concerned Houston citizens on Swamplot is the proposed HSR should terminate at the NW Mall/NW Metro Transit Center. The entire area bounded by I-10, 610, 290 and Mangum/Post Oak Rds. has been high-lighted by developers for future massive re-development into mid-and high-rise office/residential towers, and mixed-use retail, effectively creating a new business/skyline district. If this transformation of the NW Mall area also includes the terminus of 3 rail corridors…a new MetroRail NW Line, a Far NW Houston commuter rail line, and the HSR, it would create a Grand Central Station similar to Grand Central Station in New York, where subway rail, shuttle rail and commuter rail all meet/terminate. That would be HUGE, and really the best option economically and logistically, because 1) it could all be built much easier and faster on that great swath of land; and for far less money than to do it Downtown, and 2) it will require way less politics/bullshit than going into Downtown.

  • Let’s not forget that Yale gave She-Jack a degree. The bar was already set pretty low for Parker to lend her “expertise” to the students at Rice

  • The honest truth is that this HSR project is a massive real estate deal perpetrated by Mathews Southwest from Dallas. It’s a way to give elderly Japanese a pension, make some American quislings rich, and It’s a stealth way to grab land from people using a perverted perception of eminent domain. In addition to passenger rail, there will probably be cargo shipped as well, with warehousing facilities etc spread along the route. They are not telling people this of course. They plan to have a 2.2 million square foot building located somewhere along the route in Houston which they will most likely have to condemn to get the land for. There will also be smaller facilities spread all along the rail. And oh yes, some roads will be closed, traffic rerouted, and don’t count on them paying for crossings or elevated structures to allow access. They won’t unless forced to by a government. People along the route don’t count in this project. They are fodder for the pie in the sky ROI. The TCR is not ethical – this project violates every moral and ethical code of conduct and when the truth comes out people will be appalled.

    The people in charge know that what they are doing is wrong. But they really like trains and money and it’s rare to find a chance to make money from trains as they so often need government backing to survive.

    The primarily Anglo staff of the TCR which answers to Japanese overlords (who by the way make the trains, the software, and will sell the stuff to us American sharecropper at high prices) is smart, extremely smart, and they are the best bond-whores that ever lived. With low interest rates, there are plenty of desperate pension funds, insurance companies, individuals who will buy into this ponzi scheme. If they get out early they will be ok, before the bail-out happens. Remember the great railroad scandals of the 1800s? Anyone remember why Lord Grantham lost his fortune on Downton Abbey?

    Amazing how after the wealthy Heights complains, and the owners /members of the primarily rich white Country Club near Hegar Rd complain, and Rice University complains, (they own a large tract affected by the rail) the route gets rerouted to near Waller and primarily poor and minority far Northwest Houston where there are few people able to resist. Where is Al Sharpton now? How is this possible given today’s climate of social justice?

    It’s all about the terminus in Dallas and to a lesser extent Houston. Remember , Houston is on the receiving end of this, not the other way around. Dallas continually f**ks Houston and gets away with it. The Center Point Transmission line which will ruin part of Hockley is another example of Houston getting raped by the smarties in Dallas. The TCR will sell shares in the TOD developments as a part of their fundraising scheme, which they will either assemble (like in Dallas) or assemble and condemn (Houston). A very few will get mega rich while the non TOD land affected by this project is devalued, property ruined, the tax base decimated, and school districts ruined. But hey, it’s ok, we really need high speed rail even if the tickets cost as much or more than flying and there are only 2 stops. It’s good if you have a mistress in Houston you need to see. Find out who the Houston investors are and expose them so people understand the forces behind this future debacle.