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Megawalk


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Guest Plastic

I was thinking why don't they make a megawalk. It's be like a skywalk but longer and with moving sidewalks.

It would start at Bayou Place going EWast. It would turn right to the South Down Louisiana or Smith. It would go DOwn to The Hyatt and Allen Center, past old Enron all the wya down to Continental Airlines. It would be long,wid and connect all the buildings on Smith/Louisiana. Since it's basically one corridor and there are so many intersections just make it easier to get up and down the bus part of Downtown. That and easier than connecting to the tunnels. Could even have vending machines and people selling things in carts.

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I was thinking why don't they make a megawalk. It's be like a skywalk but longer and with moving sidewalks.

It would start at Bayou Place going EWast. It would turn right to the South Down Louisiana or Smith. It would go DOwn to The Hyatt and Allen Center, past old Enron all the wya down to Continental Airlines. It would be long,wid and connect all the buildings on Smith/Louisiana. Since it's basically one corridor and there are so many intersections just make it easier to get up and down the bus part of Downtown. That and easier than connecting to the tunnels. Could even have vending machines and people selling things in carts.

:wacko:

Edited by nmainguy
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I was thinking why don't they make a megawalk. It's be like a skywalk but longer and with moving sidewalks.

It would start at Bayou Place going EWast. It would turn right to the South Down Louisiana or Smith. It would go DOwn to The Hyatt and Allen Center, past old Enron all the wya down to Continental Airlines. It would be long,wid and connect all the buildings on Smith/Louisiana. Since it's basically one corridor and there are so many intersections just make it easier to get up and down the bus part of Downtown. That and easier than connecting to the tunnels. Could even have vending machines and people selling things in carts.

The master plan for the Texas Medical Center calls for a similar concept, which is already built out in some places within the M.D. Anderson campus, along the south side of Holcombe. Skywalks are elevated and are wide enough for vehicular transport. I don't remember if there were moving sidewalks, but I'd be surprised if there weren't at least plans for them.

Upon completion of the skywalk system, there will be a grid consisting of about two or three major east/west and north/south skywalk corridors through the entire TMC, creating a grid that links pedestrians efficiently to light rail stops and the TMC Transit Center, which is about to become a world-class residential/retail/office hub in addition to fulfilling its mass transit role.

The TMC has a master plan that calls for substantially less on-site parking, but to actually make that idea feasible, they've had to accept that street life must be forsaken. If people are inconvenienced in the least bit by having to walk at all, they won't. The solution may be 'futuristic', but its one that satisfies the greatest part of the TMC's user base and that will prevent the core of the TMC from becoming so congested as to stifle new development.

I dont' think that a similar plan downtown is likely to fly due to cost/benefit infeasibility. There would be major right-of-way problems and the system would have to compete for users with the existing tunnel/skywalk system. In addition, there are too many architects that would whine far too loundly in favor of their romantic neotraditional ideals.

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...there are too many architects that would whine far too loundly in favor of their romantic neotraditional ideals.

Yeah those "romantic neotraditional ideals" really suck. Sunlight, fresh air, convinience, large trees [live oaks come to mind], traditional street life [not the "neo" kind]...thing like that. Let's just pave the entire city under miles of barren, lifeless, glass-enclosed skywalks/ways! That'll show those whacky architects a thing or 4!

B)

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This was the original idea behind Houston Center back in the 1970s. The development would have covered 33 blocks. The ground level would have been dedicatd to vehicle traffic and parking, and there was to have been a raised platform covering the streets. The platform would have been for pedestrians and a people mover that would have connected the buildings. It didn't happen because people weren't happy with the concept of all the streets in the area becoming dark tunnels.

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I was thinking why don't they make a megawalk. It's be like a skywalk but longer and with moving sidewalks.

It would start at Bayou Place going EWast. It would turn right to the South Down Louisiana or Smith. It would go DOwn to The Hyatt and Allen Center, past old Enron all the wya down to Continental Airlines. It would be long,wid and connect all the buildings on Smith/Louisiana. Since it's basically one corridor and there are so many intersections just make it easier to get up and down the bus part of Downtown. That and easier than connecting to the tunnels. Could even have vending machines and people selling things in carts.

I like big thinking :)

TheNiche mentioned earlier that a similar concept is part of the Texas Medical Center. I can see how it's needed there for easy accessibility.

For Downtown though, I've gotta ask what retailers and restaurants would think of the idea. I think a Megawalk idea could work for, say four buildings at a time need-be (like the former Enron Buildings. What are they called now?), but for all of downtown? I don't think it would work for businesses, but I do hope to see more wishful thinking like this come up. Good concept :)

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While thinking of new ideas without regard to whether it is feasible is fun (just ask me about my high speed rail fantasies sometime), this particular one does have its problems. First, is expense versus use. I don't know that a moving sidewalk down Louisiana would get that much use. It would have to run above the sidewalk, drawing complaints as to blighting the streetscape. The building owners would likely complain that it obstructed their buildings. You'd also have to have numerous escalators, since people would not walk up stairs to get to a people mover, taking away more sidewalk space.

And frankly, I'd like to see more energy EFFICIENT city projects that promote walking, rather than expensive machines that allow for even less pedestrian activity.

How about shaded canopies over sidewalks that shield the pedestrian from rain and sun, while minimally imposing on the streetscape? Something that cools the sidewalk without making it feel like a tunnel? That would be very useful.

