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lithiumaneurysm last won the day on June 21 2016

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About lithiumaneurysm

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  1. What compensation does the city offer to businesses affected by regular road construction? I don't think the dozens of businesses on Memorial Drive on the west side are getting anything for the pain of that disastrous project. I'm not sure why transit projects should be (and often are) held to a different standard. Infrastructure projects are disruptive by nature and a necessary evil. Is this what the people want? Houston voters approved a five-line light rail system over a decade ago and never got what they were promised. District 7 just flipped from an anti-transit congressman to a pro-transit congresswoman. Kinder Institute surveys every year show half of all Houstonians would prefer to live in in more dense, walkable neighborhoods as opposed to car-dependent suburbs. It's inaccurate to conflate the use of freeways in a heavily car-dependent city with popular demand. The only accurate way to measure what Houstonians want is by scientific surveys and ballot referendums, which suggest the opposite of what you say.
  2. The language used by Siegel strikes me as odd... sure, Gulfton residents have a higher propensity to use METRO, but is there no push to get more Bellaire residents to use transit too? What were the "transit issues" at the Bellaire @ S. Rice location? It always struck me as a sleepy, run-of-the-mill TC when I lived nearby. It almost sounds like Bellaire is happy to have less transit access.
  3. True, which is good. But TOD Streets are a much more limited classification than Walkable Places, which can be created anywhere if property owners support it. TOD Streets are, of course, limited to where fixed transit exists, which doesn't cover much of the city. Better than nothing, though.
  4. These are great improvements over the current code, especially mandatory compliance near transit stops and more stringent site planning standards. However, if I'm reading slide 21 correctly, development in Walkable Place zones will still have to meet 100% of the city's minimum parking requirements. That's disappointing—excessive parking is probably the biggest issue on corridors like Lower Westheimer, but at least with this new ordinance future lots will be placed behind buildings. Requiring additional bike parking doesn't offset the impact of surface parking lots on walkability. I wish the committee would have been a bit bolder here; if we want these Walkable Places to represent something other than the Houston status quo, parking needs to be completely optional.
  5. I respectfully disagree. We have a real-world example of a Western country which has adopted a pre-emptive roadway design philosophy and has subsequently seen significant reductions in traffic deaths. It's worth noting the Netherlands had a higher traffic fatality rate than the U.S. before the Sustainable Safety reforms were introduced. They had many of the same issues that we have today with conflicts between vehicular and non-vehicular users and poor road design. We don't even have to look to Europe for better roadway design. Consider Australia, which has a traffic fatality rate one-half the U.S.'s despite being just as car-dependent. In Perth, pedestrian crossings are generally built (or existing ones retrofitted) with refuge islands and, on arterial roads, their version of a HAWK signal. Here's what a pedestrian crossing looks like on a four-lane road there: https://goo.gl/maps/qRbRtkfVUb52 You'd be hard-pressed to find that quality of pedestrian crossing in Houston because of our reactive approach. Perth and other Australian cities have been actively retrofitting their infrastructure with these improved safety features. The Netherlands retrofitted their (significantly older) road network over a couple of decades. We shouldn't wait, and we shouldn't make excuses for inaction. This link is a discussion of the impact of Complete Streets on property values and has no relevance to safety.
