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More Congestion on I10

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As far as a creative and relatively inexpensive solution to congestion on I10:

 

A public-private partnership between METRO/any other sort of governmental group from Katy and beyond and the Energy Corridor Management District would be formed. P&R service would be expanded in Katy, along I10, and 99 and new routes would be added that would drop off all Energy Corridor passengers off at the P&R location at Hwy 6 and I10. From there, the EC District would work with all the companies and we'd have Shell buses picking up Shell workers, BP buses picking up BP workers, etc, etc. It could work many different ways. They could just have one private bus company that serves as the "last mile". Point is, once the passengers are dropped off the "private" side of the partnership would take over. 

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The problem is implementation and funds. I think a lot of cities (in particular sun-belt cities) try to stick that type of Chicago, NYC, etc doctrine of trying to make a centralized city. Houston just needs LRT connecting it's largest and densest employment and activity centers (DT, Uptown, Greenway Plaza, TMC, our 4 professional sports stadiums and our educational and cultural institutions) which happen to all be within 8 miles of each other. Not to mention, actually have enough money left over to make sure it doesn't happen at the expense of our bus network and P&R expansion.

Furthermore, while Houston is decentralized, our rush our traffic is heavily inbound in the morning and outbound in the evening. A great investment would be in doubling our P&R system that could feed commuters into the core and start building ridership in places like Greenway, Woodland Town Center/Exxon, Energy Corridor, and Westchase with express bus service. .

As far as BRT vs LRT; I would argue that BRT couldn't do what the Main St line accomplished and BRT should be used instead of LRT for the current expansion.

Lastly, all this would ideally be done while simultaneously rebuilding our roads and highways.

Agreed that an expansion of P&R would be beneficial including increasing the size of the parking lots in the outlying regions.

Regarding BRT vs. LRT, recent studies have found that BRT provides the same development benefits of LRT and I really question how much of the development in the Main Street corridor can be credited exclusively to LRT. Development along the line has been concentrated pretty heavily in the vicinity of Market Square Park and really didn't take off until that park was completed. Given the amount of development that Discovery Green has driven (with no proximity to rail) and the development of the Market Square area, I think that there's a pretty credible case that can be put forward regarding how much development parks have driven downtown.

Once you get out of that area, development along the Main Street line has been pretty sparse and I think that it's questionable to consider either Main Street Square or Houston Pavilions a transit success story.

To me the question of LRT vs. BRT though comes down to a question of scarce dollars. Given that there's an extremely large area to cover with transit and given that LRT costs approx 4x as much as BRT per mile. My personal opinion is that the city would be better served at this point with a 100 mile BRT network than a 25 mile LRT network. I'm sure that the immediate response is going to be that the city would be better served with a 100 mile LRT, but I'm personally of the opinion that in about 5 years we're going to start reading a lot about the financial problems that DART is suffering from based on the massive long term debt problem that they've created. Houston has enough problems related to METROs past mismanagement already to add that layer.

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Agreed that an expansion of P&R would be beneficial including increasing the size of the parking lots in the outlying regions.

Regarding BRT vs. LRT, recent studies have found that BRT provides the same development benefits of LRT and I really question how much of the development in the Main Street corridor can be credited exclusively to LRT. Development along the line has been concentrated pretty heavily in the vicinity of Market Square Park and really didn't take off until that park was completed. Given the amount of development that Discovery Green has driven (with no proximity to rail) and the development of the Market Square area, I think that there's a pretty credible case that can be put forward regarding how much development parks have driven downtown.

Once you get out of that area, development along the Main Street line has been pretty sparse and I think that it's questionable to consider either Main Street Square or Houston Pavilions a transit success story.

To me the question of LRT vs. BRT though comes down to a question of scarce dollars. Given that there's an extremely large area to cover with transit and given that LRT costs approx 4x as much as BRT per mile. My personal opinion is that the city would be better served at this point with a 100 mile BRT network than a 25 mile LRT network. I'm sure that the immediate response is going to be that the city would be better served with a 100 mile LRT, but I'm personally of the opinion that in about 5 years we're going to start reading a lot about the financial problems that DART is suffering from based on the massive long term debt problem that they've created. Houston has enough problems related to METROs past mismanagement already to add that layer.

I guess you're not aware of the many apartments going up all along the line and the midtown and the super block and MATCH. Also regarding BRT vs LRT the costs aren't as drastic if there is a all of tunneling and bridges. Also the FTA strongly prefers LRT and thus if a city wants federal funds it would be wise to stick with rail. As far as DART there has been quote a bit of development along the line. And finally a lot of people have "rail bias." Unfortunately buses just aren't attractive to many people.

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Excellent points.  The fact that the Houston metro area is more than 6 million people in nine different counties and an area of over 10,000 sq miles is a challenge.  The fact that the population is growing so rapidly and that the city is so organic in its development are additional challenges.  We're projected to add almost 1.5 million people to the region by 2025.  That's going to have profound impact on everything.

 

The rate of growth is a huge point of differentiation between Houston and static cities.  I know that many people in this forum like to talk about urbanization and it's importance.  I'm all in favor of the way that the inside the loop area is gentrifying, but that doesn't address the issues of the vast majority of the regional population and doesn't address how the region is going to deal with an additional increase of 1.5 million population of which a very small percentage is going to locate inside the loop. 

 

As I've pointed out before, the widening of I10 had everything to do with the continued dynamic growth of the Houston metro area.  There is no reason to believe that the construction that occurred in the Energy Corridor would have happened inside the loop if access to the Energy Corridor had been restricted.  This is not a zero sum game.  Cities like San Antonio and Oklahoma City compete just as hard for major companies to relocate there as Houston does and it's a pretty delicate tipping point.  It would only take 4-5 such companies relocating to OKC before it would be legitimate energy hub and a serious competitor in those kind of decisions.

