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Thoughts on My Experience Moving to Houston


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As a few of you know, and most of you don't, I'm moving back to Houston.  It's been almost 20 years since I lived in the city, and a lot has changed in that time.  

When I first moved to Houston, everyone wanted to work for Enron, people crowed that you couldn't have light rail because of all the rain, and the notion of taking a cruise out of Galveston would get your dismissed as a kook.  

More germane to my life today, back then you found an apartment by hiring someone you looked up in a Yellow Pages in your hotel's phone booth  to drive you around for a whole day to tour various apartment buildings, and they collected $25 for each tour.  Today, everything is online.  Well, largely online.  The future is not quite here yet.  But more on that further on.

I thought I'd detail some of the successes and failures of my moving experience here in order to hear what you think about it.  I have a lot to learn all over again, and failure is the best way to learn.  So feel free to tell me I'm a dumb-ass about certain things, but try to be constructive.  After all, we're all going to be able to get together for HAIF gatherings again.  Though, without The Black Labrador, I'm not sure where we'll go.

One other note: If I compare Houston to Chicago, Seattle, or New York it's not because I think Houston should be more like those places.  It's simply because those are the city with this I am most familiar.  No slight is intended.

Before the Move

Before I move, I have to get to Houston.  I'm also bringing a cat.  It's easy enough to book hotels online, but experience has taught me that if you don't phone the front desk and specifically tell them that you're bringing a pet, the hotel may run out of pet rooms and you have to find another place to sleep at the last minute with a  moggie howling in the back seat.  So this morning I phoned the front desk at the Best Western I'm staying in on the way.  The person answered immediately and informed me that the fee would be $10.  Fine.  I phoned the Holiday Inn where I'm staying on the way, and someone answered immediately and told me that the fee would be $25.  Fine.  The third phone call was to the front desk of a Marriott.  I have no idea what the fee is there, because I've been on hold for 57 minutes so far waiting for someone to answer.  Fortunately, Marriott makes it easy to cancel reservations online, so I've done that and booked a room at a La Quinta.  I'm just letting the hold music play to find out if anyone ever answers.    It's too bad, too, because I usually like Marriotts, especially ones attached to convention centers, because they tend to have better service.  I liked the Marriott in Brussels so much I bought a set of its pillows.  But I don't see me staying at a Marriott again.

Every Apartment Web Site Sucks

I have no idea how many web sites I visited for various apartment buildings in Houston.  They're all terrible.  I'm a good judge of this because I build web sites for a living.  Some of the web sites have so many pop-ups that I can't actually see the content.  No, I don't want to chat. No, I don't want to subscribe to a newsletter. No I don't want to schedule a tour. No, I don't want someone to call me.  No, I don't want to see testimonials from strangers.  No, I don't want to know what your Google rating is.  What I do want is a list of amenities.  I want to know where you are.  I want to know your phone number.  Your real phone number, not the marketing company's phone number that forwards to the lead generation company's phone number that forwards to the property management software company's phone number that forwards to your leasing office's voice mail.   I want a real phone number to call and speak to someone in the building.   All those steps inbetween are great for middle managers to tally their metrics and show off how much "value" they're adding.   But each hop adds delay, and by the time I speak to someone on the other end, it's impossible to have a conversation.  

Bit the biggest sin among Houston web sties is those that don't show either pricing or availability.  Are you kidding me?  It's not 1995 anymore.  If I wanted to "call for more information" I wouldn't be on your web site.  Any apartment building that didn't have real-time pricing and availability was stricken from my list of possibilities.  Seriously, if you can't do something as basic as that, how can I count on you to maintain my home?  Real estate is a customer service industry, and not having something this elementary tells me that the rest of your customer service is garbage.  And it's not just small properties like Dakota Lofts that fail here.  There were enormous skyscrapers that didn't have pricing information.  What kind of cheapskate rinky-dink management is going on there?

You're From Where?