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How about shaded canopies over sidewalks that shield the pedestrian from rain and sun, while minimally imposing on the streetscape? Something that cools the sidewalk without making it feel like a tunnel? That would be very useful.

Bingo. They already have this in Seattle.

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Exactly! I've been suggesting architectural elements like the Rice Hotel canopy for years. Most of you know that I walk a lot in Downtown. Since I am in the northern half, the tunnels are not as prevalent. These canopies shade you in the summer, often with a breeze, and are shelter when it rains.

More of this "old school" architecture from our non-air-conditioned past would be wonderful.

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Guest Plastic

We wouldn't messecarily have to have escalators. We could connect it directly to the buildings. All then people would have to do is walk out their building and they're in it.

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I kind of like one idea mentioned when this topic came up with regard to the proposed underground parking garage. Tunnels could be built that would enable people to get from point A to point B in a hurry, but then shops and amenities could be built at street level so that pedestrian activity would also be drawn up to the surface as well. Whether or not to have tunnels may not be an either/or issue, but rather a matter of combining ideas to their best effect. If developments were built with activity at street level but then connected by tunnels below the surface, it might even promote pedestrian activity by increasing draw from a wider area of downtown. People who might not otherwise make the walk because its too far/hot/humid or whatever, might be willing to take the tunnels and then come up to the surface in the area of their favorite shop or restaurant. Those who like street level could continue to walk on street level while also being assured that there's plenty of excitement out on the streets.

It might require zoning to make something like that happen, but since we're talking fantasy and all...

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We wouldn't messecarily have to have escalators. We could connect it directly to the buildings. All then people would have to do is walk out their building and they're in it.

Then people would have no reason to go to the street at all! That would be a depressing sight.

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It might require zoning to make something like that happen, but since we're talking fantasy and all...

It wouldn't require anything new. They already do that. The convention center parking (Bayou Place) is all underground, with links to both the tunnel system and the street. Every building has tunnel links and sidewalk access. Since there are few, if any new tunnels being built, at least that have space for retail, it is not a big deal.

The current focus seems to be on improving Downtown infrastructure and making DT a nighttime and weekend draw for non-downtowners, as well as drawing downtown residents. If that succeeds, street level retail will come, regardless of what is in the tunnels. There will be no need to lose the tunnels, as there will be room for both.

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It wouldn't require anything new. They already do that. The convention center parking (Bayou Place) is all underground, with links to both the tunnel system and the street. Every building has tunnel links and sidewalk access. Since there are few, if any new tunnels being built, at least that have space for retail, it is not a big deal.

The current focus seems to be on improving Downtown infrastructure and making DT a nighttime and weekend draw for non-downtowners, as well as drawing downtown residents. If that succeeds, street level retail will come, regardless of what is in the tunnels. There will be no need to lose the tunnels, as there will be room for both.

Good points. I was thinking of somehow trying to promote more existing restaurants and retail to move to street level, as the most common complaint against the tunnels is that they pull business from street level, turning downtown into a dead zone. Personally, I like having the tunnels, but I don't necessarily need all of the retail to be down there and would gladly walk to street level to visit my favorite shops and restaurants. As you point out, some areas already do this well, but it would be nice to encourage it on a larger scale. Areas such as Bayou Place and the McKinney Street Garage should serve as models for the entire system. At least it would pacify some of the most vocal complaints about the tunnel system while maintaining the benefits that it provides. I just don't know how you would encourage more developers to pursue such alternatives on a larger scale short of regulating where certain types of development could be placed in the system.

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more existing restaurants and retail to move to street level

Thing is, most of the buildings downtown are not even designed to house street level businesses.

We are slowly making progress with parking garages having street level retail, but otherwise, it would require some big changes on the existing buildings.

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Thing is, most of the buildings downtown are not even designed to house street level businesses.

We are slowly making progress with parking garages having street level retail, but otherwise, it would require some big changes on the existing buildings.

That's for sure. Just thinking in fantasy terms since this is a fantasy topic... Gotta work with what we have, though...

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Then people would have no reason to go to the street at all! That would be a depressing sight.

No, it'd simply relocate the street. Wal-mart has been chastized by architects and sociologists for having destroyed streetscapes in Main Street USA, which in their view is tantamount to having eliminated opportunities for social interaction. Perhaps if they themselves got out of the car (as they would like to encourage so many others to do) and walk (as they would like to encourage so many others to do) the half-mile through the parking lot at Wal-Mart, then perhaps they'd realize that streets and pedestrian plazas still exist, only they've been relocated inside of a Wal-Mart. What's more, the Wal-Mart is so completely and utterly efficient that it induces new pedestrian traffic just by its very existence. And because it carries practically every good necessary to sustaining life, every kind of person from every walk of life goes there. And I don't even want to hear the argument that people just go in and out like cattle, not bothering to interact with one another. I've seen socialization there with my own eyes, and it may not be as sophisticated as the Starbucks version of socialization, but it certainly exists, and happens en masse.

Its not unlike the idea of creating an ultra-efficient pedestrian transport system. If its efficient, then most all existing pedestrians would use it and many more new pedestrians would be induced to use it. By packing many people into relatively confined common areas where socialization occurs with ease in an environment that is not affected by the elements, one would think that both architects and sociologists would be made happy. But alas, what they really seem to be after is some utopian Mayberryville, with a lot of ornate 19th century buildings and similar street aesthetics. After all, we all know how much better life was back then--unless you were poor, gay, lesbian, a woman, or in any way brown.

