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htownswami

Grand Parkway Expansion

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I don't get it.

Are you suggesting that every person moving to Houston over the next 20-50 years is going to want to move to points west/northwest of town?

That's a very narrow view of Houston, and not giving people who would move here enough credit. If you want to be absolutely and completely shocked, take a look at northeast Houston, over around lake Houston.

It's rather obvious I am suggesting no such thing. In your 20-50 year time-span we are expecting anywhere from 2.6 Million to 7.5 Million + additional residents. Nothing I said suggested I expected all of them to move to the northwest side of town. Assuming 4 people per household, that will require anywhere from 650,000 to 1.875 Million additional residences. Nothing I said suggested I expected all of them to be built on the northwest side of town. We will need all of the available space inside of Highway 6/1960 PLUS space made accessible by such transit infrastructure as the Grand Parkway to have room for all of those new residences. (PLUS, I should add, additional space made available by increasing the density of areas inside the loop and inside the beltway, serving both with better mass transit infrastructure.)

Not sure what your point is about the area around Lake Houston. I am quite familiar with that area. Trust me, there is nothing over there that will shock me, either absolutely, completely, or partially.

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Okay, here's a screenshot of Google Maps. You wanna know what I see? I see private property, being stolen by the county/state. I see farmland. I see green grass, fresh air, and peacefulness. I see no neighborhoods. I see no "people", except for the ones that are being bent over, and shown where the wild goose goes...

Capture99.png

This map is old though. Bridgeland is not even there and Fry Road is only highlighted because Google updates their streets. It's not even built on this map. I don't feel like cropping a picture, but anyone can go and look at Google Maps/Earth and see an updated photo if they just zoom in. There are more neighborhoods dotted all along this map. If you are coming back from Hempstead on 290, you start seeing rooftops at Katy-Hockley now.

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I don't get it.

Are you suggesting that every person moving to Houston over the next 20-50 years is going to want to move to points west/northwest of town?

That's a very narrow view of Houston, and not giving people who would move here enough credit. If you want to be absolutely and completely shocked, take a look at northeast Houston, over around lake Houston.

Say that you were looking to distribute typical suburban development spanning an area approximately equal to Beltway 8 within our metro area. Let's call it about 400 square miles, which is a block of land area 20 miles long and 20 miles wide. You might be able to fill up about 15% of that with development inside of the San Jacinto River to the northeast. Crossing the river is inconvenient for lots of reasons. Aside from right up along Lake Houston, I wouldn't expect much.

Maybe another 10% of that would be required to build out Cy-Fair ISD. That's pretty much effortless, and then you're right up against the Grand Parkway. Where does the other 75% go?

Well...on the one hand, the area of a circle increases geometrically as the radius is increased. So the outward rate of growth should be expected to slow down. On the other hand...not all rural areas are created equal. Vast swaths of Montgomery County were divided out into very low-density acreage communities, some deed restricted and others not, but none particularly useful for a developer. They will not get denser. You can't build there. A similar pattern is evident all along the Highway 6 corridor to the south, leaving predictible swaths of developable land...but not enough. It wouldn't be terribly long before development to the south would have to leapfrog toward FM 1462, deep in Brazoria County. But...

...just where did you put your new employers relative to where you think people will live? I'm betting that you didn't cram them all into Kingwood or assume that vast new refineries were going to get built or that the refineries would revert to labor-intensive practices. I'm betting that there's a general westward movement of jobs. Some go north. Many go for central Houston. Aside from that, the pattern seems to be...west.

As go the jobs, so go the people; as go the people, so go the jobs.

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The working assumption seems to be that additional population can best and only be accomodated in sprawling surburban tract develpments. If that is the case then we certainly do need more freeways built through vacant prairie.

What other assumption should we be working under? Houston19514's assumption that each household will contain 4 persons is wildly generous. The Woodlands, family destination that it is, only has 2.78 persons per household. Based on the projected increase in population of 2.6 million to 7.5 million, the Houston area may need between 935,000 and 2.7 million housing units. How do you propose we build those homes? Do you believe that everyone will suddenly want to live in a highrise...AND afford to do so? Do you believe that Mayor Parker will suddenly abandon her anti-density policies, and allow townhomes in the Heights, and highrises near subdivisions (remember the new highrise rules came after the Ashby highrise permit)? Have you considered that the Houston inner loop is only at 5,000 per square mile density, and to achieve that level of density in the suburbs for 7.5 million people would require 1,500 square miles of land? Have you put any thought to how you would handle this incoming population at all?

Or was this just a snarky response to remind everyone of your disdain for suburbs?

To give a little context to these remarks, let me point out that Harris County has 1,729 acres of land not covered in water. Its current population of 4.1 million leaves an overall county density of 2367 per square mile. If current population trends continued, and 2/3 of new residents lived in Harris County, the county population could grow to between 6 million and 9 million. That would put overall county density at between 3400 and 5200 per square mile.

Edited by RedScare

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There are.

I've seen documents and maps from Waller and Fort Bend counties that depict the "Prairie Parkway, a new freeway which would connect from Highway 6, north of Prairie View, over 290, and then south across Waller County, across I-10, across the Brazos River, skirting the west side of Rosenberg along Spur 10, and then taking an eastward jog toward where the Fort Bend Parkway would be extended across the Brazos River and past Segment C of the Grand Parkway.

EDIT: Oh, and the route was most recently revised and re-approved last month.

http://www.thewaller...es_04_25_12.pdf

Apparently a law was passed at some point that all new Texas roads must be designated "parkways".

