Thursday, June 09, 2005

"Houston Freeways" now online

A couple years back, a somewhat obscure book came out called "Houston Freeways: A Historical and Visual Journey". It didn't quite make the New York Times bestseller list, but it is an amazing book with a ton of great color pictures. It was a labor of love by its author, Erik Slotboom, whom I helped with a little proofreading. If you've ever wondered how the Houston freeway network developed, look no further. The bad news is that it is out-of-print now, but the good news is that it's available online for free. It's pretty beefy, so printing it or even just skimming through it online is a a nontrivial undertaking, but even if you just look at the pictures and read the captions, it's well worth it. Relative to its size, Houston probably has the most advanced and extensive freeway network of any city on the planet, and this book explains how we got it and the impact it's had on our hometown's growth.


At 5:09 AM, June 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tory, got here via BlogHouston, and have left comments at previous posts on George Will's column on the Wright amend and the May 31 post on AV caps.

Concerning the Freeway book online, took a look and it is fascinating. I recall a huge chunk of this history, we use to get on our mini-bikes as kids and travel in packs from here (Dickinson) to the (then) newly-built Almeda Mall up the old two-lane 45 N. The mall was still outside Houston city limits at the time.

An old family friend is the Texas Highway Commissioner who actually guided the new highway plan through the leg, and I will send him the link for your site as well the book link.

He visited us a while back, and had an interesting device in his pocket, straight from the lab.

It was a prototype Texas Vehicle Reg winshield sticker , but it was slit open and inside you could see it had a tiny chip with an antenna in it. It would function like the toll road "quick tag", and the idea would be to have it work on any Texas toll road.

At 10:17 AM, June 10, 2005, Blogger Owen Courrèges said...

I'm one of the people who actually bought Houston Freeways (at the Borders on Kirby). No regrets now, though. Anybody interested should also buy Houston Electric, a history of the old streetcar system (and how it failed because running trains in city streets became hideously unprofitable with the rise of the automobile).

At 6:44 PM, June 10, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I like the idea of the toll tag built into the reg sticker. I've already heard reports that EZ Tag, now that they have a pretty entrenched monopoly, is slowly raising prices. This would give Texas leverage vs. their pricing, or just dump them altogether.

That said, there will probably be a moderately large constituency that is very uncomfortable with the government being able to track their movements. They probably need to offer toll-readable and normal-sticker versions/options.

At 10:52 AM, November 11, 2005, Blogger Steph said...

Hi! I am a history graduate student at UH studying urban history. I am writing a term paper examining Houston and sprawl. In my searches, I came across your wonderful blog. I am in my second semester of a masters, and first in urban history, so I am new to the topic and still trying to figure out how to find information. The highway book online is a wonderful source! I was wondering where you found your information on density. Any other suggestions on places to look for information would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,


At 12:29 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

New population and density stats for cities all over the world:


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