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I would like to think that we have just one shred of non-consumer decency left in our bodies that would allow for exercise and socializing in some place that is not a giant building full of goods for sale.

Aside from the hideously depressing look of a Wal Mart, inside and out, one walking on a sidewalk or in a park is not forced to consume...even if the shops line the sidewalk. It is pretty tough to walk around a Wal Mart without buying something...or being questioned by security as to why you are not.

But, to each his own. :huh:

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A giant version of Wal-Mart downtown might be more efficient, but it would also be very depressing. It would be a free market version of those monolithic structures they used to envision in Communist countries. Or Albert Speer's vision for Nazi Germany. As a fan history and of older architecture, I

Edited by mike1
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No, it'd simply relocate the street. Wal-mart has been chastized by architects and sociologists for having destroyed streetscapes in Main Street USA, which in their view is tantamount to having eliminated opportunities for social interaction. Perhaps if they themselves got out of the car (as they would like to encourage so many others to do) and walk (as they would like to encourage so many others to do) the half-mile through the parking lot at Wal-Mart, then perhaps they'd realize that streets and pedestrian plazas still exist, only they've been relocated inside of a Wal-Mart. What's more, the Wal-Mart is so completely and utterly efficient that it induces new pedestrian traffic just by its very existence. And because it carries practically every good necessary to sustaining life, every kind of person from every walk of life goes there. And I don't even want to hear the argument that people just go in and out like cattle, not bothering to interact with one another. I've seen socialization there with my own eyes, and it may not be as sophisticated as the Starbucks version of socialization, but it certainly exists, and happens en masse.

Its not unlike the idea of creating an ultra-efficient pedestrian transport system. If its efficient, then most all existing pedestrians would use it and many more new pedestrians would be induced to use it. By packing many people into relatively confined common areas where socialization occurs with ease in an environment that is not affected by the elements, one would think that both architects and sociologists would be made happy. But alas, what they really seem to be after is some utopian Mayberryville, with a lot of ornate 19th century buildings and similar street aesthetics. After all, we all know how much better life was back then--unless you were poor, gay, lesbian, a woman, or in any way brown.

Are you serious? So you're telling me that you believe a Wal-Mart is just as good as a downtown streetscape? And you also believe that walking down aisles and waiting in line is comparable to streets and pedestrian plazas? And I wouldn't call asking where the soap is and can you please move your cart as a very pleasurable means of socializing.

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Are you serious? So you're telling me that you believe a Wal-Mart is just as good as a downtown streetscape? And you also believe that walking down aisles and waiting in line is comparable to streets and pedestrian plazas? And I wouldn't call asking where the soap is and can you please move your cart as a very pleasurable means of socializing.

:lol:

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Guest Plastic

I think it 's a good idea. Houston's not a pedestrian city and never will be. The vast majority of people DOwntown are working. We shoudl stop this idea to make Downtown entertainment and ressidential.

If you're in a building downtown the main thing you want to do is get ot your destination in a hurry and not have to deal with heat and weather.There' mroe to do underground than above ground. Who wants to be exposed to the outside weather,wating for lights,risking geting hit by caars when you could take an indoorrout nonstop on a moving sidewalk?

I think it makes more buisness sense to have a buisness inthe tunnels. More people see and do woukd use it. People don't understand that unlike NewYork City Houston isn't a place where thousand of pedestrians crowd the sidewalk making buisness for on ground shops and peeople selling things out of carts. Only place like that is the mall.

If we wanted to do something liek that there'd have to be a real transit center. One reason so many peopleare on the streets in New york is cause they walk to work. That or they walk from the train station. Houston is a city where a many people commute by car. The ones thatdo ride the buse are dropped off right at or a block fromtheir job.

There was talks of a transit centr with a tunnel connection.That's an idea I like. Have a centralhub downtown where people can cath all their buses parkand rides, and trains. There'd be shops in it for people going to work and leaving. With that amount of peple around it would make for good buissness for shops above ground.Resteraunts blacks away would get buissness as people walked to and from this transit hotspot.

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I think it 's a good idea. Houston's not a pedestrian city and never will be. The vast majority of people DOwntown are working. We shoudl stop this idea to make Downtown entertainment and ressidential.

If you're in a building downtown the main thing you want to do is get ot your destination in a hurry and not have to deal with heat and weather.There' mroe to do underground than above ground. Who wants to be exposed to the outside weather,wating for lights,risking geting hit by caars when you could take an indoorrout nonstop on a moving sidewalk?

I think it makes more buisness sense to have a buisness inthe tunnels. More people see and do woukd use it. People don't understand that unlike NewYork City Houston isn't a place where thousand of pedestrians crowd the sidewalk making buisness for on ground shops and peeople selling things out of carts. Only place like that is the mall.

If we wanted to do something liek that there'd have to be a real transit center. One reason so many peopleare on the streets in New york is cause they walk to work. That or they walk from the train station. Houston is a city where a many people commute by car. The ones thatdo ride the buse are dropped off right at or a block fromtheir job.