  6. Is it really an isolated incident? People are "whinging about cars" because Houston has abysmal transportation safety metrics. We have an abundance of scientific literature which suggests our infrastructure design standards are a large contributor—that they give far too much space and lenience to drivers and little to no consideration to other users. The point I've been trying to make is that we need to remove perceptions of guilt from the design of our infrastructure. The Dutch standards that I mentioned previously presume that human beings make mistakes and break rules. They design roads around that fundamental truth, and as a result, their roadway fatality rate is one third the U.S.'s. Their methodology is preventative. Houston's is reactive—we install HAWK signals and other interventions after a tragedy (often multiple) has taken place. We assume people will always follow rules and absolve ourselves of the responsibility to preempt these tragedies. Sure, better education and enforcement are also important, but that's not the whole nine yards. We could commission hundreds of studies on existing behavior, or we could use what we already know: people adjust their behavior to their surroundings, and we can design our streets to a set of standards which exploits this fact to the benefit of all roadway users. We should expect these horrific incidents to continue as long as we keep kicking the can down the road on making our infrastructure safer. If it takes an accident to install a HAWK signal or some other intervention, dozens and dozens more people will die before Houston's infrastructure is anything close to safe. Only a systemic, proactive approach which changes the design philosophy of the entire roadway system will make a meaningful impact on pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Edit: Also, yes, there are many urbanists who are rabidly anti-car, to a point of absurdity. But I think most people invested in the issue, especially in Houston, understand that this is a car-dependent city and that provisions need to be made for traffic efficiency. That doesn't mean our standards are not up to par, or that we don't grant an excessive amount of space to drivers at the expense of the safety of other users.
  7. (Emphasis mine) Infrastructure affects behavior, though. As I said before, there will always be bad actors in a system—drivers who speed, bicyclists who run lights, etc.—but the way we design our infrastructure can affect both the rate at which bad actors appear and the consequences of poor decision making. Drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians don't exist in vacuums where they make decisions without regard for the context of their surroundings. They respond, consciously or unconsciously, to the way the infrastructure is built. The idea that changing our infrastructure will not reduce pedestrian and bicyclist accidents because those parties are generally irresponsible is patently false. Consider the Dutch "Sustainable Safety" transportation planning program, which studies have found led to a 30% reduction in the roadway fatality rate (for all roadway users) in that country between 1998 and 2007. Sustainable Safety emphasizes contextual roadway design, playing on our perceptions of space to design streets that clearly communicate expectations for each user (driver, pedestrian, etc.). A situation like Shepherd would never exist under the Dutch model. If Houston adopted Sustainable Safety principles, there would be clearly delineated areas for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and the roadway would be designed to passively enforce its speed limit with proven traffic calming strategies. This presentation by a Northeastern University student provides a good summary of how Sustainable Safety principles could be applied in the U.S. Also, are we forgetting that this discussion started with news of two pedestrians being killed while legally using a marked crosswalk? The pedestrians in question here were not bad actors. I'm not sure why bicyclists who (anecdotally) run stop signs on Spring Street two miles away are relevant to a conversation about improving safety on Shepherd. This story is a clear cut example of the inadequacy of our infrastructure, and we shouldn't be muddying the waters with irrelevant discussions about how bicyclists run stop signs sometimes.
  8. It doesn't seem like you're here to have a discussion in good faith. You're building a strawman out of Angostura by accusing him of being some sort of New Urbanist shill instead of actually arguing the substance of his comment. Is asking how many pedestrian deaths is acceptable really that absurd or offensive to you? It seems like a legitimate public policy question to me. Your comment is an example of how the internet degrades our discourse. Angostura never personally attacked you, but you automatically resorted to accusing him of being an irredeemable partisan when he tried to engage in a civil conversation with you. This isn't really relevant to the discussion. Sure, people should follow rules and we should enforce them, but good design anticipates poor human behavior. Transportation infrastructure should minimize death and injury, period. That goal shouldn't be contingent on our personal, biased perceptions of certain groups of people. Nobody argues that we should remove clear zones on freeways because bad drivers just need to learn to follow the rules (and that we shouldn't feel bad when they die if they don't!). Every system suffers from bad actors. It's human nature. We shouldn't sentence people to death for their poor decision making out of some medieval idea of fairness. If other countries have achieved far lower fatality rates in their transportation systems than Houston's while maintaining reasonable commute times and accessibility for private cars, there's no reason we can't as well.
  9. I was bored a couple of months ago and made a map of all the filming locations (that I could identify) in Houston. The only scene I'm missing is the one with Travis Scott at a swimming pool - not sure if that was filmed in Houston, but the rest of the video was.