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Apparently a law was passed at some point that all new Texas roads must be designated "parkways".

philosoraptor-parkway-driveway.jpg

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I can't wait for the entire Grand Parkway to be completed. It's not like that patch of weeds is something of beauty. If you walk about a mile west of where the Grand Parkway is you can still meander in that flat, ugly wasteland if you want to for a few more years. This is Greater Houston - not the everglades. Build up and sprawl only makes that side of town look better.

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At one time the Heights were one of those wretched, far-flung suburbs.

Exactly. This is an example of people who have gotten theirs trying to pull up the drawbridge behind them.

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At one time the Heights were one of those wretched, far-flung suburbs.

no doubt, but at the same time, they didn't build a freeway (or parkway) for what amounted to 11 billion dollars before people lived there at the expense of taxpayers. if my understanding of history was correct, the developer of the heights built a trolley (on their own dime) to promote development of the area.

it's not a good analogy you've drawn.

don't get me wrong, the county, city and state would eventually build a freeway out there, today, tomorrow or in 50 years, it will be needed, might as well build it now for today's dollars.

Edited by samagon
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Kinda disengenous. Don't think freeways were around in the 1890's when the Heigths were built.

And the developers in the big subdivision tracts pretty much build their own infrastructure except for the major arterial roads. That's why MUD taxes are so absurd. And why it's 20-30 years before the cities actually annex these burbs - to let all the debt get paid down first.

You even said it - it's cheaper to build the Parkway now, than in 50 years when they have to go in a acquire right of way. (probably will anyway for expansion - different problem entirely) How much did it cost to put 610 in when they had to go back and take out neighborhoods, etc.?

The development is going to happen. There is nothing to stop it short of plague or zombies. Might as well plan for it now while they still can.

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no doubt, but at the same time, they didn't build a freeway (or parkway) for what amounted to 11 billion dollars before people lived there at the expense of taxpayers. if my understanding of history was correct, the developer of the heights built a trolley (on their own dime) to promote development of the area.

it's not a good analogy you've drawn.

don't get me wrong, the county, city and state would eventually build a freeway out there, today, tomorrow or in 50 years, it will be needed, might as well build it now for today's dollars.

Given that this is a toll road, and it will be paid for by only those who drive on it, your analogy is not a good one either. The toll road, the subdivision roads, the water and sewer pipes, will all be paid by the users, not me. Only the usual county services, such as police protection, will come from my pocket, but the increased property taxes from the new subdivisions will offset that. The only real gripe here is that some people don't like suburban development. Well, like me, they don't have to live there if they don't want to.

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I can't wait for the entire Grand Parkway to be completed. It's not like that patch of weeds is something of beauty. If you walk about a mile west of where the Grand Parkway is you can still meander in that flat, ugly wasteland if you want to for a few more years. This is Greater Houston - not the everglades. Build up and sprawl only makes that side of town look better.

As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- check out the link in post 117 for some examples. As you can imagine, the area is important to the watershed, both for water quality and for absorbing rainwater that may otherwise flood developed areas. It also helps provide habitat for native plants and for pollinators that are important to our food supply. It's even one of the most important areas on the continent for migrating birds. I understand the need to absorb population growth, but it could be done with less impact to important habitat vs. building a massive parkway through the middle of it.

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I'm totally fine with us pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into freeways, it just pisses me off how a lot of people in this town are so opposed to spending a fraction of that on rail. It's ridiculous.

Anyway, the Grand Parkway doesn't need to be built, but it will improve transportation in the region certainly. I am not anti sprawl and I am not too concerned about killing habitats. I'm definitely in favor of building the freeway, but at the same time I wish we could use some of that money to improve what we already have. The condition of some of the streets in Houston is embarrassing.

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But this is not money that is coming from Houston's budget to fix Richmond Avenue. It is a different pool of money entirely as Redscare said. It's a toll road - so it's going to be from a dedicated source of funds that would not have been available to fix all the busted surface streets in Houston proper - nor would this money have been available to add rail lines.

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I can't wait for the entire Grand Parkway to be completed. It's not like that patch of weeds is something of beauty. If you walk about a mile west of where the Grand Parkway is you can still meander in that flat, ugly wasteland if you want to for a few more years. This is Greater Houston - not the everglades. Build up and sprawl only makes that side of town look better.

To me, (and SEVERAL other people) that "patch of weeds" as you've so eloquently put it, is FAR more attractive than your idea of urban sprawl.

As for your comment about this not being the Everglades, much of Houston WAS built atop swamplands. Build up and sprawl will NOT make this area look better, it'll only serve to increase the crime, the flooding, the traffic, the light pollution, the air pollution, the heat, and I could keep going. As a native Houstonian who was raised on the west side of town, I often pine for the older days, when there was a lot less of, well, everything out here.

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To me, (and SEVERAL other people) that "patch of weeds" as you've so eloquently put it, is FAR more attractive than your idea of urban sprawl.

As for your comment about this not being the Everglades, much of Houston WAS built atop swamplands. Build up and sprawl will NOT make this area look better, it'll only serve to increase the crime, the flooding, the traffic, the light pollution, the air pollution, the heat, and I could keep going. As a native Houstonian who was raised on the west side of town, I often pine for the older days, when there was a lot less of, well, everything out here.