There was talks of a transit centr with a tunnel connection.That's an idea I like. Have a centralhub downtown where people can cath all their buses parkand rides, and trains. There'd be shops in it for people going to work and leaving. With that amount of peple around it would make for good buissness for shops above ground.Resteraunts blacks away would get buissness as people walked to and from this transit hotspot.

I'm curious, Plastic? Have you ever been Downtown? Ever been there during the workday? Ever worked there? It doesn't sound like it.

Oh, where to start? How about the first sentence? Downtown Houston IS VERY pedestrian. Let me explain. 150,000 or more people work downtown. Studies show that 40% of them use public transportation to get there. Let me let that sink in. FORTY PERCENT of downtown workers do not drive their cars to work. That means that over 60,000 people WALK in downtown during the day.

Where do they walk? Some walk in the tunnels. Some walk on the street. The tunnels are choked with people walking to lunch. The sidewalks are busy with people, too.

Now, about those who drive to work. They come downtown and they park. Where? In a garage, usually multi-story, usually several blocks from the office. They then WALK to their office, usually in a multi-story office building. At lunchtime, what do they do? They WALK to lunch, sometimes in the tunnels, sometimes on the streets. They generally DO NOT walk to their cars. Why? It would take 15 minutes to get to their car and 15 minutes to get back. Big waste of a lunch hour. Traffic at lunchtime is not that busy.

Most downtowners are not afraid of the outside. As more restaurants open on the street, more people go them. Anyone who uses the tunnels knows why. They are crowded, the shops are small, and there is nothing to look at, except the other tunnel walkers, of course. The tunnels can be convenient, but the street level shops are bigger, more comfortable and open to the outside, i.e., sunlight.

As for your transit center. Guess what what? We already got one. No kidding! It is located at Main and Pierce. It's purpose is to facilitate changing buses. However, if you don't think Houstonians are pedestrian, I don't know why you would think this would help.

Finally, your moving sidewalks...elevated, no less. It won't happen. Why? No one wants them. Not the workers. Not the city. Not the building owners. Not the developers. If no one wants them, they won't get built. Workers have tunnels and sidewalks. The city does not wan't the clutter. The building owners have already built out their 2nd floors with lobbies and offices. It would cost millions to add skywalks and moving sidewalks, when the workers already have tunnels. Developers don't want the added expense when they have nothing to connect them to. Plus, the newfound appreciation for street level retail allows them to make more money renting out the first floor. Why would they want to ruin it with a skywalk?

We Houstonians love to call ourselves fat and unwilling to get out of our cars. This may well be true in the suburbs, where there is room to put parking lots next to the front door. But, Downtown is not the burbs. In fact, Houston's downtown has more workers in it than any other downtown in the country, other than NY and Chicago. And once we park our cars or get off the bus, WE WALK...whether on the street, or in the tunnels.

You really should come see it before you tell us how to fix it.

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I respect your opinion but I scream hogwash. That was a joke right?

I make a habit of not joking online without a smiley. Text-based communication is too unforgiving for dry wit. But I do seem to be misunderstood by some.

To my detractors, let me first clarify my idea--I don't propose that Wal-Mart build anything downtown. If Wal-Mart wants to, fine. A Neighborhood Market concept with limited operating hours might actually do pretty well if it could be situated on the first two floors of a larger building within a couple blocks of the Downtown Transit Center. Metro gets its highest ridership levels from relatively poor neighborhoods, and a lot of those routes converge on the Downtown Transit Center. It'd be the perfect demographic, although of course, the area is not without its economic limitations.

I made comparisons between Main Street USA and Wal-Mart to get to the root of the argument from those people who advocate the creation of new urbanistic (or as I refered to them, 'neotraditional') streetscapes at the expense of efficiency. My point was simply that social interaction does in fact take place among a broader range of people than it would have in an environment with many small isolated shops fronting an outdoor space. If someone here refuses to believe that socialization occurs at a Wal-Mart, then perhaps they should go see for themselves. I can recall having walked into Wal-Marts in Kemah, Meyer Park, Galveston, and along FM 1960, and each time having been amazed at the number of people that were there shopping with their friends. That said, the demographics were generally of a lower class than at a regional mall or a lifestyle center, but less affluent people interacting and walking around are still people. By the way, RedScare, have you or anyone else here ever been bothered by Wal-Mart security for loitering? Did the elderly person that marks off your receipt at the door leave his post just to hassle you or what? If so, I'd like to hear the story--I'm sure it'd be amusing.

As for the 'depressing' quality that describes the aesthetic of Wal-Mart, if you don't like it enough that you don't shop there, then you aren't their target market. Of their target market, they make a market-driven tradeoff between architectural merit and the extra costs that would ultimately be passed on to the consumer. This variable is related exclusively to the socioeconomic class of their customer base, and the same concept applies to Target or Uptown Park. If we were going to apply the comparison of Wal-Mart vs. Main Street USA to common areas in downtown Houston, we'd have to bear in mind who is using the areas and plan aesthetics accordingly.