Houston is all about Houston.  Which is great.  Some cities are all about their place in the world.  Some cities are all about themselves.  Minneapolis is like that.  Also, Cincinnati.  And most certainly Houston, too.  It's great.  It allows the city to develop its own distinct culture, and not become another boring beige national brand strip mall (*cough* Chicago *cough).  The downside is that people don't know what to do with you if you're not from Houston.

- I am not able to convince my insurance agent that I don't live across the street.  I'm transferring my insurance from a local agent in Nevada to an agent in Houston.  She has convinced herself that I live across the street.  It doesn't matter how many times I tell her that I live 1,500 miles away, she keeps saying things like I can just stop in tomorrow to make a payment, or she can bring over the documents after  lunch.  No, lady.  I. Live. Far. Away. Another person I've spoken to in the office has somehow convinced herself that I live at Camden Midtown.  I have no idea why, but that's what makes me believe it's not a defect localized to one insurance agency drone.

- When I called Reliant to set up my electric service, the guy didn't know that there are places in America where there is only one electric provider.  He didn't know that there are electric utilities that offer geothermal or hydroelectric options.  He couldn't wrap his brain around an electric company owning a giant solar farm the size of Houston and pumping that energy directly to consumers. His only concept of "solar" is panels on rooftops.  He thought that Houston was the hottest city in the world (it was 117° here when he said that).  He still thinks that employers pay for non-C-level employee relocations.

- Apartment buildings in Houston don't offer very many rent incentives.  But the most common one I saw was "sign a lease within 24 hours of touring and get $xxx off!"  Great.  How am I supposed to tour if I'm 1,500 miles away?  Why would you exclude people who are interested in your property just because they live outside of your city?  When I explained this to one leasing agent, she didn't see the problem.  To her "1,500 miles" is a distance that can be covered during lunch.  

- Apartment buildings in Houston are completely unable to handle shipped cars.  I'm driving one car out to Houston.  My wife's car will be shipped by an auto transport company.  The transport company will pick up her car a few days before we leave, which means that it will arrive in Houston a few days before we get there.  My new building is unable to wrap its brain around "when the truck arrives, sign the paperwork and park the car in your garage."  The building has its own garage.  It has its own valet parking staff.  I won't accept the car on my behalf.  Fortunately, a helpful HAIFer is taking care of things for me.

The Energy Capital of the World

Why is electricity so expensive in Houston?  Every online cost-of-living calculator I checked showed that energy is more expensive in Houston.  I thought that's why you people deregulated your energy market?  I pay 9.473¢/kWh for 100% solar power.  That includes delivery.  My Reliant service is closer to 11¢/kWh.  And it's not renewable.  And there's a contract.  And there's an early termination fee. And there''s a minimum use fee.  And there's other fees.   And I have to think about it every time the contract comes up.  WTF?

A HAIFer recommended something called Electric Ogre to take the pain out of things.  I get that I'm old.  When I last moved to Houston, I had HL&P.  But "Discount Power?" "V247 Power?" "Energy 2 Go?" "Express Energy?"  "Octopus?" These don't sound like real electric companies, they sound like fly-by-night tech bubble startups.  If you can't even come up with a serious name for your company, how am I supposed to believe that you can handle something as serious as providing my electric service?  I have medical equipment that needs power to work.  I'm not going to trust my health to "Payless Energy."  How are these people even in business?

Insurance

For the same coverage, my renters insurance is 3x more expensive in Houston.  But my car insurance is half the price, so I end up saving money overall.  Go figure.

Downtown is Still Not Ready for Primetime

Maybe I'll fell different about this once I move in and explore the neighborhood, but from what I can tell, downtown Houston is still not up to big city status.  When I last lived in Houston, it was downtown (at Dakota Lofts.)  Back then there were maybe three or four apartment buildings in downtown.  That was fine, we knew we were urban pioneers and all that.  But in the last 20 years, while downtown has grown somewhat, it doesn't seem to have developed into a real mixed-use neighborhood.  Sure, there's a pharmacy and a few coffee shops, and thank God Frankie's Pizza is still there.  But aside from bars, downtown is still 95% focused on the Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 crowd.  it's focused on the same people who abandoned downtown when the Coronavirus arrived, and not the people who choose to make their homes there.  