 

 

If it was up to me, we would have subways all over this town and lots of covered moving walkways in the busier districts. A 100 mile network could make Houston the world-class city we aspire to be. We could have subway lines connecting areas such as:

 

- Hobby Airport, U of H, Downtown, Greenspoint, IAH and The Woodlands

- Reliant Park, TMC, Rice U/Hermann Park, Midtown, Downtown 

- TMC, Rice Village, GWP, Galleria area

- Midtown, Montrose, Upper Kirby/River Oaks, Galleria area, Westchase, Terry Hershey Park, Energy Corridor

- Energy Corridor, City Centre/Memorial City, Memorial Park, Allen Pkwy/Regent Square/Eleanor Tinsley Park, Downtown

 

I think that would be a great start to a new era in Houston. Add in a bullet train to D/FW and/or ATX/SA and we've got even more sustainable growth management over time.

 

***

 

I agree that the I-10 expansion helped the growth we are seeing out there today, but I'm not sure that the same kind of growth wouldn't have happened elsewhere in town if we didn't do I-10 the way we did. I wonder if it came down to "the Energy Corridor, or OKC/SA" for some of these companies. That's a very interesting take.

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I don't know that being in the red for some period od time is necessarily bad. Being "green" all the time owuld imply some level of overbuilding. And, it's not unusual for mass transit systems to be massively crowded during rush hour either, the difference being that the travelers aren't driving themselves. It's been my experience that mass transit is not at all comfortable during rush hour.

 

Keep in mind that the folks who live in Cinco Ranch and other suburbs would have to be forced into town at gunpoint. They like their lives in the suburbs, the yards, the pools, etc.

 

 

I'd rather be "overbuilt" if it means we're moving than "under built" if it means we're sitting in traffic. You're right, though that even some of the best mass transit systems we have are "massively crowded" during rush hour, too. That demonstrates their demand if they're planned and built right.

 

I'm not saying or advocating moving people from the suburbs closer in. I just want us to stop building any further out than we already have and build smarter in all phases of our transportation system.

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I think that's an interesting point, but I generally find that no one is willing to provide reasons that this will occur.  It's great to speculate that people (and businesses for that matter) shouldn't move to the suburbs, but I've yet to hear tangible reasons that this is going to occur that consider economic realities.

 

As more people move and development occurs inside the loop, prices rise, which makes surrounding areas more attractive.  As more people move into the metro, demand continues to increase in surrounding areas which makes exurban areas more attractive.  Urban growth boundaries then increase prices across the region and decrease incentive for people and businesses to move into the metro.

 

I see no signs whatsoever that the Houston region has any interest in taking any measures that are going to reduce the attractiveness to people and businesses to move here, so I'm not sure why we would expect a major change in development patterns.

 

I don't think it'll happen, either. I just want to connect the city to the suburbs with more options than driving. Like we were talking about earlier, a lot of people seem to care more about their community or their personal space than what's best for the masses, and "harsh" or not, that (and having 6 million of us) has largely brought us to this point. We can't keep going like this forever, and like I said the other day...it's a hell of a lot easier to manage this issue now while there are "only" 6 million, 300 million and 7 billion of us than when there are 10-20 million, 500-700 million and 20-50 billion of us. Future generations are being left with a bigger "load" (so to speak) every day we continue to look the other way.

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Good point. If Katy Freeway was busy (which it is) people are going to start yapping about how expansion didn't help and "induced demand", yadda yadda. If it wasn't busy, then people will complain about how it took out buildings for useless concrete. If it wasn't done at all, then people will complain about how Houston's highway system is stuck in the 1960s.

 

That may be true, but they're being idiots if they "complain" about being able move faster.

 

Can't let that get in the way of decision making of this magnitude.

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The problem is implementation and funds. I think a lot of cities (in particular sun-belt cities) try to stick that type of Chicago, NYC, etc doctrine of trying to make a centralized city. Houston just needs LRT connecting it's largest and densest employment and activity centers (DT, Uptown, Greenway Plaza, TMC, our 4 professional sports stadiums and our educational and cultural institutions) which happen to all be within 8 miles of each other. Not to mention, actually have enough money left over to make sure it doesn't happen at the expense of our bus network and P&R expansion. 

 

Furthermore, while Houston is decentralized, our rush our traffic is heavily inbound in the morning and outbound in the evening. A great investment would be in doubling our P&R system that could feed commuters into the core and start building ridership in places like Greenway, Woodland Town Center/Exxon, Energy Corridor, and Westchase with express bus service. . 

 

As far as BRT vs LRT; I would argue that BRT couldn't do what the Main St line accomplished and BRT should be used instead of LRT for the current expansion. 

 

Lastly, all this would ideally be done while simultaneously rebuilding our roads and highways. 

 

I agree on connecting the business and arts/entertainment centers (and universities and airports), but I would go with faster trains/subways...and considering the growth we're seeing north and west of town, I would connect with those areas too.

 

We need to fix our streets, too. I need alignments, balances, suspension work, etc. every year in this town.

As far as a creative and relatively inexpensive solution to congestion on I10:

 

A public-private partnership between METRO/any other sort of governmental group from Katy and beyond and the Energy Corridor Management District would be formed. P&R service would be expanded in Katy, along I10, and 99 and new routes would be added that would drop off all Energy Corridor passengers off at the P&R location at Hwy 6 and I10. From there, the EC District would work with all the companies and we'd have Shell buses picking up Shell workers, BP buses picking up BP workers, etc, etc. It could work many different ways. They could just have one private bus company that serves as the "last mile". Point is, once the passengers are dropped off the "private" side of the partnership would take over. 

 

I like the idea, but it wouldn't reduce the congestion inside the EC. And of course, I would prefer train... :)

 

I really like the idea of the "last mile" bus.

Edited by por favor gracias

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Agreed that an expansion of P&R would be beneficial including increasing the size of the parking lots in the outlying regions.