With or without the Grand Parkway (and it's a little late to be having that discussion), sprawl is going to happen. Lets not kid ourselves. And if it has to happen anywhere in the Houston region, this is the ugliest, flattest, safest, best place that it could possibly happen. It's not in any river's floodplain, it's not covered with mixed pine forests, and its not in a coastal county where there's the potential for severe windstorm damage.

If you want to see the way things were, just drive into Waller County. Realistically, it'll be many decades before your beloved prairie is swallowed up. You'll probably be dead by then. And then who will remember enough to mourn its loss, anyway?

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I am as pro inner loop as they come. I personally don't get the appeal of the suburbs. However, the suburbs provide what the people want; a bigger house on its own piece of land. Add "better" schools with decent jobs and you have the American dream.

I too think it is inevitable. The Katy prairie is flat, seems to drain pretty well, and ideal for the forthcoming sprawl of Houston. The area between 290 and I-10 is ripe for colonization.

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But this is not money that is coming from Houston's budget to fix Richmond Avenue. It is a different pool of money entirely as Redscare said. It's a toll road - so it's going to be from a dedicated source of funds that would not have been available to fix all the busted surface streets in Houston proper - nor would this money have been available to add rail lines.

Right, I understand that. But TxDOT gets its money from the federal government, and they get whatever they want. They don't have a budget like METRO does, or the City of Houston does. They have an unlimited supply of money, which is something that METRO and the City of Houston doesn't have, which is why we can't improve our non-freeway infrastructure.

Edited by mfastx

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What are the chances that another area lake is built, if flooding is such a concern?

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Right, I understand that. But TxDOT gets its money from the federal government, and they get whatever they want. They don't have a budget like METRO does, or the City of Houston does. They have an unlimited supply of money, which is something that METRO and the City of Houston doesn't have, which is why we can't improve our non-freeway infrastructure.

METRO also receives money from the federal government to finance many of its capital outlays, however you may have noticed that the money supply is not unlimited. In fact, there have been fairly severe curtailments of federal grants in recent years. And at least METRO's tax base is healthy and grows to match the level of inflation; TXDoT's is a fixed tax per gallon of gasoline, and it barely brings in enough money to maintain the roads it has much less build new ones...which is why this road (and many like it) will be a toll facility!

If you're lamenting the lack of investment in rail-based transit, then figure out a way to balance the capital and operating costs with a higher level of farebox recovery. Otherwise, quit belly-achin' and ride the damned bus.

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What are the chances that another area lake is built, if flooding is such a concern?

Slim to none, unless its a regional stormwater detention project similar to Willow Waterhole or Art Storey Park. I'd suspect that the on-site detention requirements for new subdivisions (and infrastructure like the Grand Parkway, itself) may actually provide relief to the existing reservoirs.

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There is/was talk of a reservoir near Wallis. This is a little south & west of the construction we are talking about. Just under 10,000 acres. More for drinking water than flood prevention - although I'm sure their is a flood component also. It's on the other side of the Brazos - it was originally a site approved for a nuclear plant back in the 1970's before Three Mile Island. The reservoir was to be the cooling pond. Now Houston is thirsty.

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There is/was talk of a reservoir near Wallis. This is a little south & west of the construction we are talking about. Just under 10,000 acres. More for drinking water than flood prevention - although I'm sure their is a flood component also. It's on the other side of the Brazos - it was originally a site approved for a nuclear plant back in the 1970's before Three Mile Island. The reservoir was to be the cooling pond. Now Houston is thirsty.

Yeah, but the Allen Creek Reservoir project would have a dam only about a half-mile upstream of the Brazos River. It could only help with downstream flooding for Richmond/Rosenberg and further downstream. None of the affected area is ecologically consistent with the Katy prairie.

allens-creek-large.gif

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METRO also receives money from the federal government to finance many of its capital outlays, however you may have noticed that the money supply is not unlimited.

Uh, no. They have recieved federal money one time, and that was last year. Correct, for METRO, the money is not unlimited. In fact it is like pulling teeth to get the federal government to finance any METRO project.

In fact, there have been fairly severe curtailments of federal grants in recent years. And at least METRO's tax base is healthy and grows to match the level of inflation; TXDoT's is a fixed tax per gallon of gasoline, and it barely brings in enough money to maintain the roads it has much less build new ones...which is why this road (and many like it) will be a toll facility!

That is correct, under current Republican congress, there has been a severe curtailment of funding for public transportation projects. METRO's tax base has shrunk since it was created, hopefully they can get their full tax back.

TxDOT and other freeway construction agencies have NEVER gotten enough gas taxes to cover highway construction. The Interstate Highway system was constructed ENTIRELY by taxpayers.

While this road will be a toll facility, all freeways will have to be converted to tollways to have revenue even come close to covering the costs of building highways.

If you're lamenting the lack of investment in rail-based transit, then figure out a way to balance the capital and operating costs with a higher level of farebox recovery. Otherwise, quit belly-achin' and ride the damned bus.

It's already been figured out. It's common fact to anyone who knows what they're talking about that in the long run rail is more cost efficient than building highways.

I do currently ride the damned bus, and it sucks.

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Uh, no. They have recieved federal money one time, and that was last year. Correct, for METRO, the money is not unlimited. In fact it is like pulling teeth to get the federal government to finance any METRO project.

That is correct, under current Republican congress, there has been a severe curtailment of funding for public transportation projects. METRO's tax base has shrunk since it was created, hopefully they can get their full tax back.