These things said, buildings from the nineteenth century were largely built as they were as a result of the availability of a limited variety of materials. Rather than make comparisons between 19th century and modern residential or office buildings, which are driven by different market forces, lets compare warehouses because they represent the lowest common denominator of a structure for which there can be aesthetic appreciation. They share certain necessary characteristics: 1) they're enclosed from the elements, 2) they are lit, either with windows/skylights or artificially, 3) they allow for utilities and technology available at the time of their construction, and 4) at the time of construction, they are not embellished with aesthetic charm and no effort is made to ensure that they will be appreciated in the long term. A 19th century warehouse is a product of the materials and technology that was available at the time. There was nothing special about it. A modern tilt-wall warehouse is a product of the materials and technology that are available today. There is nothing special about it. But a 19th century warehouse in a modern city has become an object of attraction. And a 19th century streetscape filled with brick commercial buildings is even more desirable. I can understand how a niche market of preservationists keeps such areas pricey. I share an appreciation for the architectural styles of the past--but I also postulate that one day, most of the Wal-Marts will have been knocked down and the few that remain will be treasured as a glimpse into the exotic sociology of the latter-20th century. Perhaps, just as many of us do today, many citizens of the future will want to simulate the stark emptiness of what those people consider to be a quaint era. And wouldn't it be odd if suddenly they started building fake big box stores with expansive parking lots...and renovating the long-since abandoned downtown tunnels, bricking and plastering up street-level storefronts? All this even though they've got technology that allows them to live in a more efficient way? It seems ludicrous doesn't it? So now you all know how I feel about such inane simulations of the past as the fake brick ruins that were recently built in Huntsville's town square. And perhaps you can see the architectural merit in maximizing market-based efficiency (taking into account aesthetics as part of the formula, of course) by implementing modern technology to its highest and best use. What will the citizens of the future think of us if all we do is emulate the past?

Besides, by advocating efficient transport in and around our commercial districts, we prevent those districts from becoming choked in congestion. If these areas aren't efficient enough for businesses, those businesses will move to a more efficient location--in the suburbs. Thus, new downtown development would slow, as would demand for downtown residences. Without the demand for downtown residences and a reduced worker population, the few existing retail stores would go under. I'm not arguing that a streetscape is completely undesirable, just that there is such a thing as too high a price, even for what some individuals have called the "holy grail of architecture".

For the record, I do not advocate building megaskywalks, at least not downtown. It just isn't feasible for any number of perfectly good reasons. I do favor expanding the existing tunnel system wherever possible, but would also like to see more easy access to street level and a more visible connection with mass transit stops. Also, smaller-scale versions of the mechanized pedestrian movement concept might be a good fit for Midtown one day, efficiently moving people from the neighborhood's east and west peripheries toward the commercial spine that is and will be Main Street.

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Guest Plastic

I have been Downtown and it's not as pedestrian as youu make it seem. TOO MANY of them are in the basmmmemment or in tunnels getting something to eat. It's not like Chicago or New York where you have a bizzilion people on the street. WHile 40% of downtowners ride transit th majority don't...I'm sure in NYC alot more use public tranport.

And as for our tansit center, we really don't have one. That's just an excuse for a transit center. That's why Is aid we need a REAL transit center. City COuncil has just gotten laughable with their Downtown Transit Center and Main Street Sqaure. If you've seen Grand Central Station or Time Sqaue you'd know we're in the boombocks.

FIrst of all for a transit center to be useful it would have tobe in the center of Downtown. Here you could have a many bses driving in it.But ours is on the South side where only a handful of buses even come through. If we were to have an idea transit center we'd have to have one where more than 50% of the buses came in. And there's the other issue............shops. There are absoloutly no shops,cafe's or ATMs at our Downtown transit center..They don't even have restrooms. And it's all in a part of Downtown where no one really works. When it comes to transit and planning the city of Houston has an awful lot of work to do.

A DOwntown Transit Plaza would basically be a station where all or most of the buses and trains come to. It'd have to be alot larger.

But anyway if I were going to put a buisness Downtown I'd putit in the tunnels. If you know Houston you knwo we'd rather use tunnnels.

Edited by Plastic
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The reason we are not a pedestrian city is because we come up with silly ideas to detriment pedestrian traffic like these moving sidewalks. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Downtown Houston can become whatever it wants to be at this point and it sounds like you do not want it to be a pedestrian oriented environment eventhough for the most part it already is. And yes, the Downtown Transit Center has all the things you claim it does not have. By the way, 70% of the the city's buses come downtown. Anyone can get off a bus in downtown and catch the rail to the transit center.

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"TOO MANY of them are in the basmmmemment or in tunnels getting something to eat. It's not like Chicago or New York where you have a bizzilion people on the street."

These two sentences seem to explain our difference of opinion, as well as many on the board. The fact that thousands of people walk through the tunnels does not make them non-pedestrian. After all, they are still WALKING. However, since they are underground and out of sight, Downtown may APPEAR to be less pedestrian. It doesn't mean it IS less pedestrian.

As for transit centers, they are very cumbersome in the center of the city. In fact, the reason it was placed in southern Downtown was to get the busses out of the central DT area. Same for the light rail. A quick glance at a map of Manhattan will show you that Grand Central Station is nowhere near the center of the downtown area. It is in the northeast, at 42nd and Park. There was a less glamorous transit center under the World Trade Center that is being rebuilt. It is somewhat more centrally located. However, it is a subway center. Since Houston's transit is largely busses, it needs surface space. This works best NEXT to, but not IN the congested center of Downtown. As for shops, there is plenty of room around the Downtown Transit Center, if developers think that they would be successful. However, I think shops would be more useful if located at the END of the line, at the Park & Ride lots, so commuters don't have to lug their groceries on the bus. This is a plan that Metro is in fact implementing.

