Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Branding Houston for tourism and improving the flawed I45N expansion plan

A couple big topics this week...

The first topic is this editorial in the Chronicle about Houston's continuing attempts to be more of a tourist magnet and the recent calls for renewed marketing campaigns and a "signature attraction."  As I've advocated before in posts here and especially here, with a little work Houston could carve out a tourism niche around families and STEM: bring your kids to Houston instead of Orlando or DC if you want to inspire them into great STEM careers.  If families go to DC to inspire their kids about our country, they can go to Houston to get inspired about STEM.  Even setting aside the Astrodome museum concept mentioned in those posts, we have all the raw ingredients not only building on our energy, chemical, aerospace and biomedical industries, but also on our top-rated and very popular existing STEM museums like Space Center Houston, The Museum of Natural Science, The Health Museum, The Children's Museum, the Zoo, Moody Gardens and The George Observatory. Stitch those together into a cohesive experience, and we'd really have something appealing to a lot of families from all over the country.  If you know anyone at Houston First, please send this over...

And while we're on the topic of our image/brand, I'll put in another plug for Houspitality.  I get very positive feedback from everyone I've pitched it to.  This also might be a good time to mention a dissertation by Josh Dinsman on branding cities, including an in-depth case study of Houston (he interviewed me as part of his research).  I've been siting on this one for a while waiting until I had time to do a thorough discussion of it, but since that doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon, I want to get it out there for those who might be interested and then hopefully I'll circle back to it for a more in-depth post at some point in the not-to-distant future.

The next big topic is the new I45N expansion plan I discussed last week.  Oscar Slotboom of "Houston Freeways" fame has done an extremely in-depth and thorough analysis of the flaws in the plan, including suggested corrections.  I was planning to try to summarize and highlight parts of it here, but I can't do it justice, especially with his impressive graphics - you'll just need to skim the whole thing.  While we both still support the overall plan, we also agree it can be made much better.  In fact, after reading his analysis and seeing some of the big flaws in the plan, I'm concerned the complexity of this project is stretching TXDoT's design and analysis capabilities vs. their simpler normal freeway widenings.  There are just so many complex connections around downtown (45, 10, 59, 288, Hardy, managed lanes, entrances and exits) that it's hard for one human mind to keep it all straight.  Thankfully Oscar has an exceptional mind for this kind of detail, and hopefully TXDoT will take his analysis very seriously and make the project even better.  If you'd like to comment on his analysis, or just participate in the discussion/debate, HAIF has an active discussion thread on it here.

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