Want to get a prescription? Better be a CVS customer.  Want to get some coffee?  Better do it early in the day.  Want to get a bite to eat after church?  Nope.  

My observation over the last four months is that things are getting better in this regard, especially with the coffee situation, so maybe this is 'rona-driven and things are putting themselves back in order.  I'll be better able to evaluate this when I've lived there a few months.     

Miscellaneous

- Cat licenses cost twice as much in Houston as in other cities where I've lived.  It's not bank-breaking, but still a curiosity.  

- Parking still seems to be a fundamental human right in Houston. This isn't a criticism, just an observation on the little things that make Houston Houston.

- Why are leases in Houston so short?  Almost all of the lease options I saw were 12 months.  A few went to 14. This is my 14th move.  Almost every other place I've lived has offered various leases up to 36 months.  It's a way for the buildings to eliminate re-leasing expenses and keep occupancy high, which allows them to raise rents on the other units in the building.  It's such a money-saver that the majority of places I've lived reduce your rent the longer you lease is.  That makes sense.  A few places charge more for longer leases, which I've never understood, but it's still good to have the option.  I would have signed a longer lease, even if it cost me more, because I like the peace of mind that comes with knowing I don't have to think about renewals every year.  

- Discovery Green is nice, but it waaaaay overprogrammed.  For all its acreage, there's very little actual "green" in Discovery Green.  It's trying too hard to be everything for everybody, and it just doesn't have the space for it.  It would be better off being an actual greenspace and letting people DIY it, than to be a cluttered mess masquerading as a park.  Maybe that's why it doesn't have "park" in its name.

- I've heard really good things about Phoenician Foods.  I have very good memories of Central Market and Specs, and am looking forward to all three.

- The Heights used to be for low-end hippies who couldn't afford Key West.  Now it appears to be one of the places to be.  Glad to see the Wal-Mart didn't destroy the neighborhood after all.

- The selected the place I will live because of its proximity to the light rail system.  I remember pre-light rail, there was no shortage of people on HAIF who said that nobody would ever do that.  Well, I did.  And thousands of people in other cities do it every day.  Cities like Chicago incentivize developer to put up residential high-rises near transit.  The city gets oodles and tax dollars, and the developers get to convert parking garage space into more apartments that generate way more revenue than parking ever could.

- Why do two of the train lines just end downtown?  Are there plans to extend these, or has that part of the system been kicked down the road?

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Welcome back!  I'm sure  you'll get plenty of folks chiming in on this but I'll take a stab at a few.  Houston, and Texas in general, seem to be in the midst of an invasion of sorts from other parts of the country.  Quite a bit of the influx is coming from high cost/high real estate value areas like California and New York.  That's driving real estate prices for sure and most likely rental prices/availability.  My guess is the lack of lease incentives and short lease terms reflect that.  Apartment companies are expecting rates to go up so they don't want you locking in today's rates long-term.  Expect an increase in your rates if conditions hold.

I'm no expert on downtown, but it seems that the attempts to bring retail in and/or hold on to it haven't gone so well.  The Shops at Houston center were circling the drain the last time I was there (before corona) and GreenStreet seems to be only limping along.  There's potential there for sure but I don't think it's hit critical mass yet.  It certainly hasn't lived up to the hype of the early aughts.

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There are very far off plans to extend that rail east of downtown sometime in the future, but its all in the clouds. There are numerous small roadblocks to extending it, but it was very easy to build the lines going west, so they did that ~5 years ago because it was easy. The stations in downtown may be sharing stations with a (relatively) imminent Katy BRT though.

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1 hour ago, HouTXRanger said:

There are very far off plans to extend that rail east of downtown sometime in the future, but its all in the clouds. There are numerous small roadblocks to extending it, but it was very easy to build the lines going west, so they did that ~5 years ago because it was easy. The stations in downtown may be sharing stations with a (relatively) imminent Katy BRT though.