Oh no! It's been an entire year since METRO received $1.6 billion dollars from the federal government under the crushing leadership of a single house of congress to construct the most marginal lines being proposed! Woe is us. Surely we shall perish? :huh: Of course, it wasn't easy! Look at whose district its in and then consider that the routes themselves suck. We tried to delete them in favor of BRT at one point because that was ----ing sane. But then, the feds came in and told us we could build something stupid. And in lock step, we exclaimed, "How stupid, sir!" We weren't asking a question, merely fulfilling a destiny thrust upon us.

TxDOT and other freeway construction agencies have NEVER gotten enough gas taxes to cover highway construction. The Interstate Highway system was constructed ENTIRELY by taxpayers.

The interstate highway system was built for the sake of civil defense, with underpasses built seemlessly with uniform clearances that could accommodate truck-mounted ballistic missiles and other military convoys. Many underpasses were capable of sheltering fighters or bombers and had long straight-aways with concrete as thick as runways because they were ----ing runways! And yes, they were originally built by taxpayers; taxpayers also paid to dismantle streetcars at the same time because the damned buses were the operationaly superior technology! After it was built, many subsequent modifications, enhancements, and maintenance functions transferred to the state.

While this road will be a toll facility, all freeways will have to be converted to tollways to have revenue even come close to covering the costs of building highways.

I would favor either making all roads toll roads or raising the gasoline tax. Either way, its an affordable user fee as compared to transit.

It's already been figured out. It's common fact to anyone who knows what they're talking about that in the long run rail is more cost efficient than building highways.

It's a common fact to anyone who has matriculated beyond the third grade that opinions are not fact. ...and that in the long run, we're all dead. Too much deferred gratification is a miserable, miserable way to live.

I do currently ride the damned bus, and it sucks.

Then drive a car. It will not suck. I assure you, this is a fact. I know what I'm talking about, mfastx. I just told you so, after all, and only an idiot would question a factual statement. So be quiet and go away.

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Oh no! It's been an entire year since METRO received $1.6 billion dollars from the federal government under the crushing leadership of a single house of congress to construct the most marginal lines being proposed! Woe is us. Surely we shall perish? :huh: Of course, it wasn't easy! Look at whose district its in and then consider that the routes themselves suck. We tried to delete them in favor of BRT at one point because that was ----ing sane. But then, the feds came in and told us we could build something stupid. And in lock step, we exclaimed, "How stupid, sir!" We weren't asking a question, merely fulfilling a destiny thrust upon us.

Like I said we have only gotten federal money once. Edit: oh and we definitely didn't recieve $1.6 billion, we got $900 million. We should have gotten it decades ago. METRO should not have any difficulty securing federal money for the University Line, and still many people are opposed to that line. You should know that.

The interstate highway system was built for the sake of civil defense, with underpasses built seemlessly with uniform clearances that could accommodate truck-mounted ballistic missiles and other military convoys. Many underpasses were capable of sheltering fighters or bombers and had long straight-aways with concrete as thick as runways because they were ----ing runways! And yes, they were originally built by taxpayers; taxpayers also paid to dismantle streetcars at the same time because the damned buses were the operationaly superior technology! After it was built, many subsequent modifications, enhancements, and maintenance functions transferred to the state.

That's what Eisenhower sold it as, yes. The government started subsidizing highway construction during that time period and haven't stopped. Don't tell me that ubran freeways constructed with taxpayer money were built for "defense."

It was a mistake to dismantle our rail systems instead of improving them and cities are figuring that out now and are scrambling to build more rail.

I would favor either making all roads toll roads or raising the gasoline tax. Either way, its an affordable user fee as compared to transit.

OK, fair point. However I disagree that raising the gasoline tax is more affordable than METRO's $0.75 sales tax. Gasoline taxes is a flawed approach to subsidizing highways. Not everyone drives on highways, yet everyone that pays for gasoline subsidizes them. Not to mention that since gas taxes only cover about 50% of the cost of highway construction (don't forget about maintanence and reconstruction costs) gas taxes would have to be doubled, which would be more than the rate of inflation.

It's a common fact to anyone who has matriculated beyond the third grade that opinions are not fact. ...and that in the long run, we're all dead. Too much deferred gratification is a miserable, miserable way to live.

Resorting to insults and bullying, are we? Heh heh you remind me of the "stop Ashby" crowd when it comes to defending your precious highways. I already proved that rail is more efficient than buses, I even started a thread on it.

Then drive a car. It will not suck. I assure you, this is a fact. I know what I'm talking about, mfastx. I just told you so, after all, and only an idiot would question a factual statement. So be quiet and go away.

Oh, I do that too. And it sucks lol. I work in the Galleria area and go home towards Montrose, and no matter which way I take (Richmond, Westheimer, 59) it is all backed up, it sucks.

I will never go away, I am here to stay!

(hey that rhymed)

Edited by mfastx

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Totally unrelated question, but not really.

I have always wondered as I am not in the transportation engineering field. What makes light rail so expensive to build compared to streets. The right of way costs are the same as they are using existing roads for the most part. And it seems like the road/rail line base prep costs would be But isn't rail something like $100 million per mile to build? I know there is additonal electrical work needed, and the actual rails - but is it really that much more expensive than paving?

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Totally unrelated question, but not really.

I have always wondered as I am not in the transportation engineering field. What makes light rail so expensive to build compared to streets. The right of way costs are the same as they are using existing roads for the most part. And it seems like the road/rail line base prep costs would be But isn't rail something like $100 million per mile to build? I know there is additonal electrical work needed, and the actual rails - but is it really that much more expensive than paving?

