Thursday, May 25, 2017

MaX Lanes: A Next Generation Strategy for Affordable Proximity

Apologies for the long delay between posts - life has not been very conducive to blogging lately. I will try to get back to weekly, or at least biweekly.

The big news this week is the release of my COU MaX Lanes Briefing (backup link), which has been in the works for many months with the support of H-GAC and TXDoT. The overview:
MaX Lanes: A Next Generation Strategy for Affordable Proximity
by Tory Gattis (with Oscar Slotboom)
The core urban challenge of our time is ‘affordable proximity’: how can ever larger numbers of people live and interact economically with each other while keeping the cost of living – especially housing – affordable? In decentralized, post-WW2 Sunbelt cities built around the car, commuter rail solutions don’t work and an alternative is needed, especially as we see autonomous vehicles on the horizon. 
This briefing explores a next-generation mobility strategy for affordable proximity: MaX Lanes (Managed eXpress Lanes) moving the maximum number of people at maximum speed and allowing direct point-to-point single-seat high-speed trips by transit buses and other shared-ride vehicles today, and autonomous vehicles in the future. It includes a case study of Houston with a proposed network as well as profiles of similar lanes around the country. 
Read the report Open or Download PDF 3.2MB (opens in new tab or window) 
Part of the report argues for a 2x2 MaX lane loop in the core of the city connecting the downtown, Texas Medical Center, Greenway Plaza, and Uptown job centers.  With that in place, any HOV or MaX lane now or in the future on the spoke freeways will be able to plug into that and instantly provide nonstop access to any of those four job centers - seven if you include the Katy managed lanes to get out to Memorial City, the Energy Corridor, or Westchase.  We call the ultimate goal "MaX-a-Million" - supporting one million jobs in the core and one million daily commuters - about half of a Manhattan.

Proposed Houston MaX Lane Network

Speaking of MaX Lanes, the draft EIS is officially out for the proposed 45N improvement project, and MaX Lanes are now the official terminology of TXDoT in Houston - "moving the maximum number of people at maximum speed."

Why MaX Lanes over commuter rail? Because commuter rail doesn't work in decentralized Sunbelt cities designed around the car.  LA - with twice our density and perfect year-round walking weather - has spent over $16 *billion* on rail projects with declining overall ridership (and here)!  Houston must innovate a different approach, just like we did with the original HOV lane network.

David Crossley of Houston Tomorrow recently presented on the future of transit for Houston and even he admitted rail is almost completely off the table.  Good thing too, given the steady stream of stories about the misery of rail transit delays and operational problems in DC and NYC.  Lots of good maps and data in his slides - check it out.

My hope is that the report will help provide a common mobility vision that TXDoT, H-GAC, METRO, HCTRA, and the City can all agree and work together on. It's really not very long and very amenable to a quick skim with a FAQ format - please do check it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

UPDATE: Oscar Slotboom's proposal for getting MaX Lanes through downtown as part of the upcoming North Freeway Improvement Project.

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At 9:35 AM, May 26, 2017, Blogger George Rogers said...

Global Houston Report at the GHP

At 12:52 PM, May 26, 2017, Blogger George Rogers said...

Three level roundabouts make a ton of sense to connect max lanes to other max lanes within the five level stack.

At 2:43 PM, May 26, 2017, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks George. That is one of the challenges and possible solutions we've talked about, although it's definitely out-of-the-box thinking for TXDoT!

At 6:27 PM, May 27, 2017, Blogger George Rogers said...'s-Housing-Future-Full-Public-Draft.pdf


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