Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Houston, We Have a Problem

...and it's you.  So cut it out will ya?

Look.  We get it.  You have smart, effective leadership.  We're understood across the state to be a hive of corruption and graft.  That can't possibly hurt us in the competition of cities could it?  Don't answer that.

You're doing smart things, like shifting your bus service to prioritize ridership and convenience via frequent network planning.  We still seem to think planning transit for the fickle fancy of tourists is in anyway sustainable.  And that serving everybody equally poorly is a great way to provide transit.  And that the cart of development should go before the horse of transportation is a good idea.  But I digress...

And now there is this.

"The question we are facing is: We have provided streets to move cars," Mohite said. "As the traffic increases, are we going to take down homes to maintain that lifestyle?"
The proposals also reflect more emphasis on so-called "complete streets" policies that encourage planners to consider cyclists and pedestrians in street design. In October, Mayor Annise Parker, by executive order, declared Houston would embrace Complete Streets policies.
Residents along Dunlavy, and generally around Neartown, told planners they wanted their streets to allow for biking and walking, rather than widened to accommodate more traffic.
"What we said was, make it a neighborhood where you could ride your bike or take a walk," said Greg LeGrande, president of the Neartown Association, a coalition of civic groups.


Houston is going to begin 'dieting' streets in their urban core in order to, and unabashedly mind you, make driving less convenient and other forms of movement safer and more convenient.  Apparently they've learned that more people means more cars and there is no way on this decreasingly green earth that that scenario can possibly be a good thing (unless you judge the world by facile metrics like VMT = GDP exclamation point).

Sun Belt cities are all the same because they have the same genetic formula.  Rather than being defined by its people and geography, they're all defined by cars.  That is because we've allowed traffic formulae to be the prime directive that governs uber alles.  Well, you get what you prioritize.  Point being, there is a competition of cities and the way forward is differentiation.  And you differentiate by being expressions of your people, which is only possible by creating places for people and facilitating the efficient exchange of goods and ideas.
The city is the platform for progress and expression, yet we've built anti-city.  Houston, at least seems serious about the 21st century.  There is a Zipfian hierarchy yet to emerge in the South on top of which will sit either Dallas or Houston some day.  It's disconcertingly looking increasingly like Houston will be the victor.