Regarding BRT vs. LRT, recent studies have found that BRT provides the same development benefits of LRT and I really question how much of the development in the Main Street corridor can be credited exclusively to LRT. Development along the line has been concentrated pretty heavily in the vicinity of Market Square Park and really didn't take off until that park was completed. Given the amount of development that Discovery Green has driven (with no proximity to rail) and the development of the Market Square area, I think that there's a pretty credible case that can be put forward regarding how much development parks have driven downtown.

Once you get out of that area, development along the Main Street line has been pretty sparse and I think that it's questionable to consider either Main Street Square or Houston Pavilions a transit success story.

To me the question of LRT vs. BRT though comes down to a question of scarce dollars. Given that there's an extremely large area to cover with transit and given that LRT costs approx 4x as much as BRT per mile. My personal opinion is that the city would be better served at this point with a 100 mile BRT network than a 25 mile LRT network. I'm sure that the immediate response is going to be that the city would be better served with a 100 mile LRT, but I'm personally of the opinion that in about 5 years we're going to start reading a lot about the financial problems that DART is suffering from based on the massive long term debt problem that they've created. Houston has enough problems related to METROs past mismanagement already to add that layer.

 

I'm pretty sure I've read some quotes from the developers mentioning the rail line down Main Street in regards to their choice for location. I wish it wouldn't interfere with the streets like it does, but that corridor was a great choice for light rail IMO.

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I really like the idea of the "last mile" bus (for now).

San Francisco isn't too fond of the "Google bus" but part of the problem with that is they see it as a reason of the loss of affordable housing in San Francisco, but the issue of affordable housing (or rather, lack of it) in San Francisco has resulted from decades of misguided practices to "keep things as they were".

That may be true, but they're being idiots if they "complain" about being able move faster.

Can't let that get in the way of decision making of this magnitude.

I was mostly referring to people who were/are against the Katy Freeway expansion.

We could have subway lines connecting areas such as:

- Hobby Airport, U of H, Downtown, Greenspoint, IAH and The Woodlands

- Reliant Park, TMC, Rice U/Hermann Park, Midtown, Downtown

- TMC, Rice Village, GWP, Galleria area

- Midtown, Montrose, Upper Kirby/River Oaks, Galleria area, Westchase, Terry Hershey Park, Energy Corridor

- Energy Corridor, City Centre/Memorial City, Memorial Park, Allen Pkwy/Regent Square/Eleanor Tinsley Park, Downtown

Now there's a reasonable idea! I hate to say it, but the ideas of linking the employment centers with a sort of "belt" rail system (I think someone said it, or at least that's what I inferred) is a terrible idea. It's a great idea on paper--major employment centers linked together, but it fails otherwise. It's very similar to a plan I saw in which someone on a College Station forum mentioned: a great example of a bad idea. In College Station-Bryan, one of the main arterials is College Avenue, which historically connected downtown Bryan to Texas A&M's campus, a distance of a few miles. The problem is that while Downtown is a popular destination, with bars, specialty shops, and restaurants, and the campus is definitely very popular, the two never interact. You go to Texas A&M, or you go to campus. Likewise, if you work at the TMC and live in Pearland (as I'm sure many do), why would you need to go to the Energy Corridor?

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The rail to suburbs would be good after university line and uptown because once people get into town they have a way to get around. That's the issue with DART it's just a suburban feeder system.

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San Francisco isn't too fond of the "Google bus" but part of the problem with that is they see it as a reason of the loss of affordable housing in San Francisco, but the issue of affordable housing (or rather, lack of it) in San Francisco has resulted from decades of misguided practices to "keep things as they were".

I was mostly referring to people who were/are against the Katy Freeway expansion.

Now there's a reasonable idea! I hate to say it, but the ideas of linking the employment centers with a sort of "belt" rail system (I think someone said it, or at least that's what I inferred) is a terrible idea. It's a great idea on paper--major employment centers linked together, but it fails otherwise. It's very similar to a plan I saw in which someone on a College Station forum mentioned: a great example of a bad idea. In College Station-Bryan, one of the main arterials is College Avenue, which historically connected downtown Bryan to Texas A&M's campus, a distance of a few miles. The problem is that while Downtown is a popular destination, with bars, specialty shops, and restaurants, and the campus is definitely very popular, the two never interact. You go to Texas A&M, or you go to campus. Likewise, if you work at the TMC and live in Pearland (as I'm sure many do), why would you need to go to the Energy Corridor?

 

A network like the one I just "proposed" would connect all of the main business centers not only with each other, but also the main shopping, dining and entertainment districts around town...as well as the TMC, Memorial/Hermann/Terry Hershey Parks, Rice U, U of H and both airports. I'm not suggesting subways to Pearland...at least not for the time being.

 

It would be nothing at all like Bryan/College Station.

Edited by por favor gracias
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Agreed that an expansion of P&R would be beneficial including increasing the size of the parking lots in the outlying regions.

Regarding BRT vs. LRT, recent studies have found that BRT provides the same development benefits of LRT and I really question how much of the development in the Main Street corridor can be credited exclusively to LRT. Development along the line has been concentrated pretty heavily in the vicinity of Market Square Park and really didn't take off until that park was completed. Given the amount of development that Discovery Green has driven (with no proximity to rail) and the development of the Market Square area, I think that there's a pretty credible case that can be put forward regarding how much development parks have driven downtown.

Once you get out of that area, development along the Main Street line has been pretty sparse and I think that it's questionable to consider either Main Street Square or Houston Pavilions a transit success story.