That's a great question, as I wonder that myself. The Main Street Line actually cost about $50 million a mile. To compare, the Katy Freeway cost about $180 million per mile to reconstruct, which is a similar figure. But one would think simply redoing a street and creating concrete slabs (stations) wouldn't cost nearly as much as a 20 lane highway.

On the plus side, maintanence costs for light rail are far lower than freeway maintanence costs, as light rail doesn't need to be re-done (at a much higher cost than original construction) like freeways do. The maintanence for light rail is on a much smaller scale.

Edited by mfastx

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OK, fair point. However I disagree that raising the gasoline tax is more affordable than METRO's $0.75 sales tax. Gasoline taxes is a flawed approach to subsidizing highways. Not everyone drives on highways, yet everyone that pays for gasoline subsidizes them. Not to mention that since gas taxes only cover about 50% of the cost of highway construction (don't forget about maintanence and reconstruction costs) gas taxes would have to be doubled, which would be more than the rate of inflation.

state or federal?

federal tax on gasoline is only 18 cents. it's been 18 cents since it was last raised in 93, it needs to be doubled. the 18 extra cents it would be less than a swing gasoline already does from one month to the next.

state tax on gasoline is 20 cents. it's been 20 cents since it was last raised in 91, it needs to be doubled as well.

so you say the price change wouldn't be in line with inflation, how about inflation since they were last changed? I'd think it would easily cover that. in the early 90s gasoline prices were about 1.50, 38 cents of that was tax. 25% of what we paid was tax. today, the percentage that's tax is just under 11%. if the gasoline tax had been changed to keep the 25% it would be about 80 cents today. doubling would get us close, but not quite there.

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state or federal?

federal tax on gasoline is only 18 cents. it's been 18 cents since it was last raised in 93, it needs to be doubled. the 18 extra cents it would be less than a swing gasoline already does from one month to the next.

state tax on gasoline is 20 cents. it's been 20 cents since it was last raised in 91, it needs to be doubled as well.

so you say the price change wouldn't be in line with inflation, how about inflation since they were last changed? I'd think it would easily cover that. in the early 90s gasoline prices were about 1.50, 38 cents of that was tax. 25% of what we paid was tax. today, the percentage that's tax is just under 11%. if the gasoline tax had been changed to keep the 25% it would be about 80 cents today. doubling would get us close, but not quite there.

Correct, I was mistaken. However are you talking about inflation of gas prices or inflation of our currency? I think the reluctance to raise the gas tax comes from the fact that gas prices would become MUCH higher.

Funding all of our highways and streets is going to come partially from taxpayer subsidies, just like funding for mass transit, buses, and airports. NO form of transportation "makes" money, and in big cities, building a core rail system in addition to highways is definitely a good option.

I'm not sure why people seem to believe that buses are more efficient at anything. The FACT is that they carry less people, and they do so less efficiently than rail.

Edited by mfastx

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Correct, I was mistaken. However are you talking about inflation of gas prices or inflation of our currency? I think the reluctance to raise the gas tax comes from the fact that gas prices would become MUCH higher.

Funding all of our highways and streets is going to come partially from taxpayer subsidies, just like funding for mass transit, buses, and airports. NO form of transportation "makes" money, and in big cities, building a core rail system in addition to highways is definitely a good option.

I'm not sure why people seem to believe that buses are more efficient at anything. The FACT is that they carry less people, and they do so less efficiently than rail.

Only in very specific sitiuations. In other situations - they would be grossly ineffecient.

Take the Park n Ride lots. At West Belfort route 265, there is approximately a two-hour surge in the morning. The buses - I think they seat 48, but I'm not positive, are scheduled to leave every 3-5 minutes, but in reality they leave as soon as they are full. Then another instantly pulls up, the people in line file in and it leaves. The continues uniterrupted for close to the full two hour surge time. And it works beautifully.

They then take the HOV lane downtown. In the PM, they can take the same lane back and reverse the cycle - although the surge is actually more comressed about 4:45 - 6 pm.

If this were rail - you would need double lines out there first off (empty buses just take the freeway, plus the rail lines would only be used for this route (Metro stops at the County line) as opposed to the HOV lane which can be used by any vehicle with multiple riders and is soon to be a money-generating HOT lane. The price for a double rail line out the Southwest Freeway to West Belfort would be astronomical for what you would get out of it.

Plus on the late evening runs, with very light traffic, this route combines with the 262 route and uses only one bus. That would not be possible with a train without yet another substantial outlay in rail.

This is just one anecdote of which there are many more where buses are much more efficient -both in cost and in flexibility. I would love to ride heavy rail thundering down the middle of the Southwest Freeway past all the parked commuters. I just don't want to pay for it and I don't think the improvement over the buses already there anywhere remotely justifies it.

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Only in very specific sitiuations. In other situations - they would be grossly ineffecient.

Take the Park n Ride lots. At West Belfort route 265, there is approximately a two-hour surge in the morning. The buses - I think they seat 48, but I'm not positive, are scheduled to leave every 3-5 minutes, but in reality they leave as soon as they are full. Then another instantly pulls up, the people in line file in and it leaves. The continues uniterrupted for close to the full two hour surge time. And it works beautifully.

They then take the HOV lane downtown. In the PM, they can take the same lane back and reverse the cycle - although the surge is actually more comressed about 4:45 - 6 pm.