Side Note to Niche: Sorry, but I have no amusing anecdotes of being accosted by angry octogenarians at Wal Mart. And, I do not disagree with your post. In fact, I agree. However, I am suggesting a need for a somewhat less "efficient" retail model...one that promotes a sense of community without the insistence on consumerism. Wal Mart is there to sell things. No one goes inside unless they are going to purchase something. An open air market can achieve that, although at a price. The big box model has proven to be the most efficient means for getting goods to the consumer. We must be willing to accept a slightly higher price for a less retail driven experience.

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I make a habit of not joking online without a smiley. Text-based communication is too unforgiving for dry wit. But I do seem to be misunderstood by some.

To my detractors, let me first clarify my idea--I don't propose that Wal-Mart build anything downtown. If Wal-Mart wants to, fine. A Neighborhood Market concept with limited operating hours might actually do pretty well if it could be situated on the first two floors of a larger building within a couple blocks of the Downtown Transit Center. Metro gets its highest ridership levels from relatively poor neighborhoods, and a lot of those routes converge on the Downtown Transit Center. It'd be the perfect demographic, although of course, the area is not without its economic limitations.

I made comparisons between Main Street USA and Wal-Mart to get to the root of the argument from those people who advocate the creation of new urbanistic (or as I refered to them, 'neotraditional') streetscapes at the expense of efficiency. My point was simply that social interaction does in fact take place among a broader range of people than it would have in an environment with many small isolated shops fronting an outdoor space. If someone here refuses to believe that socialization occurs at a Wal-Mart, then perhaps they should go see for themselves. I can recall having walked into Wal-Marts in Kemah, Meyer Park, Galveston, and along FM 1960, and each time having been amazed at the number of people that were there shopping with their friends. That said, the demographics were generally of a lower class than at a regional mall or a lifestyle center, but less affluent people interacting and walking around are still people. By the way, RedScare, have you or anyone else here ever been bothered by Wal-Mart security for loitering? Did the elderly person that marks off your receipt at the door leave his post just to hassle you or what? If so, I'd like to hear the story--I'm sure it'd be amusing.

As for the 'depressing' quality that describes the aesthetic of Wal-Mart, if you don't like it enough that you don't shop there, then you aren't their target market. Of their target market, they make a market-driven tradeoff between architectural merit and the extra costs that would ultimately be passed on to the consumer. This variable is related exclusively to the socioeconomic class of their customer base, and the same concept applies to Target or Uptown Park. If we were going to apply the comparison of Wal-Mart vs. Main Street USA to common areas in downtown Houston, we'd have to bear in mind who is using the areas and plan aesthetics accordingly.

These things said, buildings from the nineteenth century were largely built as they were as a result of the availability of a limited variety of materials. Rather than make comparisons between 19th century and modern residential or office buildings, which are driven by different market forces, lets compare warehouses because they represent the lowest common denominator of a structure for which there can be aesthetic appreciation. They share certain necessary characteristics: 1) they're enclosed from the elements, 2) they are lit, either with windows/skylights or artificially, 3) they allow for utilities and technology available at the time of their construction, and 4) at the time of construction, they are not embellished with aesthetic charm and no effort is made to ensure that they will be appreciated in the long term. A 19th century warehouse is a product of the materials and technology that was available at the time. There was nothing special about it. A modern tilt-wall warehouse is a product of the materials and technology that are available today. There is nothing special about it. But a 19th century warehouse in a modern city has become an object of attraction. And a 19th century streetscape filled with brick commercial buildings is even more desirable. I can understand how a niche market of preservationists keeps such areas pricey. I share an appreciation for the architectural styles of the past--but I also postulate that one day, most of the Wal-Marts will have been knocked down and the few that remain will be treasured as a glimpse into the exotic sociology of the latter-20th century. Perhaps, just as many of us do today, many citizens of the future will want to simulate the stark emptiness of what those people consider to be a quaint era. And wouldn't it be odd if suddenly they started building fake big box stores with expansive parking lots...and renovating the long-since abandoned downtown tunnels, bricking and plastering up street-level storefronts? All this even though they've got technology that allows them to live in a more efficient way? It seems ludicrous doesn't it? So now you all know how I feel about such inane simulations of the past as the fake brick ruins that were recently built in Huntsville's town square. And perhaps you can see the architectural merit in maximizing market-based efficiency (taking into account aesthetics as part of the formula, of course) by implementing modern technology to its highest and best use. What will the citizens of the future think of us if all we do is emulate the past?

Besides, by advocating efficient transport in and around our commercial districts, we prevent those districts from becoming choked in congestion. If these areas aren't efficient enough for businesses, those businesses will move to a more efficient location--in the suburbs. Thus, new downtown development would slow, as would demand for downtown residences. Without the demand for downtown residences and a reduced worker population, the few existing retail stores would go under. I'm not arguing that a streetscape is completely undesirable, just that there is such a thing as too high a price, even for what some individuals have called the "holy grail of architecture".