To me the question of LRT vs. BRT though comes down to a question of scarce dollars. Given that there's an extremely large area to cover with transit and given that LRT costs approx 4x as much as BRT per mile. My personal opinion is that the city would be better served at this point with a 100 mile BRT network than a 25 mile LRT network. I'm sure that the immediate response is going to be that the city would be better served with a 100 mile LRT, but I'm personally of the opinion that in about 5 years we're going to start reading a lot about the financial problems that DART is suffering from based on the massive long term debt problem that they've created. Houston has enough problems related to METROs past mismanagement already to add that layer.

 

I was referring to Main St.'s ridership when I talked about its accomplishments. BRT wouldn't be able to duplicate this line's success when it comes to moving large groups of people as the LRT cars allow a larger capacity of people. How many buses and space would it take to transport, load and unload two train full of people at METRO's most busiest stations? For me, Main St, Uptown, and University Line would form a great backbone for our transit network, while the rest should have been BRT and P&R feeding into it..

 

As far as development is concerned, there has been steady growth in a 1/2 to 1/4 mile radius of the Main St Line (north of the TMC) and the planned University and Uptown line over the past decade. 

Edited by kdog08
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I agree on connecting the business and arts/entertainment centers (and universities and airports), but I would go with faster trains/subways...and considering the growth we're seeing north and west of town, I would connect with those areas too.

 

We need to fix our streets, too. I need alignments, balances, suspension work, etc. every year in this town.

 

I like the idea, but it wouldn't reduce the congestion inside the EC. And of course, I would prefer train... :)

 

I really like the idea of the "last mile" bus.

 

I would just like to the LRT go underground at key intersections of the proposed University and Uptown Lines such as Shepard, Kirby, Westheimer, and Post Oak. Our core is about 10 miles from end to end by the proposed and current rail so the distances are far and most folks don't ride it end to end. I think Houston's LRT model serves it well and requires an additional investment in local bus, BRT, and P&R feeding commuters and locals into the LRT in order for the city to truly have a transit system.

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I guess you're not aware of the many apartments going up all along the line and the midtown and the super block and MATCH. Also regarding BRT vs LRT the costs aren't as drastic if there is a all of tunneling and bridges. Also the FTA strongly prefers LRT and thus if a city wants federal funds it would be wise to stick with rail. As far as DART there has been quote a bit of development along the line. And finally a lot of people have "rail bias." Unfortunately buses just aren't attractive to many people.

I'm not convinced that those things are getting built because if the rail line by any means. It's really a stretch to credit a burst of activity to the rail line when that burst occurs 10 years after construction was completed. Apartment buildings have gone up all over Midtown without any real concentration on the rail line, so unless you're going to credit all development in Midtown to the rail line, which I would again find to be a stretch, then it's hard to find a pattern.

Regarding DART, we've already discussed that on another thread. I have questions about the investment figures provided by the study that DART commissioned to identify development along the rail lines because it doesn't consider subsidies provided to projects. That's going to skew results pretty heavily because it makes it very difficult to understand what was built because of incentives and what was built because of rail.

Regarding rail bias, I have no interest in transit for people that are too good for the bus. I'm interested in transit for people that need it because it's their only choice. Once those people have their needs covered, that's the time to consider transit for people that own cars, but don't want to drive them.

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A network like the one I just "proposed" would connect all of the main business centers not only with each other, but also the main shopping, dining and entertainment districts around town...as well as the TMC, Memorial/Hermann/Terry Hershey Parks, Rice U, U of H and both airports. I'm not suggesting subways to Pearland...at least not for the time being.

It would be nothing at all like Bryan/College Station.

BCS isn't a great comparison to Houston, admittedly (especially in terms of traffic), but the microcosm of where people are and where people want to go still holds merit.

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I was referring to Main St.'s ridership when I talked about its accomplishments. BRT wouldn't be able to duplicate this line's success when it comes to moving large groups of people as the LRT cars allow a larger capacity of people. How many buses and space would it take to transport, load and unload two train full of people at METRO's most busiest stations? For me, Main St, Uptown, and University Line would form a great backbone for our transit network, while the rest should have been BRT and P&R feeding into it..

 

As far as development is concerned, there has been steady growth in a 1/2 to 1/4 mile radius of the Main St Line (north of the TMC) and the planned University and Uptown line over the past decade. 

 

LRT is a more efficient and cleaner source of transportation than buses. I just wish we would have built our current line without the interference with street traffic.

I would just like to the LRT go underground at key intersections of the proposed University and Uptown Lines such as Shepard, Kirby, Westheimer, and Post Oak. Our core is about 10 miles from end to end by the proposed and current rail so the distances are far and most folks don't ride it end to end. I think Houston's LRT model serves it well and requires an additional investment in local bus, BRT, and P&R feeding commuters and locals into the LRT in order for the city to truly have a transit system.

 

I largely agree. What do you think about having a subway network servicing those areas?

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I'm not convinced that those things are getting built because if the rail line by any means. It's really a stretch to credit a burst of activity to the rail line when that burst occurs 10 years after construction was completed. Apartment buildings have gone up all over Midtown without any real concentration on the rail line, so unless you're going to credit all development in Midtown to the rail line, which I would again find to be a stretch, then it's hard to find a pattern.

Regarding DART, we've already discussed that on another thread. I have questions about the investment figures provided by the study that DART commissioned to identify development along the rail lines because it doesn't consider subsidies provided to projects. That's going to skew results pretty heavily because it makes it very difficult to understand what was built because of incentives and what was built because of rail.

Regarding rail bias, I have no interest in transit for people that are too good for the bus. I'm interested in transit for people that need it because it's their only choice. Once those people have their needs covered, that's the time to consider transit for people that own cars, but don't want to drive them.

 

You could say the same regarding freeway expansions, also. The Eastex Freeway expansion hasn't really led to any new development over there...and other places like Pearland and League City have grown by leaps and bounds with little to no freeway expansion. A lot of development has to do with a number of factors ranging from location to feasibility to economics and where developers/businesses want to build. I mentioned earlier that I'm pretty sure I've heard the rail line on Main Street being a factor with some of this new development...but it's most likely not the "end all-be all" of reasoning for it.