Far off? They'll be breaking ground in maybe 4-5 yearsish?

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Re:  electric rates.  It’s not that electricity is expensive in Houston.  It is actually relatively inexpensive.  But Seattle has very inexpensive electricity because it is blessed with a ton of hydroelectric generation (much, if not all, of it federally subsidized).

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3 minutes ago, Houston19514 said:

Re:  electric rates.  It’s not that electricity is expensive in Houston.  It is actually relatively inexpensive.  But Seattle has very inexpensive electricity because it is blessed with a ton of hydroelectric generation (much, if not all, of it federally subsidized).

Also regarding electric delivery, those smaller one-off companies are not providing your electricity.  Centerpoint delivers your energy and maintains the infrastructure to do so.  The other companies just market your electricity.

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On 7/11/2021 at 1:59 PM, editor said:

.... To her "1,500 miles" is a distance that can be covered during lunch....

first, welcome back to Houston.

in defense of anyone who doesn't feel like 1500 miles is that far, it is close to the distance from Katy to Baytown.

if you like Vietnamese food, Huynh is my recommendation, and it's just across 59 from downtown.

if you like Thai food, Kanomwan is another recommendation, it's a bit deeper into the East End on Telephone and Lockwood.

you've come back to a really interesting time in Houston, lots of things happening.

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14 hours ago, wilcal said:

Far off? They'll be breaking ground in maybe 4-5 yearsish?

The only thing I know of even being part of MetroNext was the small extension to the courthouse, and that got bumped to the bottom of the priority list pretty quick when the pandemic happened.

As for extending it beyond, that's what I mean by way off. Since there's no solid idea of where those lines will even go, we're looking at an entire cycle of design prototyping, maybe another vote, public comments, and undoubtedly protests from a handful of people along the route, all over again. It's not like the richmond route which was more or less set in stone many years ago.

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7 minutes ago, HouTXRanger said:

The only thing I know of even being part of MetroNext was the small extension to the courthouse, and that got bumped to the bottom of the priority list pretty quick when the pandemic happened.

As for extending it beyond, that's what I mean by way off. Since there's no solid idea of where those lines will even go, we're looking at an entire cycle of design prototyping, maybe another vote, public comments, and undoubtedly protests from a handful of people along the route, all over again. It's not like the richmond route which was more or less set in stone many years ago.

Please don't think I'm trying to dunk on you or anything, but they've had extensive talks and pretty much have a modified combined route laid out for green/purple line extension to Hobby laid out. The airport really wants them to use Telephone so that they can build a new car rental center there. Also, this is part of METRONext.

This article is from about 2 years ago: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/transportation/article/Metro-leaders-optimistic-about-shared-13799310.php

You are right that nothing is finalized (and there are a bunch of railroad tracks to cross), but they've got a plan 

 

qNbzxYG.jpg

Edited by wilcal
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Don't worry Editor, we're all aging at the same pace ;)

Hotels and businesses have taken a hard hit during the pandemic, but hotels especially. This is not a Houston or Marriott thing. Mexico, New York, Montana, all the same.

Getting a hold of a warm body is tough. Half of the business numbers on their own website don't work, the number listed on google or apple maps don't work. If you do talk to someone, there's zero communication between that person in the call center and the hotel desk, and zero communication between the hotel desk and the person on the next shift. It's not really new. COVID-19 has just highlighted it. Also the same for Reliant or any service provider for anything. No one cares anymore. Really you have to laugh it off to avoid being a jerk. Same applies to managed leasing properties. 

I used a crazy lady apartment realtor a few years ago. She did all the dirty work for us. Didn't pay her outright, just put her name as a reference on the lease. Apartment Finder website is useful to browse from afar, but the pricing is usually off, not by far though. Add in a google search and you can get a pretty good idea of what the property is like. Reviews can be helpful too.

Of course electricity will be expensive. How many other energy retail providers are on the Fortune 500 list?