If this were rail - you would need double lines out there first off (empty buses just take the freeway, plus the rail lines would only be used for this route (Metro stops at the County line) as opposed to the HOV lane which can be used by any vehicle with multiple riders and is soon to be a money-generating HOT lane. The price for a double rail line out the Southwest Freeway to West Belfort would be astronomical for what you would get out of it.

Plus on the late evening runs, with very light traffic, this route combines with the 262 route and uses only one bus. That would not be possible with a train without yet another substantial outlay in rail.

This is just one anecdote of which there are many more where buses are much more efficient -both in cost and in flexibility. I would love to ride heavy rail thundering down the middle of the Southwest Freeway past all the parked commuters. I just don't want to pay for it and I don't think the improvement over the buses already there anywhere remotely justifies it.

Good points, but if you take a look at the thread I started (entitled "light rail cheaper operating cost than buses" or something like that) and look at the link I provided, you'll see for yourself that even commuter rail clearly is more efficient both in subsidy per rider AND in cost per passenger mile. While capital cost for commuter rail is rather high, so is the capital cost for freeways and HOV lanes. After the system is in place, commuter rail is more cost efficient in terms of operating cost than buses.

For example, even Austin's half assed attempt at commuter rail (the joke of a system called Capital Metrorail) is more efficient than buses in the region.

Los Angeles' commuter rail system is more efficient in terms of operating cost than our P&R bus system.

However I do support the idea of HOT lanes.

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Correct, I was mistaken. However are you talking about inflation of gas prices or inflation of our currency? I think the reluctance to raise the gas tax comes from the fact that gas prices would become MUCH higher.

Funding all of our highways and streets is going to come partially from taxpayer subsidies, just like funding for mass transit, buses, and airports. NO form of transportation "makes" money, and in big cities, building a core rail system in addition to highways is definitely a good option.

I'm not sure why people seem to believe that buses are more efficient at anything. The FACT is that they carry less people, and they do so less efficiently than rail.

inflation of gas prices is what I was referring to. I have no idea what it would be against general inflation, but I'd assume it's still due for a substantial increase.

I'm all for a system that uses both buses and rail. there isn't a system that could be put in place that would use just one or the other. I like to look to Europe as a good example of transit. Most countries have a combination of commuter rail, bus, and tram/light rail system. all of it works together very well. one part of that system on it's own is not a complete solution. 2 parts is better, and we're getting there slowly, but all 3 is really the best answer. add commuter rail along all freeways and we're set.

Edited by samagon
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I'm all for a system that uses both buses and rail. there isn't a system that could be put in place that would use just one or the other. I like to look to Europe as a good example of transit. Most countries have a combination of commuter rail, bus, and tram/light rail system. all of it works together very well. one part of that system on it's own is not a complete solution. 2 parts is better, and we're getting there slowly, but all 3 is really the best answer. add commuter rail along all freeways and we're set.

Completely agree. Europe is a great model to follow. However, they have an advantage in building projects because they have higher taxes and can invest more in their infrastructure. Hopefully Houston can recieve some funding to improve our public transportation.

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Completely agree. Europe is a great model to follow. However, they have an advantage in building projects because they have higher taxes and can invest more in their infrastructure. Hopefully Houston can recieve some funding to improve our public transportation.

they've also got a really high population density, which is always something that is brought up when considering rail, of course, they go off of numbers for the entire state, or country. But just considering Harris County? We've got some very equatable density to other cities and regions that have a full transit solution in place. It's only going to get more dense as time goes by, as referenced in this thread...

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Only in very specific sitiuations. In other situations - they would be grossly ineffecient.

Take the Park n Ride lots. At West Belfort route 265, there is approximately a two-hour surge in the morning. The buses - I think they seat 48, but I'm not positive, are schediuled to leave every 3-5 minutes, but in reality they leave as soon as they are full. Then another instantly pulls up, the people in line file in and it leaves. The continues uniterrupted for close to the full two hour surge time. And it works beautifully.

They then take the HOV lane downtown. In the PM, they can take the same lane back and reverse the cycle - although the surge is actually more comressed about 4:45 - 6 pm.

If this were rail - you would need double lines out there first off (empty buses just take the freeway, plus the rail lines would only be used for this route (Metro stops at the County line) as opposed to the HOV lane which can be used by any vehicle with multiple riders and is soon to be a money-generating HOT lane. The price for a double rail line out the Southwest Freeway to West Belfort would be astronomical for what you would get out of it.

Plus on the late evening runs, with very light traffic, this route combines with the 262 route and uses only one bus. That would not be possible with a train without yet another substantial outlay in rail.

This is just one anecdote of which there are many more where buses are much more efficient -both in cost and in flexibility. I would love to ride heavy rail thundering down the middle of the Southwest Freeway past all the parked commuters. I just don't want to pay for it and I don't think the improvement over the buses already there anywhere remotely justifies it.

Can you use the Park and Ride lots on the weekends and how is the schedule during off peak hours? And lets not pretend that the HOV lanes dont gey backed up, or slow down either. What you described is so different than three or so heavy rail cars out together. Each car with the capacity of two buses. The trains would just wait longer.

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Can you use the Park and Ride lots on the weekends and how is the schedule during off peak hours? And lets not pretend that the HOV lanes dont gey backed up, or slow down either. What you described is so different than three or so heavy rail cars out together. Each car with the capacity of two buses. The trains would just wait longer.

The difference is cost. And no, the park and ride lots are closed on weekends and off peak is slow. But that purely a function of scheduling. Since the demand is not there now for buses - why would they be running empty trains?