 

I don't think that most people think they're "too good" for the bus...maybe some (and some of those people may consider it more of a safety issue, right or wrong), but rail is generally cleaner and more efficient, and it doesn't have to interfere and/or be a part of our street traffic situation. I wish our "only choice" was by train when we starting building our cities...that way we may not be in this position in the first place. Now everything is much more of a challenge and millions of people are "comfortable" with their ways of life (not that there's anything "wrong" with that in itself). Think of how much smaller and differently Houston would be laid out without roads, parking lots, parking garages, driveways, auto dealerships, parts stores, repair shops, gas stations, etc.

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BCS isn't a great comparison to Houston, admittedly (especially in terms of traffic), but the microcosm of where people are and where people want to go still holds merit.

 

I hear you...we are so spread out that there is nothing close to a "perfect" solution to any of this. I'd just like for us to implement a rail/subway system like that to build on and around for the future...and then hope we are wise enough to base future development around it and the extent of future development itself.

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After spending a couple of evenings in two suburbs, it seems to me that the real traffic problem is not here in town, but in the suburbs. Last weekend, my son wanted to go to a store off 249 and Louetta, so we made the trek out there. Coming back we drove Louetta from 249 to 45. For much of that drive, it felt like there is more density out there than there is here in the greater Heights Area. Friday, we were out in Katy, at Fry and Westheimer Parkway for an event. I drove to get some dinner at a Chick Fil-a on Westheimer Parkway past Grand Parkway, and, once again, it seemed pretty crowded, with lots of traffic. The Chick Fil-a was jam packed, with the drive through line out into the street, and upwards of 100 people inside. Assuming all  those people would be willing to live in apartments inside the Loop, the traffic here would be an order of magnitude worse than it is now. I am willing to bet that of all those families, an average of one family member might make the trek into town for work. The rest seldom, if ever, go inside the Loop.

 

My conclusion from this is that, for Houston, we have organically come up with the optimum growth pattern for our geography. Anything else would be artificial, and make for less than optimum conditions.

 

I should mention that we took the I-10 HOV to Katy. For a Friday evening, traffic on all lanes was moving rather well, with no waits.

 

It's not population density, which is WAY lower, but the fact that road density is all WAY lower.  In a suburban area you have vast tracts of developed residential land developed along what is typically only 1 major artery.  The neighborhoods, in general, don't want to have streets cutting through them, so there are a limited number of entrances, and everybody gets a cul-de-sac lot on the interior streets which go nowhere.  There is usually one major road or maybe two in the area, so basically the decision literally EVERYONE who lives in the entire area makes when they need to go somewhere is "How do I get to the major rd and which way do I turn on it"

 

An area like the Greater Heights/Timbergrove/Lazybrook area is bounded by major interstate highways 610, 45, and 10.  It contains major cross streets cutting through it particularly in the N/S direction (Yale, Shepherd, TC Jester, etc) plus many smaller streets that cut through the entire area without ending (streets like the E/W numbered streets in the Heights).  So basically one can get on a major freeway at any boundary, and in addition the location is such that people within the area might all be going different directions, different people may choose to go West on 10, East on 10, North on 45 south on 45, northwest on 290, traffic is funneled many directions whereas in a suburban space which is the same size as the Heights/TG/LB area all traffic is funneled to just a handful of major streets where you can go one way or the other that everybody has to use.   The area bounded by Louetta, Champions Forest Dr, Kuykendahl, and 1960 is basically the same size as the are bounded by the North Loop, West Loop, I-10, and I-45, but the transportation options are basically limited to those streets on the boundaries, plus Cypresswood Dr which cuts through. You have a large land area with low density, but also very few real roads or highways (and the highways that do exists get farther apart as you go outward from town whereas they are very close where they meet in the cities).

 

So basically, although the inner loop has higher density, it also has many more roads to take people many more possible directions. As an added bonus, much of the infrastructure around the area is designed to handle rush hour through traffic, which means at non-peak times there are many ways to get where you are going on arteries designed to handle a lot more traffic.  Getting to the department store by getting on the freeway and driving 5 miles on I-10 is a lot easier than getting to the department store by getting on FM 1960 and driving 5 miles.

Edited by JJxvi
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some of this sounds like it would be better suited in the Whats your ideal transit plan for Houston thread. i started to write a reply to some of those post but didnt want to derail this thread.

somewhat on topic, i have always wondered why they dont have a bus or streetcar network connecting the corporations in the Energy Corridor to the local P&Rs, like kdog suggested.

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I'm not convinced that those things are getting built because if the rail line by any means. It's really a stretch to credit a burst of activity to the rail line when that burst occurs 10 years after construction was completed. Apartment buildings have gone up all over Midtown without any real concentration on the rail line, so unless you're going to credit all development in Midtown to the rail line, which I would again find to be a stretch, then it's hard to find a pattern.

Regarding DART, we've already discussed that on another thread. I have questions about the investment figures provided by the study that DART commissioned to identify development along the rail lines because it doesn't consider subsidies provided to projects. That's going to skew results pretty heavily because it makes it very difficult to understand what was built because of incentives and what was built because of rail.

Regarding rail bias, I have no interest in transit for people that are too good for the bus. I'm interested in transit for people that need it because it's their only choice. Once those people have their needs covered, that's the time to consider transit for people that own cars, but don't want to drive them.

 

You question everything you don't agree with.

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It takes one to know one, isn't it?

It's pretty obvious projects popping up along the rail line is due to rail. The only thing that stopped this from happening earlier is the recession.

Also it's interesting to support projects that help people that think they're too good to ride mass transit but oppose those who ride it but prefer rail.

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It's pretty obvious projects popping up along the rail line is due to rail. The only thing that stopped this from happening earlier is the recession.