Downtown was bumpin' pre pandemic. Every bar and restaurant packed. I remember eating dinner in Osso & Kristalla and thinking to myself "wow, this city looks and feels different". Still in pockets, around the ball park, discovery green, market square, and spots along Main. Discovery Green was always busy during the day. The rest more quiet other than people walking their dogs.

You should definitely try Phoenician. It's probably the best Grocer in Houston.

 

As for the Light Rail, I think everyone is disagreeing with someone who has their easts and wests mixed up. The Light Rail ends on Capitol under Memorial. The original plans called for a Washington Corridor to the NW Transit Center. Everything got derailed a while back which is why we're seeing BRT proposals instead (Post Oak Blvd, down Richmond, and from the Theater District LR stop to the NW Transit Center.

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I moved back 7 years ago after being away for 15+ . . . I remember asking myself a lot of times during the first few months, "Remind me again why in the hell am I doing this?"

Took about a year . . . it's both a good and bad thing that city is not how you remember.  You just need to rediscover it.  And I really don't think there's any better place to live in the U.S.  (It's ironically a similar process/experience to many people who move here for the first time.)

That said, I agree that customer service here (especially with personal and small business contractors) is indeed like being in another world, or a place as you say that's like its own little world.  I totally appreciate the "Houston is all about Houston" remark . . . it can come across as pretty insular.  There are a lot of other cities that I'd also describe as "insular," but I think Houston has a quality most of those places don't have and that is that the city is extraordinarily welcoming, belonging to none and open to all.  Must be all the freeways (joking).

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Thanks to everyone who replied to my message.  

The progress report is that I have a lease (mostly — main document is signed, still waiting for the addenda to get back to me), my insurance straightened out, hotels are booked and paid for (Marriott answered after an hour and 37 minutes), car hauler is paid, first two months' rent is paid, and I have most of the money for the moving company saved.  

Here's a basic, stupid, question.  What do people call the light rail system, colloquially?  In Chicago it was "the L."  In Boston, it's "the T."  In New York, it was just "the subway."  In Seattle, it was "the Sounder," or "the SLUT," depending on which part you were riding.  Do people in Houston call it "the light rail?"  Or do you just say, "the train?" 

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8 hours ago, wilcal said:

Please don't think I'm trying to dunk on you or anything, but they've had extensive talks and pretty much have a modified combined route laid out for green/purple line extension to Hobby laid out. The airport really wants them to use Telephone so that they can build a new car rental center there. Also, this is part of METRONext.

This article is from about 2 years ago: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/transportation/article/Metro-leaders-optimistic-about-shared-13799310.php

You are right that nothing is finalized (and there are a bunch of railroad tracks to cross), but they've got a plan 

 

qNbzxYG.jpg

Oh wow, I'm a dummy. I misspoke and said there are no solid plans for extending east, when I meant extending west. I am SUPER looking forward to the eastern extensions to Hobby, I meant to say there wasn't anything solid on where lines west would be extended, like down Washington or something. My bad.

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21 minutes ago, HouTXRanger said:

Oh wow, I'm a dummy. I misspoke and said there are no solid plans for extending east, when I meant extending west. I am SUPER looking forward to the eastern extensions to Hobby, I meant to say there wasn't anything solid on where lines west would be extended, like down Washington or something. My bad.

Hahaha. It's all good. And you're right, there are no westward plans. I was super excited when they added Washington to METRONext like 45 days before the vote but then they pulled it. 

Honestly, them going to 3 BRT stops along Inner Katy might "scratch the itch" for now. 

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12 hours ago, editor said:

Thanks to everyone who replied to my message.  

The progress report is that I have a lease (mostly — main document is signed, still waiting for the addenda to get back to me), my insurance straightened out, hotels are booked and paid for (Marriott answered after an hour and 37 minutes), car hauler is paid, first two months' rent is paid, and I have most of the money for the moving company saved.  

Here's a basic, stupid, question.  What do people call the light rail system, colloquially?  In Chicago it was "the L."  In Boston, it's "the T."  In New York, it was just "the subway."  In Seattle, it was "the Sounder," or "the SLUT," depending on which part you were riding.  Do people in Houston call it "the light rail?"  Or do you just say, "the train?" 