The park and ride lots are a very good example. Peak demand that falls off a cliff. The people in Sugar Land don't come into Houston except for work. Running an empty train into downtown on Saturday won't bring them rushing in either. They have their lives out in the burbs. A train would be a very expensive capital outlay with a lot of downtime. Funny thing is - I love trains - just see them as massively expensive in most situations in Houston when something cheaper would work just as well.

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The difference is cost. And no, the park and ride lots are closed on weekends and off peak is slow. But that purely a function of scheduling. Since the demand is not there now for buses - why would they be running empty trains?

The park and ride lots are a very good example. Peak demand that falls off a cliff. The people in Sugar Land don't come into Houston except for work. Running an empty train into downtown on Saturday won't bring them rushing in either. They have their lives out in the burbs. A train would be a very expensive capital outlay with a lot of downtime. Funny thing is - I love trains - just see them as massively expensive in most situations in Houston when something cheaper would work just as well.

Park and Ride buses work well in Houston for the most part, but I think that demand could be higher if there were a train. In other words, more people might be inclined to take public transportation to work if they had the option of riding a train rather than a bus.

One place where there might be a lot of off peak demand is Galvestion, I'm heavily in favor of running a commuter rail out there.

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Why on earth would the demand be higher by switching to a train? Is there that many rail-fetishists lurking in the suburbs who are presently driving in that would be swayed by a different form of mass transit that what exists already? As I have already stated - you cannot get any more convenient that what exists at the existing Park-n -Ride. There is no waiting during peak hours - you park your car, stand in line, file on the bus, it fills and goes. To get any more convenient - they would have to offer personal service to the home. The Park n Ride system works well in Houston for all the reasons that rail wouldn't. It's flexible and you don't have a massive capital outlay of empty tracks sitting idle on weekends and off-peaks hours.

What would help garner more riders for the Park-n-Ride locations (at least the 265) is more parking. The lot is packed every day - there is no room for ridership growth.

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Why on earth would the demand be higher by switching to a train? Is there that many rail-fetishists lurking in the suburbs who are presently driving in that would be swayed by a different form of mass transit that what exists already? As I have already stated - you cannot get any more convenient that what exists at the existing Park-n -Ride. There is no waiting during peak hours - you park your car, stand in line, file on the bus, it fills and goes. To get any more convenient - they would have to offer personal service to the home. The Park n Ride system works well in Houston for all the reasons that rail wouldn't. It's flexible and you don't have a massive capital outlay of empty tracks sitting idle on weekends and off-peaks hours.

Demand may not get higher, but it's certainly possible that there would be marginally more riders if we built commuter rail on at least a couple of corridors (such as 290 and Galveston). Trains are larger, more comfortable, and the facilities are nicer. It's possible that it would attract more riders.

Oh, and saying that P&R buses are more flexible is just bogus. HOV lanes are not movable and can't go anywhere, the freeways aren't gonna go anywhere. HOV lanes might as well be fixed guideway transit. Flexibility is not an issue in terms of P&R buses or commuter rail.

Not only that, but commuter rail transports passengers more efficiently than buses.

However P&R buses do have an advantage in that it can take you closer to your final destination, most commuter trains drop people off at a main station and then people have to transfer. So until we can get more reliable inner city transit, commuter rail will probably not be viable.

Edited by mfastx

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However P&R buses do have an advantage in that it can take you closer to your final destination, most commuter trains drop people off at a main station and then people have to transfer. So until we can get more reliable inner city transit, commuter rail will probably not be viable.

I think that this is the problem, talking about parking, it wouldn't matter if there was a bus that had a route from an arterial road near your house to the station (were it too far to walk) that was reliable, as in, I walk out my door at 7:05, get to the bus stop at 7:12 and the bus is always there at 7:15, stops at the transit hub at 7:20-25 and I make my train which departs at 7:30 for downtown, I get off the train at 7:50 and since the bus and rail are synced there is a downtown circulator bus waiting for me to get on.

that reliability just wouldn't be there there, the commuter rail would probably be 5-10 minute window of reliability and the bus from your arterial road would be 15-30 minute window of suckage, you'd miss the train cause the bus was late, and the train was early, the next train would be late, and the bus downtown wouldn't be there if the train were on time.

transit in europe, asia, basically everywhere but USA works with clockwork like efficiency (unless someone is on strike, if your ticket says 3:07 departure, if you arrive on the platform at 3:07 you get to watch the train pull out of the station), why would we accept, or assume less?

Edited by samagon
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I think that this is the problem, talking about parking, it wouldn't matter if there was a bus that had a route from an arterial road near your house to the station (were it too far to walk) that was reliable, as in, I walk out my door at 7:05, get to the bus stop at 7:12 and the bus is always there at 7:15, stops at the transit hub at 7:20-25 and I make my train which departs at 7:30 for downtown, I get off the train at 7:50 and since the bus and rail are synced there is a downtown circulator bus waiting for me to get on.

that reliability just wouldn't be there there, the commuter rail would probably be 5-10 minute window of reliability and the bus from your arterial road would be 15-30 minute window of suckage, you'd miss the train cause the bus was late, and the train was early, the next train would be late, and the bus downtown wouldn't be there if the train were on time.

transit in europe, asia, basically everywhere but USA works with clockwork like efficiency (unless someone is on strike, if your ticket says 3:07

departure, if you arrive on the platform at 3:07 you get to watch the train pull out of the station), why would we accept, or assume less?