For the record, I do not advocate building megaskywalks, at least not downtown. It just isn't feasible for any number of perfectly good reasons. I do favor expanding the existing tunnel system wherever possible, but would also like to see more easy access to street level and a more visible connection with mass transit stops. Also, smaller-scale versions of the mechanized pedestrian movement concept might be a good fit for Midtown one day, efficiently moving people from the neighborhood's east and west peripheries toward the commercial spine that is and will be Main Street.

Perhaps in 100 years we will all look back with nostalgia at all of the old Home Depot and Wal-Mart buildings. Those things will be worth preserving then if the people of that time decide to value them that way. Only time will tell what is worth preserving and what is not. You mention the cost of 19th century buildings, and I would suggest that the cost is a function of demand and demand is a function of value. Those buildings are expensive precisely because a large enough portion of the population values them. The demand marketplace is what gives them their value. From an economic standpoint, that alone is a good enough reason to preserve them. Of course, I also believe that there are other reasons, such as a respect for the country's history and a desire to build off of what has come before. Coming from the Northeast, I've seen too many attempts to just tear down and rebuild that have resulted in the destruction of the fabric of the community and that have led to even more flight from downtown areas to have much faith in large scale, centrally-designed "urban renewal" projects.

For the record, I also don't have much respect for fakey replications and I believe that its ok for modern architecture to look and feel modern. I also believe that tunnels and other different means of transportation can be effectively used to alleviate congestion as well as add to people's comfort.

I also believe that you would probably be right if efficiency were the only factor in the equation. However, the cubicles in my office are quite efficient, but that doesn't draw people to come in to work when they have a choice and don't have to be here. Maybe in 100 years, our cubicle layout will be highly prized by museums and preservation societies as a valued example of early 21st century office design! However, the idea is to build or preserve something that will serve as a draw to people right now, causing them to want to come downtown, spend money, and foster further economic growth right now. Wal-Mart retail and office warehouses are good at what they are designed to do, but they just don't serve as the types of development that would lead people and to want to come downtown and spend money, at least not yet in 2006. If people value old buildings and a sense of history enough to drive up property values and foster additional development, then the city would be wise to build on those aspects of downtown that appeal to these values. The key is to create development that suits the specific area, and just because the Wal-Mart down the street from me is packed with shoppers doesn't mean that those same shoppers will drive 30 miles to downtown for the same shopping experience, especially since convenience and efficiency is part of what makes those retailers so successful to the markets they serve.

That being said, I do think some type of open market as you advocate wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea....

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I think it 's a good idea. Houston's not a pedestrian city and never will be. The vast majority of people DOwntown are working. We shoudl stop this idea to make Downtown entertainment and ressidential.

If you're in a building downtown the main thing you want to do is get ot your destination in a hurry and not have to deal with heat and weather.There' mroe to do underground than above ground. Who wants to be exposed to the outside weather,wating for lights,risking geting hit by caars when you could take an indoorrout nonstop on a moving sidewalk?

I think it makes more buisness sense to have a buisness inthe tunnels. More people see and do woukd use it. People don't understand that unlike NewYork City Houston isn't a place where thousand of pedestrians crowd the sidewalk making buisness for on ground shops and peeople selling things out of carts. Only place like that is the mall.

If we wanted to do something liek that there'd have to be a real transit center. One reason so many peopleare on the streets in New york is cause they walk to work. That or they walk from the train station. Houston is a city where a many people commute by car. The ones thatdo ride the buse are dropped off right at or a block fromtheir job.

There was talks of a transit centr with a tunnel connection.That's an idea I like. Have a centralhub downtown where people can cath all their buses parkand rides, and trains. There'd be shops in it for people going to work and leaving. With that amount of peple around it would make for good buissness for shops above ground.Resteraunts blacks away would get buissness as people walked to and from this transit hotspot.

From this post, I suggest that you move to a city like Phoenix, where you can just come DT to work and then get into your car and drive back to your nice air condition house. It's people with theories like this that stop the progression from dead city center to active city center.

And they have been talking about a transit hub in downtown for quite some time now for busses, light rail, and eventually commuter rail. But if you keep your mentality Houston will never change for the good, it will stay a traffic congested, fat, lazy, polluted city and personally that is not a city I want to live in.

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Side Note to Niche: Sorry, but I have no amusing anecdotes of being accosted by angry octogenarians at Wal Mart. And, I do not disagree with your post. In fact, I agree. However, I am suggesting a need for a somewhat less "efficient" retail model...one that promotes a sense of community without the insistence on consumerism. Wal Mart is there to sell things. No one goes inside unless they are going to purchase something. An open air market can achieve that, although at a price. The big box model has proven to be the most efficient means for getting goods to the consumer. We must be willing to accept a slightly higher price for a less retail driven experience.

Then it seems that we're in general agreement, albeit for the difference in valuation of private and public spaces. As far as I'm concerned, a space is a space, regardless of the intentions of the owner. Wal-Mart hopes you'll buy something. A city council member hopes you'll vote for them. I think that there must necessarily be a balance between the two, but all things considered, I'd rather that most public and quasi-public spaces be privatized so that they can be taxed equally and fairly.

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Why is Plastic trying to make Houston so different from most other cities. If dt Houston had great retail, residential, parks, playgrounds and everything else it would thrive just like any other big city.