There doesn't really seem to be one consistent name used.  One hears "light rail", "Metro rail", "the train".

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1 hour ago, Houston19514 said:

There doesn't really seem to be one consistent name used.  One hears "light rail", "Metro rail", "the train".

I hear "Light Rail" from people who live in Houston, "Metro Rail" by Metro advertisements only (seems kind of forced), and "the train" from people who get hit by it or comment on Chron articles. 

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1 hour ago, Houston19514 said:

There doesn't really seem to be one consistent name used.  One hears "light rail", "Metro rail", "the train".

No different, really, than someone calling 59 south of downtown "59," the "Southwest Freeway," or (ick) "69" like the New People.

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Culberson and TxDOT were able to keep light rail from becoming an effective alternative for commuters in Houston.  Culberson submarined significant federal funding and TxDOT kept rail off the Katy freeway expansion.  Light rail is effectively just a centralized alternative to a few bus lines.  So, the light rail has no sort of nickname because it is just an alternative for bus riders.  

Downtown was blossoming in a big way before COVID and will hopefully come back quickly if the Delta variant doesn't send everyone back to working at home.  There are a number of food halls downtown that are pretty amazing and some big developments (Post office and a few towers) that are going to continue to transform downtown.  

Energy prices in Houston are the result of the deregulated energy market.  Had you moved to town several months ago, you would have had the pleasure of sitting in the dark while your thermostat sank to 37 degrees.  Deregulated energy markets have resulted in higher prices and near third world service.  

The apartment scene is odd due to overbuilding of high end units.  CoH gave out millions in tax incentives for developers to build apartments downtown.  All those units are pretty high end.  Most of the other new apartments inside the loop are fairly similar.  Everyone is trying to maintain a floor of $1,500 a month for the smaller one bedroom apartments, but the market has been so volatile that no one wants to put out that much info about pricing.  

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56 minutes ago, s3mh said:

The apartment scene is odd due to overbuilding of high end units.  CoH gave out millions in tax incentives for developers to build apartments downtown.  All those units are pretty high end.  Most of the other new apartments inside the loop are fairly similar.  Everyone is trying to maintain a floor of $1,500 a month for the smaller one bedroom apartments, but the market has been so volatile that no one wants to put out that much info about pricing.  

It seems like there are more similar units being built outside of downtown without incentives, so I'm not sure I'd assign any of the "blame" to the tax incentives.

I think this has to do with the fact that the Inner Loop area, particularly close in (Heights, Midtown, Montrose, etc.), really didn't have many large multifamily developments to begin with . . . and that dates back to the sewage development moratorium from the 1970s.  So I think it is fair to say a lot of this development is "catch up," the problem being the price point for new developments, and the fact that there aren't a lot of older complexes in the area to absorb people priced out.  I guess around Greenway, but mainly the Galleria, is where all that stock is.  (And the Galleria isn't particularly attractive these days.)

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On 7/14/2021 at 9:27 AM, mattyt36 said:

I thought those people called it the "toy train"

I thought that was the little train that ran through Hermann Park? 😋

You know, I bet that one crossing with the Hermann Park train has a similar number of incidents with cars as the average intersection with the light rail now . . . I've seen it happen before.

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@Houston19514, far too many indeed!  It’s all of these spacey out-of-towers moving here from points unknown...  In general: they can’t drive when it’s raining; they can’t drive fast enough; they get nervous with the multitude of cars on the road; and they over signal their intentions when switching lanes.  It is a pit maneuver - one blink while simultaneously jamming the wheel.  That’s it.  And lastly -this is the worst- they don’t know that you never, ever, ever intentionally stop traffic on Shepherd to turn left from the left lane UNLESS you see an opening wherein to avoid the soon-to-be traffic jam caused by the Metro bus stopped in the right lane you turn at full speed.   One blink will do it!  Brace yourself for the poor transition from street to driveway, and wish that your moderately priced sedan was a big fancy F250 just like the one the ***hole civil engineer that designed the grading that you’re about to bottom out on drives.