I don't know if it is a US problem. More of a sunbelt problem. There are many cities in America with reliable mass transit.

And Pleak, rail is definitely more attractive to potential transit users than buses. That's not even a debate.

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Demand may not get higher, but it's certainly possible that there would be marginally more riders if we built commuter rail on at least a couple of corridors (such as 290 and Galveston). Trains are larger, more comfortable, and the facilities are nicer. It's possible that it would attract more riders.

Way to completely hedge your argument. :P Not sure which way this statement is going. And rail facilities being nicer is a straw argument. If the same amount of $ was spent on bus facilites - you would have just as nice.

Oh, and saying that P&R buses are more flexible is just bogus. HOV lanes are not movable and can't go anywhere, the freeways aren't gonna go anywhere. HOV lanes might as well be fixed guideway transit. Flexibility is not an issue in terms of P&R buses or commuter rail.

But what other vehicle besides the commuter trains could use the rail lines when not in use? As it stands now, the HOV lanes are utilized by plenty other vehicles and that is going to increase when the conversion to HOT lanes is finished. Then they will become nice little revenue generators (by the way - who gets the money - Metro or HCTRA?) And when the rodeo is in town, the P&R buses become rodeo shuttles - you catch the bus there, travel part of the way on the HOV lane and then exit for the rest of the way via the loop to Reliant Stadium. Don't think a train could do that very easily.

Not only that, but commuter rail transports passengers more efficiently than buses.

You keep saying that. But you haven't shown how. Repeating something does not make it true.

However P&R buses do have an advantage in that it can take you closer to your final destination, most commuter trains drop people off at a main station and then people have to transfer. So until we can get more reliable inner city transit, commuter rail will probably not be viable.

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I don't know if it is a US problem. More of a sunbelt problem. There are many cities in America with reliable mass transit.

And Pleak, rail is definitely more attractive to potential transit users than buses. That's not even a debate.

I never said it was not more attractive. What I am arguing is there is no need to replace the P&R system with commuter rail. It would be a massive expense and have only a marginal increase in ridership if any. I am saying why replace a extremely well-run system for something just because it is "cooler"? The people that are pre-disposed to mass transit already use the P&R - it's convenient and easy. There are thousands of people that will not use mass transit for any reason - and a shiny new train would not sway them.

I think they need to expand the P&R system if anything. The lots at West Belfort need garages as there isn't any more room to expand surface parking. Also expand the hours. If you have ever been at the P&R lot in the morning after the last bus leaves - there are probably 30 more people that come up and then drive away when the realize they missed the bus.

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Way to completely hedge your argument. :P Not sure which way this statement is going. And rail facilities being nicer is a straw argument. If the same amount of $ was spent on bus facilites - you would have just as nice.

I am saying that if we built commuter rail now, ridership wouldn't jump to ridiculous levels overnight. But we would have a more reliable, higher capacity system in place that we can build around which would improve commutes in the future.

You said yourself that the P&R lots are full - which means the buses are full. Perhaps that is an indication that more people would ride public transportation if capacity were increased?

But what other vehicle besides the commuter trains could use the rail lines when not in use? As it stands now, the HOV lanes are utilized by plenty other vehicles and that is going to increase when the conversion to HOT lanes is finished. Then they will become nice little revenue generators (by the way - who gets the money - Metro or HCTRA?) And when the rodeo is in town, the P&R buses become rodeo shuttles - you catch the bus there, travel part of the way on the HOV lane and then exit for the rest of the way via the loop to Reliant Stadium. Don't think a train could do that very easily.

Freight trains is the obvious answer. A commuter rail line would run along existing tracks when possible, and building more trackage would increase freight capacity.

Not sure who gets the money, METRO should IMHO. A train could carry much more riders into downtown and then all you need is a transfer to the light rail and there you go. The commuter rail along highway 90 wouldn't even require a transfer to go to Reliant Park.

You keep saying that. But you haven't shown how. Repeating something does not make it true.

Trust me, it's a fact. I even started a thread on it, so you can see the numbers for yourself. :P

I want to end by repeating what I said earlier: P&R works great for now, commuter rail won't be much better until we get a more reliable and higher capacity transit system connecting our employment centers. Until that happens, P&R buses do a better job of getting people closer to their final destination without having to transfer to an unreliable local bus.

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I never said it was not more attractive. What I am arguing is there is no need to replace the P&R system with commuter rail. It would be a massive expense and have only a marginal increase in ridership if any. I am saying why replace a extremely well-run system for something just because it is "cooler"? The people that are pre-disposed to mass transit already use the P&R - it's convenient and easy. There are thousands of people that will not use mass transit for any reason - and a shiny new train would not sway them.

I think they need to expand the P&R system if anything. The lots at West Belfort need garages as there isn't any more room to expand surface parking. Also expand the hours. If you have ever been at the P&R lot in the morning after the last bus leaves - there are probably 30 more people that come up and then drive away when the realize they missed the bus.

So, expand the Park and Ride service from 4:30 AM until 12AM then. And I do believe having it as rail would keep the riders who currently use it, plus add more. People are more comfortable with riding rails than buses. Commuter rail is just more reliable (less maintenance). I know they are Greyhound type buses, but maybe those buses could be used on express routes in the city or something. Commuter rail along the other half of the Westpark Tollway ROW, 290, etc., would be good for the city. Maybe if Washington decides to spend more on infrastructure, Metro won't be incompetent this time and use funds wisely.

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