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What Was Main Street Like Before The Light Rail?


IronTiger

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Don't know why I'm so curious about this, but I've been exploring around Houston in Google Maps, and Main Street is...interesting. Extremely tight right of way for one northbound lane, one southbound lane, and trains. No bike lanes, turn lanes, or parking.

What was it like before the light rail came through (as in, recent history)? A picture would be good, but a description would be good, too.

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Don't know why I'm so curious about this, but I've been exploring around Houston in Google Maps, and Main Street is...interesting. Extremely tight right of way for one northbound lane, one southbound lane, and trains. No bike lanes, turn lanes, or parking.

What was it like before the light rail came through (as in, recent history)? A picture would be good, but a description would be good, too.

For a general description, it was 2 lanes in each direction with no left turn lane. Left turns were prohibited on the entire stretch from 59 northward.

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Main Street was great before the train destroyed it. I used Main all the time to get through downtown, as the traffic moved better than the other streets. It was a classic drive through town, with lots of cool buildings to look at.

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Yeap I use to use it to go from anywhere on the North Side to the South Side straight through Downtown but now you can't turn this way or that way and now it dead ends at that stupid, needless fountain square and you have to navigate around other streets to hit it again on the other side.

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Main Street was great before the train destroyed it. I used Main all the time to get through downtown, as the traffic moved better than the other streets. It was a classic drive through town, with lots of cool buildings to look at.

Let's not kid ourselves. Main Street was a ghetto right in the middle of downtown. The street surface was cracked and potholed, the sidewalks smelled of urine. It was a gathering place for the homeless. Hundreds of buses rumbled up and down it daily, leaving a diesel smell in the air. The buildings were old, dirty and unrenovated. There was simply nothing nice or attractive about Main Street.

Of course, back then, downtown was pretty gritty all over, so Main Street didn't stick out too much. It was just that Main Street was the worst.

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Let's not kid ourselves. Main Street was a ghetto right in the middle of downtown. The street surface was cracked and potholed, the sidewalks smelled of urine. It was a gathering place for the homeless. Hundreds of buses rumbled up and down it daily, leaving a diesel smell in the air. The buildings were old, dirty and unrenovated. There was simply nothing nice or attractive about Main Street.

Of course, back then, downtown was pretty gritty all over, so Main Street didn't stick out too much. It was just that Main Street was the worst.

if it's so much better now as you imply, to what do you attribute the improvement?

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Let's not kid ourselves. Main Street was a ghetto right in the middle of downtown. The street surface was cracked and potholed, the sidewalks smelled of urine. It was a gathering place for the homeless. Hundreds of buses rumbled up and down it daily, leaving a diesel smell in the air. The buildings were old, dirty and unrenovated. There was simply nothing nice or attractive about Main Street.

Of course, back then, downtown was pretty gritty all over, so Main Street didn't stick out too much. It was just that Main Street was the worst.

Ah, the good ol' glory days

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if it's so much better now as you imply, to what do you attribute the improvement?

Investment, mostly. Sure, some of that investment was the light rail, but really, it was an overall investment in Main Street, northern downtown, east downtown, two sports venues, parks...everything. Streets and sidewalks have been redone. The downtown groups keeps the area clean of litter. It is a rather simple, but expensive, concept. When money is spent in an area, it cleans up and thrives. Downtown has done it. So has Washington Avenue and Midtown. My fear of historic districts is that the restrictions placed on improvements will stunt revitalization, but that is a different subject, even though the point is the same.

Because millions of dollars have been spent to clean up and revitalize Main Street, it is no longer the slum of downtown Houston.

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Main Street was indeed a dire stretch for a long time. The boarded up Rice Hotel, fire-damaged West Building, the vacant block at Lamar. It has taken a long time to come back. Renovating the Rice was probably the first big Main Street project, and work on that started in the late 1990s. I couldn't say whether the light rail helped or hurt. At the time I would have preferred it be routed on Fannin.

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  • 2 weeks later...

And I once thought I was alone thinking that stupid train sucked! So in 1970 I can tell you that you could drag race down main street without any problem, course we didn't but they only had about 8 police cars on graveyard so I know for a fact you scaresly ever saw a police car downtown, I know because I sat at that warwick circle for 2 hours waiting for one after some idiot ran the yield sign on montrose and T-Boned my pretty new mustang. Now the fun thing about Main street at night was to catch those lights just right so you never had to stop, it could be done but you had to really pay attention. One hot spot downtown in that era was the McDonalds drive in under the 45, not related to McDonalds chain, and further down was Bill Williams across from the University and now where the medical building is sitting. That train is just plain silly and eats up a lot of real estate, not to mention the added danger of getting ran over by one. Thumbs down

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  • 3 weeks later...

As a guy who can recall Houston before suburban shopping malls, when you had to dress up in bow tie and suit to go downtown shopping, I'm fairly positive about current trends. Of course my mother and grandmother wore hat and gloves because Downtown was a vibrant wonder then. There were also street cars and numerous train tracks. We'd meet friends and leave from Union and Southern Stations in that area. Of course we had and drove the period land yachts too! And cruised downtown during Christams to see all the window decorations and lights, because that's where you went to see THE Santa.

We then entered a period of de-centralization and it became a time where the bow tie and suit were replaced by discreet soft body armour and rapid transgression through the area without stopping. Big store windows were bricked up and everybody dodged and hid. We shopped at River Oaks, Palm Center and Gulfgate as they were built. We also wondered why they built that Astrodome thing way out in the country? During the 70s and 80s Downtown kept sliding really down. The core of our city was becoming a decaying core without vitality.

The train and revamping are not entirely new concepts. Choking over conjestion of automobiles full of anxious perturbed people is not a real good plan for urban renewal, nor converting it completly into warehoused poverty.

Did you know in the 1930s you could get from downtown Houston to the Galveston front faster than you can possibly get there today? Electric railways cars left Houston every hour or so every day. They then built the Gulf Freeway on top of it and it's been conjested and under construction continuously since.

And besides that, when you ride the trains you can text to your hearts content - and not run over anyone or anything (unless another idiot fails to "see" the train!)

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  • 2 months later...

See the attached picture. ;) This is North Main looking Southtowards downtown. The second picture is of the same area when construction began. The third picture is from the opposite side (North Main looking North towards The North Side).


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Edited by sinister1
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Main Street should be closed to cars and be a pedestrian and bike thoroughfare. It doesn't get used much by cars anyway.

 

A lot of cities, including Galveston and Waco tried that. Didn't work, and just ended up killing what was left of their downtowns.

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Correlation does not imply causation. Perhaps their downtowns died in spite of that change, not because of it. Houston's a thriving metroplex with a lot of people. Main Street is barely used by cars in Downtown.

True, but we already have a well used pedestrian system downtown in the form of the tunnel system. I'm not so sure closing the entire road to traffic would be of that much benefit since a lot of our pedestrian traffic is below ground.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • The title was changed to What Was Main Street Like Before The Light Rail?

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