With that said, welcome back, @editor!  Do you feel like a sort of “prodigal son” returning to town after these many years?

Edited by arche_757
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13 hours ago, arche_757 said:

It’s all of these spacey out-of-towers moving here from points unknown...  In general: they can’t drive when it’s raining

A few years back I was driving down Main toward the Medical Center in a rainstorm. While I was sitting in traffic at a stoplight, a woman pulled up next to me and began gesticulating wildly in my general direction. I was momentarily worried, wondering if my car was on fire or something equally serious, only to discover when I finally rolled my window down to talk to her that the "emergency" she was pointing and waving at was that it was raining, and I didn't have my headlights turned on. I was truly at a loss for words, and didn't think to check for out-of-state plates on her car. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 7/22/2021 at 11:15 PM, arche_757 said:

With that said, welcome back, @editor!  Do you feel like a sort of “prodigal son” returning to town after these many years?

It feels weird.  Familiar, but unfamiliar at the same time.  It's like swimming through a repeating dream.  Some things are new and unexpected, and some are right where I left them.

On a related note — seriously, couldn't you guys fix the roads while I was gone?  Shepard, Kirby, Allen Parkway, Texas Avenue, and a bunch of others all have the same potholes in the same places.  My pothole-dodging muscle memory came back for all of them.  And the railroad crossings!  If po-dunk Oshkosh, Wisconsin can get the railroads to upgrade all of its train crossings to make them smooth, surely Houston could do the same.  

It looks like 90% of the infrastructure tax dollars are spent on ever-widening freeways, and almost nothing goes to the neighborhoods and roads that most people use every day.  Sure, the freeways are nice and wide and smooth.  But the majority of the streets are atrocious.  Some of them wouldn't even be legally considered "streets" in some of the places I've lived.

And it's not just me being a jackwagon.  I moved here because my wife's company opened a new location.  That location brought people from three other cities to Houston, too.  Everyone agrees that the streets are garbage. 

I mentioned it to someone in my building, and the go-to excuse seem to be "Well, the city is built on weak soil. In fact, it's mostly sand, so everything shifts."  You know what is built on sand?  Las Vegas.  Phoenix.  Albuquerque.  They're built on freaking deserts.  The streets are mostly beautiful.  And don't point fingers at hurricanes.  Nevada has earthquakes.  The difference is that in Nevada, the streets are paved with concrete slabs instead of being 15 layers of cold-patch asphalt.  Where are all the road tax dollars going?  

 

/END RANT

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On 7/23/2021 at 12:26 PM, mkultra25 said:

A few years back I was driving down Main toward the Medical Center in a rainstorm. While I was sitting in traffic at a stoplight, a woman pulled up next to me and began gesticulating wildly in my general direction. I was momentarily worried, wondering if my car was on fire or something equally serious, only to discover when I finally rolled my window down to talk to her that the "emergency" she was pointing and waving at was that it was raining, and I didn't have my headlights turned on. I was truly at a loss for words, and didn't think to check for out-of-state plates on her car. 

All I can say is that rain anxiety is real.  I never thought it would happen to me, but it did.

Last year, where I lived, it went 243 days between rains.  And the rains on either end were under a half-inch.  When I'd replace my car's windshield wipers, it was because they dried out and were disintegrating from the heat and sun, not from over-use due to rain.

It rained most of the days the first week I moved here.  I sat and stared out at the rain for hours.  I went onto the roof of my building and sat under an overhang and watched it fall.  I stood out on the roof and stared up into it until I was soaked.

I expect I'll get my rain driving skills back with practice. But since I walk or take a train everywhere I go so far, it'll take a while.

On a related note, the only time I was ever pulled over by a cop as an adult was in Houston.  It was because I went through a traffic light that had just barely turned red.  I did it because I thought the streets were too slick with rain and that I'd skid through if I tried to stop.  He didn't buy it and I got a ticket. This was in 2001, before I moved to the desert.  So perhaps I've always had a weird thing with rain.