  10. I live right next to these lots. A new driveway off of Newcastle was added to the western one a couple of months ago, and I've seen trucks parked in the grass every now and then, but otherwise no activity.
  11. Seriously. Off-street parking will remain a mainstay in Houston in the absence of parking requirements—new developments in Downtown are still consistently accompanied by parking. But removing these requirements will at least give small businesses a fighting chance to participate in urban development alongside big developers, instead of being pushed out of the game by onerous parking requirements that mandate they double their land purchases just to construct a private lot. It's completely absurd that we push the enormous cost of supplying parking entirely onto private landowners via legal mandate. It's an authoritarian solution to a problem best solved by the market, and it's particularly egregious in a country like the U.S. which (often smartly) prioritizes market solutions and private property rights. Minimum parking requirements also act against Houston's own interests. The city's annexation days are over—the only way to grow property tax revenue is through developing existing land. Every unwarranted parking lot created by these requirements neutralizes land which could otherwise be productive and reduces the city's tax revenue per unit area.
  12. Great to see more food options and GFR opening up in the Med Center. When I was at Rice, the Chipotle and Subway in this building were the only walking-distance food options open in the evening. Halal Guys, Roti, and Mod Pizza are awesome adds.
  13. This is such an old and lame meme. Really, I can buy the more rational arguments that rail is too expensive, not appropriate for most places in Houston, etc. but just calling it old is so out of touch with reality it renders the rest of your comment irrelevant. If rail is a 19th century technology, then someone explain why the most technologically advanced nations (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Western Europe) all have such extensive and wildly successful high-speed rail systems. East Asian countries in particular have been at the forefront of all the high-tech breakthroughs of the last 50 years and they've been building more rail, not less. China is literally exporting high-speed rail systems to tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia and Africa as part of their grand geopolitical strategy. Seriously. Imagine being more concerned with ideology than practical solutions for problems that have been solved time and time again in other cities around the world. Houston may not have a population density or layout appropriate for an extensive rail system, but at least be honest with yourself that it's a relevant and widely adopted technology that is essential to the functioning of the world's most modern cities.
  14. Rail isn't some luxury item that cities buy as a present for their residents. It is (or should be) part of a toolbox of urban transportation solutions, to be used on highly trafficked corridors where cars aren't getting the job done. Here's the throughput of a single 10-foot lane based on transportation mode: https://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Design-to-Move-People_all-e1461361807936.jpg. Because cars require so much space to operate and often only carry one person, they have a very low throughput. Bus and rail lines are extremely effective when the terminus of the line is a compact, highly popular destination. That's why our Park and Ride system is so much more efficient than driving for commuters heading downtown. It's able to transport many times the number of people without becoming congested on highly-trafficked corridors (the freeways) to a compact, walkable destination (the CBD). The low throughput of our freeway system exhibits itself every day during rush hour(s), when roadways which only have the capacity to move a few thousand people in an hour without congestion are suddenly packed with tens of thousands. There is no evidence that building rail makes cities more expensive. Los Angeles has become expensive despite being the eternal stereotype of a car city. What does make cities expensive is unmet demand, both for housing and transportation. If Houston wants to avoid the costliness and congestion of L.A., we need to keep building as much housing as possible, and we need to keep an open mind to implementing higher-capacity modes of transportation, like BRT and rail, where they have been proven to work elsewhere.
  15. If a lot on a major thoroughfare in one of the densest and most walkable areas in Houston isn't a logical place to put a multifamily tower, I don't know what is. The only way it could be more appropriate is if it were on a rail line and had less parking. I have faith the city will not buckle to NIMBYs when reviewing this development. The only way Houston can become truly walkable is by developing the right urban context. We can have TIRZs funnel as much money as they want into complete streets with fancy brick paving, but all of that means nothing if our urban environment is still a no-man's-land of parking lots, empty fields, and blank walls. This kind of development is a sign of a healthy city. The only successful places are ones which are adaptable. Houston shouldn't shoot itself in the foot to appease people who want to keep it static.
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