‘One Bin For All’ All But Dead; Signs of the Oil Rout in Houston


Photo of Larchmont: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool


12 Comment

  • Um, thanks for the suggestions for downtown, Mr. Speck, but that area already has a laudable Walk Score. What the people really need are fixes for the rest of the city outside of the downtown/Midtown/Greenway/Galleria core.

  • Wow, that drop in multifamily permits is pretty intense. Not too surprising, just intense.

  • @Slugline, as his goal is a walkable city, it would be a waste to spend any effort/resources outside of the areas you named. Currently, these are the closest to walkable areas and represent the densest areas. The greatest impact would be making the people who already live in walkable areas better equipped instead of telling people in Briarforest or GOOF that they should walk/cycle miles to run their errands.

  • I am as much a new urbanism guy as anyone, but Speck’s ideas are mostly pretty lousy. The city handed out zillions in tax breaks to get 15k new housing units planned for downtown and demand has disappeared with the oil glut. So, we’re trying. Back off. Switching downtown’s 4 lane one ways to 2 lane two way streets would just create gridlock at rush hour. Gridlock is the worst thing for pedestrians as vehicles will block the crosswalk after getting caught at the light. I know because I have shamefully done it (bad me). It might work in Vancouver WA, but Houston is equal to about 30 Vancouvers. but Houston needs to move a lot more traffic out during rush hour. The tunnels do reduce street life downtown, but are definitely at “critical mass”. They are shoulder to shoulder full of people during the lunch hour. And the fact is that without the tunnel, people would just get in their cars for lunch during the summer rather than going out and dropping a huge sweat just to go to Whichwich. Bike lanes protected by cars are great, but that doesn’t work well when you need parking lanes to open up to support rush hour. Trees and hidden parking garages are great, but are really just fluff.
    What Downtown really needs is repeat performances for park spaces like Discovery Green and Market Square. Tranquility park is a dud. It needs a reboot with a concession area so it will be something other than a place for the homeless to pee. Jones Plaza is also a misfire in that all the activity inside the plaza is invisible from the street. The city should snatch up a parking lot or two over by Minute Maid as another amenity for all the new multifamily going in over there and new office construction. The same goes for the southern part of downtown near where the twin Skyhouses are. Parks get people out and moving around downtown. It is too difficult to redo all the ground floor development in downtown to make it more street friendly. It is what it is. But a couple of really nice parks can really help push more ground floor development and help support existing ground floor retail/restaurant development.

  • Re walkability: The tunnels are the most walkable place I’ve ever been. More walkable than San Francisco, New York, Paris, etc. They are air conditioned, protected from motor vehicles, filled with retail options, close to where people work, etc. If this guy isn’t including the tunnels in his walkability score, he’s wack.

  • The Kinder Institute for Urban Research: More bucks than brains.

  • @Old School I think you’re right on with a park needed on the south side of downtown. The new SkyHouse buildings and other apartment next to it should bring around 1,000+ residents to that part of downtown. That area also has easy METRORail access too. Imagine what that area would look like if two things happened…..the Pierce Elevated was torn down and the Greyhound bus station was relocated…..GAME-CHANGER.

    I’m a downtown resident and rarely leave downtown during the weekdays. Most everything we need is right here.

    As for Tranquility Park / Jones Plaza….that area is in need of a total redo. The “ponds/lakes” at Tranquility Park can’t even hold water anymore. And Jones Plaza needs to turn into Jones Park. Take out the concrete and put in GRASS.

  • Get rid of the downtown tunnels? It seems that the purpose of increasing walkability is to improve the quality of downtown life. Forcing people outside into hot and humid summers will do little to improve life quality. The author could have as nonsensically suggested the banning of cars in the downtown area to improve walkability.

  • @HeyHeyHouston I guess we’re going to have to disagree here. If downtown is already “walker’s paradise” but has few residents I’m not very concerned about making it even better. Houston’s population centers have spread to spots like Fondren Southwest, Alief/westchase and our densest area of all — Gulfton. I’d rather see resources dedicated to those walk-deficient areas where people actually live now. Metro recognized this shift and it’s been refreshing to see the New Bus Network reaching further out with more frequent bus service down Bissonnet, Bellaire, Gessner and Westheimer. Now we need to build up the walkable infrastructure that helps bus riders safely get from their homes to those beefed-up bus lines.

  • @ slugline: It should be borne in mind that downtown streetscape improvements are most often financed through the Downtown TIRZ and Management District. At present this isn’t necessarily the sort of thing where we can weigh the necessity of improvements downtown versus another deserving neighborhood (versus funding the City’s pension obligations).

  • @HeyHeyHouston: except that it’s not really the dense parts of Houston that are getting investment in walkability. It’s wealthy areas that look dense. Midtown is getting millions of dollars for fancy new sidewalks. Downtown. The historically hip Heights and Montrose. The newly hip East End…. That’s where the money is going. I can point to places in Gulfton where the grass has grown over the sidewalk to the point that only about 18″ of concrete remains visible. There are always throngs of people walking around the intersection of Braeswood and Gessner (near the Fiesta) and I don’t think a dime has been spent to improve those sidewalks. I’ve seen Bissonnet when school lets out at Sharpstown High School, and it’s frightening to see kids walking halfway in a busy street because the sidewalks are so deficient. The list goes on.
    You say it’s a waste to spend money on improved walkability in these areas. I say you’re flat wrong about that. People already walk in these places, and it’s dangerous for them to do so because the sidewalks are dysfunctional, not to mention the crosswalks (or lack thereof). I would argue they should have been a higher priority for tax dollars all along.

  • @slugline & ZAW, I get your points and don’t necessarily disagree but there are a couple of things to note. Right or wrong, I believe his (not my) goal is to take a place that has decent walkability (downtown) and make it great and not try to make everywhere (further out) decent. Since sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owner, nicer more affluent places will have nicer sidewalks. This doesn’t hold true in the Heights/Montrose as they are not near Midtown/Downtown quality. And thirdly, as always, it comes down to money. I complain about pot holes in Montrose then I ride my bike in EaDo. High property values contribute more and have nicer stuff all the way down the chain from River Oaks to Southhampton to West U to Montrose to Heights to Eado to Sharpstown. Right or wrong.