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14 hours ago, editor said:

It feels weird.  Familiar, but unfamiliar at the same time.  It's like swimming through a repeating dream.  Some things are new and unexpected, and some are right where I left them.

On a related note — seriously, couldn't you guys fix the roads while I was gone?  Shepard, Kirby, Allen Parkway, Texas Avenue, and a bunch of others all have the same potholes in the same places.  My pothole-dodging muscle memory came back for all of them.  And the railroad crossings!  If po-dunk Oshkosh, Wisconsin can get the railroads to upgrade all of its train crossings to make them smooth, surely Houston could do the same.  

It looks like 90% of the infrastructure tax dollars are spent on ever-widening freeways, and almost nothing goes to the neighborhoods and roads that most people use every day.  Sure, the freeways are nice and wide and smooth.  But the majority of the streets are atrocious.  Some of them wouldn't even be legally considered "streets" in some of the places I've lived.

And it's not just me being a jackwagon.  I moved here because my wife's company opened a new location.  That location brought people from three other cities to Houston, too.  Everyone agrees that the streets are garbage. 

I mentioned it to someone in my building, and the go-to excuse seem to be "Well, the city is built on weak soil. In fact, it's mostly sand, so everything shifts."  You know what is built on sand?  Las Vegas.  Phoenix.  Albuquerque.  They're built on freaking deserts.  The streets are mostly beautiful.  And don't point fingers at hurricanes.  Nevada has earthquakes.  The difference is that in Nevada, the streets are paved with concrete slabs instead of being 15 layers of cold-patch asphalt.  Where are all the road tax dollars going?  

 

/END RANT

Shepherd was redone from Westheimer to Allen Parkway, including new storm sewers. Kirby was redone to a high standard, and so were a bunch of other streets. Keep in mind that the money for freeways comes from the State, and doesn't use City money at all. And, in a nice change from the past, the City has actually spent money on streets  in a number of underserved areas

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21 hours ago, editor said:

It feels weird.  Familiar, but unfamiliar at the same time.  It's like swimming through a repeating dream.  Some things are new and unexpected, and some are right where I left them.

On a related note — seriously, couldn't you guys fix the roads while I was gone?  Shepard, Kirby, Allen Parkway, Texas Avenue, and a bunch of others all have the same potholes in the same places.  My pothole-dodging muscle memory came back for all of them.  And the railroad crossings!  If po-dunk Oshkosh, Wisconsin can get the railroads to upgrade all of its train crossings to make them smooth, surely Houston could do the same.  

It looks like 90% of the infrastructure tax dollars are spent on ever-widening freeways, and almost nothing goes to the neighborhoods and roads that most people use every day.  Sure, the freeways are nice and wide and smooth.  But the majority of the streets are atrocious.  Some of them wouldn't even be legally considered "streets" in some of the places I've lived.

And it's not just me being a jackwagon.  I moved here because my wife's company opened a new location.  That location brought people from three other cities to Houston, too.  Everyone agrees that the streets are garbage. 

I mentioned it to someone in my building, and the go-to excuse seem to be "Well, the city is built on weak soil. In fact, it's mostly sand, so everything shifts."  You know what is built on sand?  Las Vegas.  Phoenix.  Albuquerque.  They're built on freaking deserts.  The streets are mostly beautiful.  And don't point fingers at hurricanes.  Nevada has earthquakes.  The difference is that in Nevada, the streets are paved with concrete slabs instead of being 15 layers of cold-patch asphalt.  Where are all the road tax dollars going?  

 

/END RANT

Houston isn't built on sand, it's built on clay (with some sand), which fluctuates over time and is a more serious problem for roads and building foundations. There's a reason landscapers put sand under paving stones when they want them to stay put. I think the places out west that have sand also have bedrock, which is even better.

All the rainfall doesn't help either. Makes the soil expand and contract.

Edited by H-Town Man
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