 

The entire Inner Loop has been flourishing with projects, renovations, and remodels, with most of them nowhere near the rail line. The Susanne, the new H-E-B Montrose Market, the redevelopment of Archstone Apartments, a few new developments replacing garden apartment complexes (District at Greenbriar, 2530 Bissonnett, etc.), something at Las Palmas and Alabama, Weslayan and Alabama, Andover Richmond redevelopment, and much more. 

 

If you think that all this is "due to rail", you're not paying attention.

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The entire Inner Loop has been flourishing with projects, renovations, and remodels, with most of them nowhere near the rail line. The Susanne, the new H-E-B Montrose Market, the redevelopment of Archstone Apartments, a few new developments replacing garden apartment complexes (District at Greenbriar, 2530 Bissonnett, etc.), something at Las Palmas and Alabama, Weslayan and Alabama, Andover Richmond redevelopment, and much more.

If you think that all this is "due to rail", you're not paying attention.

You did not comprehend my post.

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You did not comprehend my post.

^^ Also something that you yourself have done on a fairly consistent basis.

I read your post just fine and responded to it. I am merely pointing out that the Inner Loop has all sorts of projects going on besides the light rail. Also note that I did not say "rail had nothing to do with it" or anything along those lines.

Edited by IronTiger
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You question everything you don't agree with.

I question everything I agree with too. There's a large amount of data/studies that are biased to support a particular conclusion. Bad data leads to bad conclusions.

I'm not any rail by any means. I'm just pro-reality and I think that a large amount of the tranportation discussion that happens on this thread has no interest in reality. If you want the world to be exactly like you wish it would be, go play SimCity. Otherwise, you have to question your assumptions as to why things happen the way they do.

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^^ Also something that you yourself have done on a fairly consistent basis.

I read your post just fine and responded to it. I am merely pointing out that the Inner Loop has all sorts of projects going on besides the light rail. Also note that I did not say "rail had nothing to do with it" or anything along those lines.

My point was simply about the developments along the rail line.

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I question everything I agree with too. There's a large amount of data/studies that are biased to support a particular conclusion. Bad data leads to bad conclusions.

I'm not any rail by any means. I'm just pro-reality and I think that a large amount of the tranportation discussion that happens on this thread has no interest in reality. If you want the world to be exactly like you wish it would be, go play SimCity. Otherwise, you have to question your assumptions as to why things happen the way they do.

The reality is the city is gaining population daily and at some point we need an effective alternative to simply driving to handle what's ahead. Even LA figured this out. The longer we wait the more it will cost.

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My point was simply about the developments along the rail line.

Yes, which you pointed out that the rail-side development was "obviously" because of the rail presence, to which I countered that the type of new development seen there is happening all over the Inner Loop.

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The reality is the city is gaining population daily and at some point we need an effective alternative to simply driving to handle what's ahead. Even LA figured this out. The longer we wait the more it will cost.

 

Agreed, but the big question is given that there is a finite amount of resource to be allocated to transportation in the foreseeable future, what is the appropriate way to allocate that resource?  As I've mentioned before (many many times), my opinion is that the primary need in the city of Houston is to provide usable mass transit to as high of a percentage of users as possible with a specific preference to ensuring that people with the highest need for mass transit (i.e. the most economically disadvantaged).  Rail is effective at moving a large number of people along a defined corridor and, in my opinion, that's a secondary need for the city of Houston right now.

 

My stance has continually been that Houston needs to focus resource to building the most effective bus system that it can prior to significant investment in rail because it will provide the largest benefit to the population that has the biggest need.  Once that's in place, then focus on specific corridors that generate sufficient demand for rail.

 

In my opinion, focusing METRO resource today on building 2-3 rail lines that will serve a very small portion of the overall population is not a good use of finite resource.

 

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Yes, which you pointed out that the rail-side development was "obviously" because of the rail presence, to which I countered that the type of new development seen there is happening all over the Inner Loop.

 

Yes but when it's hugging the rail, that's an effect of the rail line boosting development. Main was there a long time and without the light rail I doubt these apartments would be popping up along it.

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Yes but when it's hugging the rail, that's an effect of the rail line boosting development. Main was there a long time and without the light rail I doubt these apartments would be popping up along it.

Of course Main was there for a long time. But US-59 was also rebuilt around that same time, and I'm not saying "we're seeing new redevelopments along US-59 like the redevelopment of Bissonnet Village and Greenbriar Chateau because they finished Southwest Freeway, herp derp". It's the great economy and investment in the Inner Loop as a whole.

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Agreed, but the big question is given that there is a finite amount of resource to be allocated to transportation in the foreseeable future, what is the appropriate way to allocate that resource?  As I've mentioned before (many many times), my opinion is that the primary need in the city of Houston is to provide usable mass transit to as high of a percentage of users as possible with a specific preference to ensuring that people with the highest need for mass transit (i.e. the most economically disadvantaged).  Rail is effective at moving a large number of people along a defined corridor and, in my opinion, that's a secondary need for the city of Houston right now.

 

My stance has continually been that Houston needs to focus resource to building the most effective bus system that it can prior to significant investment in rail because it will provide the largest benefit to the population that has the biggest need.  Once that's in place, then focus on specific corridors that generate sufficient demand for rail.

 

In my opinion, focusing METRO resource today on building 2-3 rail lines that will serve a very small portion of the overall population is not a good use of finite resource.

 

 

I agree and disagree with you. The bus system should be invested in but in combination with rail lines that go down heavily used corridors quickly. Unfortunately without a subway or elevated rail quickly is out of the question. However if at least the university line and uptown line are built, there is a base system for the dense part of the city, and with suburban lines feeding into it, and buses feeding into those stations, we would have a proper system. Now I guess if that's not an option and BRT must be built, it can be considered, but at the bare minimum the uptown, university, and a line down Washington should be built.

