Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bagby reconstruction gets muddled

As reported by InnerLooped (and confirmed through my own contacts), the City Public Works Dept has frozen reconstruction work on Bagby in Midtown three months into the already-permitted work in order to change it from two lanes to three. Anybody who reads my blogs knows I am a great supporter of transportation projects (something I believe Houston does better than most other cities), but the sudden change-of-plan to make Bagby three lanes instead of two is a case of unnecessary overcapacity, especially considering the substantial losses of pedestrian friendly features/landscaping and much-needed street parking.

I understand the value of Bagby as a feeder from 45S to the 59S Spur, but consider that:

1) 45S only feeds a single exit lane into Bagby.

2) Even if Bagby is three lanes wide, it still must reconstrict to two lanes below Westheimer/Elgin before entering the spur, thus the third lane really adds nothing.

3) Smith provides plenty of additional parallel southbound capacity for people connecting from 45 to the spur.

4) Traffic studies indicate only two lanes are needed on Bagby.

5) The spur is only two lanes wide, and in addition to being fed by Bagby is also fed by 3 lanes of Smith, 3 lanes of Milam, and an entrance ramp from Richmond.  Is there really any value to feeding 10 lanes of traffic into a two lane facility instead of the existing plan of 9?  The outbound spur already backs up regularly at rush hour - why would we want to feed even more cars onto it to back it up further?

PWE needs to strongly reconsider sticking with the existing 2-lane Bagby plan, including pedestrian amenities and desperately needed street parking (which will also bring revenue to the city). If you agree, you can sign the petition here.

UPDATE: looks like they're going to mostly stick with the original 2-lane plan - check out these stories from Houston Tomorrow and CultureMap.


Monday, June 18, 2012

A better plan to save the Astrodome

Setting aside my own wishes for the Astrodome, and just looking at the plan recently presented by the HCSCC to Commissioners Court, there is a very simple fix that will make saving the Astrodome *much* more likely.

Current Plan
  • $270m to convert Astrodome into multi-purpose venue
  • $385m to demolish and rebuild a new Astrohall/Reliant Arena
Net cost estimated to be $523m after tax credits.

MAJOR PROBLEM = getting voters to approve a half-billion dollar bond issue (!)

Better Plan

Tear down an obsolete Reliant Arena and fold whatever functions a new one would have into a renovated Astrodome.  It's not like the Astrodome doesn't have enough space.  Heck, it could probably do just about everything they wanted to do in it originally and still have room for everything they want to do in a new Arena.  We lose a building nobody cares about and preserve a building everybody wants to save at probably less than half the price of the current proposal (something voters might actually approve).  

A big win-win, yes?  If you agree, please contact your County Commissioner asap and let them know.  They're meeting to make some decisions on this plan very soon - possibly this week.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Texas winning; United, CA, HSR losing

A few quick misc items this week:
"The Texas economy grew 3.3 percent in 2011, and the growth was broad-based. Not just oil, not just manufacturing. Texas now accounts for 8.7 percent of the nation’s economy, up from 7.4 percent a decade ago."
“If you draw a triangle whose points are Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, enclosing Austin, you’ve just drawn a map of the economic and jobs engine of North America.
Texas prospers not just because of oil and gas, but thanks to a diversified and sophisticated economy. It has attracted large numbers of both immigrants and domestic migrants for a quarter-century. One in 12 Americans lives there."

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Congestion solution, TX Megabus, annexation history, top rankings

Some smaller misc items to share this week:
  • Finally!  Luxury inter-city bus company MegaBus is coming to the Texas Triangle, with service from Houston to Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Galveston, and New Orleans.  They pick up right at Polk and Travis downtown.  I do think they're making one mistake, though. On the Dallas route, they need a pickup-dropoff point on the far north side (maybe The Woodlands mall or Greenspoint mall?), and on the Austin and San Antonio routes, they need one on the far west side (maybe Katy Mills mall or City Centre?).  People living on that side of town don't want to come all the way downtown to just turn around and go the opposite direction, whether picking up or dropping off.
  • On the NYT list of 32 innovations that will change your tomorrow, Houston's biggest need is definitely #6, widespread adaptive cruise control.  Simulations indicate that once 25% of cars have it, congestion could be reduced 20-40%!!  That is an incredible improvement, and imagine what it might be once most cars have it?   Heck, there may even be a national cost-benefit case for the feds requiring it just like they do for the CAFE standards (in terms of time and gas saved).  It's possible to imagine that Houston may have far less traffic congestion by the beginning of the next decade even without much in the way of substantial capacity improvements, which, sadly, may very well be the case with TXDoT's budget straight-jacket.
  • Texas dominates the Forbes list of best cities for jobs.  Houston is #2 behind Austin.
Instead of government, the big drivers of growth now appear to be three basic sectors: energy, technology and, most welcome all, manufacturing. Energy-rich Texas cities dominate our list — the state has added some 200,000 generally high-paying oil and gas jobs over the past decade — but Texas is also leading in industrial job growth, technology and services. In first place in our ranking of the 65 largest metropolitan areas is Austin, which has logged strong growth in manufacturing,  technology-related employment and business services. Houston places second, Fort Worth fourth, and Dallas-Plano-Irving sixth. Another energy capital, Oklahoma City, ranks 10th, while resurgent New Orleans-Metairie places 13th among the largest metro areas.
Finally, embedded below is a pretty cool history of Houston annexation video.  I laughed out loud so hard at the 1836 map note "the freeway network is for reference purposes only - it did not exist at the time."  Revised Houston history: "the Allen Brothers discovered the confluence of 3 bayous and a mysterious network of roads created by an ancient civilization (or aliens?), and decided it seemed like a good place to found a city... even though they recognized the long-term inadequacy of the 290 corridor..."