Plastic is also infamous on this board for at one point saying everything inside beltway 8 should be considered downtown. He also suggested that downtown (the CBD) was already too crowded. Perhaps its not pedestrian at his version of downtown out at BW8 and 59 where no one is walking on the feeders. Either way, the posts are often amusing, because now the latest idea is moving sidewalks, which I don't even understand because don't we all just love moving walkways at the airports? Not to mention avoiding "the elements" such as the 70 degree weather outside in January. That is way too harsh, I mean how can any reasonable person be expected to walk outside today?

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If someone here refuses to believe that socialization occurs at a Wal-Mart, then perhaps they should go see for themselves. By the way, RedScare, have you or anyone else here ever been bothered by Wal-Mart security for loitering?

My experience with socialization at Walmart has been limited to avoiding being rundown by an unsupervised 6 or 7 year old with a shopping cart and unanswered questions posed to miserable looking "associates" who look like they would rather be in Hell than working at Walmart.

Like Red, I've never been bothered for loitering. However we were trailed one day when I unconsciencely grabbed my partner's hand to lead him out of a congested aisleway. Them there Walmarters don't cotton to that kinda thing. After about 10 minutes of being trailed, we parked our shopping cart and left.

I do not believe the dismal dreariness that is Walmart needs to be the only shopping solution available.

Surely a bland tilt-wall building in the middle of a baking asphalt wasteland isn't what we've come to accept as-acceptable?

Good taste and common sense don't require any more cash than bad.

B)

Edited by nmainguy
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Guest Plastic

Umm Hokie SUmmer in Houston is just plain hellish. Not to mentionit can get 80 degrees in Winter. Did mention it also rains, sort of the 2 reasons they built the Astrodome.

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Umm Hokie SUmmer in Houston is just plain hellish. Not to mentionit can get 80 degrees in Winter. Did mention it also rains, sort of the 2 reasons they built the Astrodome.

FYI it is winter right now. We did hit 80 on Jan 3rd of this year with a low of 46 that day, but why is that too much for you? I'm wondering what temperature you would consider ideal for walking around outside. From the sound of it, nature frightens you. Yes summer is rough, I would not argue that. And it rains here? That's amazing, I think in most other places it never rains, how unfortunate we are that we are cursed with that phenomenon that it rains. I mean its amazing we survive an 80 degree day in the winter, when other places are buried under 12 inches of snow.

I would say 7-8 months of the year here are pleasant to be outside. Those 4 in the summer are rough, but good to know that in the future I'll be able to get on the megawalk and just stand as I'm moved from place to place - sounds like the Jetsons.

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Given the daily barrage of stories regarding the obesity in America, and Houston in particular, I find this aversion to walking and *ghasp* perspiration, interesting, to say the least. Most physicians say that walking and perspiring are healthy. Why there is this hue and cry for alternatives to exercise is beyond me.

I wonder, who will pay for this multi-million dollar monstrosity? Property owners? Doubt it. The city? As a taxpayer, I'll fight that. The Society for the Prevention Of Cruelty to Obese People (SPOCOP)? Possibly. But, their budget is no doubt stretched thin (get it, thin?) by the purchases of those scooters for everyone who is afraid of walking.

Most importantly, who will use this thing? Plastic is no doubt a world traveler who knows what aspiring great cities need to accomplish their dreams. Being a world traveller, he no doubt has seen many moving sidewalks in various airports. He must have seen how slow they move, so as not to injure those who ride it. He must see all of the travelers who skip the moving sidewalk because it is faster to walk beside it. So, the only people who might use it are obese tourists, who are not in a hurry, and who are afraid they might perspire.

I don't know. Seems to me, it would be cheaper to have complimentary scooters positioned at street corners for everyone's use.

Edited by RedScare
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Oh, gosh! Another imaginary thread.

Thanks goodness. I thought this was an actual project when I read the title. I wonder if anyone even knows when the last skywalk was even constructed? Seems like more cities want to get rid of them that truly do not need them. *Ahem* Houston. Atleast they should.

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Umm Hokie SUmmer in Houston is just plain hellish. Not to mentionit can get 80 degrees in Winter. Did mention it also rains, sort of the 2 reasons they built the Astrodome.

You would be a bad caveman. When it was time to hunt for food you would always be in your cave because it was raining, too hot, or too humid. And I guess you would ride on your Saber Tooth so you wouldn't have to walk or run to get your food.

I am just so confused by this!

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No, it'd simply relocate the street. Wal-mart has been chastized by architects and sociologists for having destroyed streetscapes in Main Street USA, which in their view is tantamount to having eliminated opportunities for social interaction. Perhaps if they themselves got out of the car (as they would like to encourage so many others to do) and walk (as they would like to encourage so many others to do) the half-mile through the parking lot at Wal-Mart, then perhaps they'd realize that streets and pedestrian plazas still exist, only they've been relocated inside of a Wal-Mart. What's more, the Wal-Mart is so completely and utterly efficient that it induces new pedestrian traffic just by its very existence. And because it carries practically every good necessary to sustaining life, every kind of person from every walk of life goes there. And I don't even want to hear the argument that people just go in and out like cattle, not bothering to interact with one another. I've seen socialization there with my own eyes, and it may not be as sophisticated as the Starbucks version of socialization, but it certainly exists, and happens en masse.

I have NEVER socialized with the freaks in Walmart. Walmart is everyone's dirty little secret. We all go, run in, grab our cheap food, goods, & wares, and get the hell out. The ones trying to socialize in there are the ones I specifically avoid.

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