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I don't think it'll happen, either. I just want to connect the city to the suburbs with more options than driving. Like we were talking about earlier, a lot of people seem to care more about their community or their personal space than what's best for the masses, and "harsh" or not, that (and having 6 million of us) has largely brought us to this point. We can't keep going like this forever, and like I said the other day...it's a hell of a lot easier to manage this issue now while there are "only" 6 million, 300 million and 7 billion of us than when there are 10-20 million, 500-700 million and 20-50 billion of us. Future generations are being left with a bigger "load" (so to speak) every day we continue to look the other way.

 

 

 

If it was up to me, we would have subways all over this town and lots of covered moving walkways in the busier districts. A 100 mile network could make Houston the world-class city we aspire to be. We could have subway lines connecting areas such as:

 

- Hobby Airport, U of H, Downtown, Greenspoint, IAH and The Woodlands

- Reliant Park, TMC, Rice U/Hermann Park, Midtown, Downtown 

- TMC, Rice Village, GWP, Galleria area

- Midtown, Montrose, Upper Kirby/River Oaks, Galleria area, Westchase, Terry Hershey Park, Energy Corridor

- Energy Corridor, City Centre/Memorial City, Memorial Park, Allen Pkwy/Regent Square/Eleanor Tinsley Park, Downtown

 

I think that would be a great start to a new era in Houston. Add in a bullet train to D/FW and/or ATX/SA and we've got even more sustainable growth management over time.

 

***

 

I agree that the I-10 expansion helped the growth we are seeing out there today, but I'm not sure that the same kind of growth wouldn't have happened elsewhere in town if we didn't do I-10 the way we did. I wonder if it came down to "the Energy Corridor, or OKC/SA" for some of these companies. That's a very interesting take.

 

 

I'd rather be "overbuilt" if it means we're moving than "under built" if it means we're sitting in traffic. You're right, though that even some of the best mass transit systems we have are "massively crowded" during rush hour, too. That demonstrates their demand if they're planned and built right.

 

I'm not saying or advocating moving people from the suburbs closer in. I just want us to stop building any further out than we already have and build smarter in all phases of our transportation system.

 

Pretty much without exception in the US, a transit system becomes "massively crowded" when the functional "cost" (in either time or money), becomes so high that users find transit to be preferable.  Systems that are located in cities that don't have those constraints rarely generate large amounts of ridership, Dallas being a perfect case in point.

 

The other problem is that the idea that transit improves commute times is really not accurate.  Commute times generally highest in cities with extensive transit systems, not the other way around and that's due to the logistics of following a fixed network.  One of the big problem that I've personally experienced with rail networks is the hub and spoke design that most follow is not particularly suited to Houston.  Take the example of running commuter rail from Katy to downtown.  Nice in concept to run rail directly to downtown and then connect to a fully built out light rail network, however the actual logistics get pretty problematic.  If you live in Katy and work in Greenway Plaza would you take rail to downtown, transfer to the Main Street line and then transfer again to the University line in order to get to Greenway Plaza?  Probably not and that's the problem with rail in a decentralized city.  The network looks great on paper until you start to consider the transit times involved in getting from point to point if you're not moving to the hub.

 

Regarding I-10, I tend to disagree with you that businesses would have focused closer in.  A couple of assumptions here, first is that we've clearly seen that increased demand inside the loop has a dramatic impact on prices.  The appreciation of the last couple of years has clearly shown that.  The second is that the office market in Houston is price sensitive.  The last couple of years have shown that as well as a high percentage of businesses have chosen to locate in the periphery rather than centralize which I think can pretty directly be attributed to the difference in prices between those areas.

 

So let's assume for a moment that I-10 doesn't get widened and overall demand in the Houston market stays consistent.  Per your theory, more development gets concentrated in central areas which per our assumption will increase prices even more significantly than current trend.  Failure to built I-10 decreases the attractiveness of suburban areas because of the higher commute times associated with getting to jobs (both because they're concentrated in the urban core and because of decreased capacity), which drives the prices in the urban area another level higher.  In the meantime, competing markets do not suffer the price pressure that Houston does and are able to offer significantly lower prices for both office and residential. 

 

The question then becomes whether the companies that we're talking about are willing to absorb these additional costs to be in Houston.  I would argue that most of them wouldn't.  I don't think that Houston has the appeal to demand the kind of increased costs that San Francisco or New York does. 

Edited by livincinco

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Pretty much without exception in the US, a transit system becomes "massively crowded" when the functional "cost" (in either time or money), becomes so high that users find transit to be preferable. Systems that are located in cities that don't have those constraints rarely generate large amounts of ridership, Dallas being a perfect case in point.

I would consider that a "massively crowded" transit system would be almost as much of a failure as a success. When that happens, it means that both freeways and transit systems have reached critical mass, commuting is universally miserable, and quality of life suffers.

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I would consider that a "massively crowded" transit system would be almost as much of a failure as a success. When that happens, it means that both freeways and transit systems have reached critical mass, commuting is universally miserable, and quality of life suffers.

 

What city has the highest rail ridership in the US?  New York.

What city has the longest commute in the US?  New York.

 

This is not a coincidence.

 

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Pretty much without exception in the US, a transit system becomes "massively crowded" when the functional "cost" (in either time or money), becomes so high that users find transit to be preferable.  Systems that are located in cities that don't have those constraints rarely generate large amounts of ridership, Dallas being a perfect case in point.

 

The other problem is that the idea that transit improves commute times is really not accurate.  Commute times generally highest in cities with extensive transit systems, not the other way around and that's due to the logistics of following a fixed network.  One of the big problem that I've personally experienced with rail networks is the hub and spoke design that most follow is not particularly suited to Houston.  Take the example of running commuter rail from Katy to downtown.  Nice in concept to run rail directly to downtown and then connect to a fully built out light rail network, however the actual logistics get pretty problematic.  If you live in Katy and work in Greenway Plaza would you take rail to downtown, transfer to the Main Street line and then transfer again to the University line in order to get to Greenway Plaza?  Probably not and that's the problem with rail in a decentralized city.  The network looks great on paper until you start to consider the transit times involved in getting from point to point if you're not moving to the hub.

 

Regarding I-10, I tend to disagree with you that businesses would have focused closer in.  A couple of assumptions here, first is that we've clearly seen that increased demand inside the loop has a dramatic impact on prices.  The appreciation of the last couple of years has clearly shown that.  The second is that the office market in Houston is price sensitive.  The last couple of years have shown that as well as a high percentage of businesses have chosen to locate in the periphery rather than centralize which I think can pretty directly be attributed to the difference in prices between those areas.

 

So let's assume for a moment that I-10 doesn't get widened and overall demand in the Houston market stays consistent.  Per your theory, more development gets concentrated in central areas which per our assumption will increase prices even more significantly than current trend.  Failure to built I-10 decreases the attractiveness of suburban areas because of the higher commute times associated with getting to jobs (both because they're concentrated in the urban core and because of decreased capacity), which drives the prices in the urban area another level higher.  In the meantime, competing markets do not suffer the price pressure that Houston does and are able to offer significantly lower prices for both office and residential. 

 

The question then becomes whether the companies that we're talking about are willing to absorb these additional costs to be in Houston.  I would argue that most of them wouldn't.  I don't think that Houston has the appeal to demand the kind of increased costs that San Francisco or New York does. 

 

So when I took BART in San Francisco, or SkyTrain in Vancouver, I didn't save huge amounts of time avoiding traffic?

Edited by Slick Vik

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So when I took BART in San Francisco, or SkyTrain in Vancouver, I didn't save huge amounts of time avoiding traffic?

 

San Francisco - #3 worst commute in the United States - http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/05/04/worst-traffic-cities/2127661/

 

Vancouver - worst traffic congestion in all of North America - http://globalnews.ca/news/949901/vancouver-has-worst-traffic-congestion-in-north-america-report/

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San Francisco - #3 worst commute in the United States - http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/05/04/worst-traffic-cities/2127661/

Vancouver - worst traffic congestion in all of North America - http://globalnews.ca/news/949901/vancouver-has-worst-traffic-congestion-in-north-america-report/

I can assure you taking BART from Dublin/Pleasanton to Embarcadero via BART was far faster than driving. Also taking skytrain from Bridgeport downtown instead of driving was as well. These are corridors which are heavily travelled and the commute is twice as fast via rail than driving and much less expensive as well.

Also those are probably two of the highest quality of life cities in the continent.

Also Vancouver has bad congestion but that's because it banned freeways which in turn increased the dynamism of the city.

Edited by Slick Vik

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I can assure you taking BART from Dublin/Pleasanton to Embarcadero via BART was far faster than driving. Also taking skytrain from Bridgeport downtown instead of driving was as well. These are corridors which are heavily travelled and the commute is twice as fast via rail than driving and much less expensive as well.

Also those are probably two of the highest quality of life cities in the country.

My brother in law and sister in law live in San Fran. My commute from west Houston to DT is three times as many miles as his commute via Bart, but they take the same amount of time. This is first hand real experience. Now, there is something less stressful about riding Bart vs driving down I10. Edited by jt16

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Also those are probably two of the highest quality of life cities in the continent.

Measuring quality of life I can imagine is pretty hard to do--typically people who don't like the city they live in are usually too poor to move out. That or they take some sort of hard statistic (park acreage, etc.) and extrapolate it. Either way, both SF and Vancouver fall into a category wherein the people there think that not only is the greatest city on earth (which in many ways is a positive attitude to have) but also ignore its flaws and attacks anyone who criticize it (both Vancouver and SF are guilty of this). It's like the worst type of nationalism, but on a much smaller scale.

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Also Vancouver has bad congestion but that's because it banned freeways which in turn increased the dynamism of the city.

 

So banning freeways made congestion worse. I'm glad you have seen the light and will now support freeways

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Look at Vancouver and look at Seattle. That gives you a good idea.

You're evading the question. And please don't say "It's more urban" because you and I both know that's not a good answer. (Also, there's no shame in admitting in that you were wrong about something, just throwing that out there)

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Look at Vancouver and look at Seattle. That gives you a good idea.

 

Vancouver - as described on their tourism website

 

Oceanside location...mountains 20 minutes north of downtown...temperate climate, surrounding snow-covered slopes for winter sports and breathtaking views of the city below.

 

Vancouver is one of the few places in the world where it's possible to ski in the morning and sail in the afternoon.

 

Gee!  Sounds just like Houston!  Clearly based on the above description there is no question that any difference in quality of life ranking is due to differences between the transit systems of the two cities.

 

 

Seattle - from the New York Times "36 hours in Seattle" - This is one of the rare American cities where you can be outdoors year-round without either shivering or sweating... stunning natural beauty...

 

Well that certainly wouldn't have anything to do with quality of life rankings.  I hear people talk about Houston's stunning natural beauty all the time.  Seattle must have higher rankings because of its transit system.

 

Since all quality of life rankings are based entirely on transit, I bet that Dallas has a really high rankings on all those quality of life rankings and cities like Austin and San Diego must do really, really bad because they have no transit.

 

Wait...these rankings must be wrong.  Austin and San Diego rank in the top 10 and Dallas doesn't.  Don't these people realize how bad transit is in Austin and San Diego????? 

Edited by livincinco

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Sure, natural beauty and easy access to nature are a big part of "quality of life." 

 

Nevertheless, most of the cities mentioned have terrible freeway systems (Austin) or have actually starting removing existing freeways (Seattle).

 

Freeways are excellent at providing convenient connections between dispersed locations, but they are equally good at creating boundaries in the communities they cross. 

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