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Widening Highways Doesn’t Fix Traffic. So Why Do We Keep Doing It?


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14 hours ago, 004n063 said:

never the lying down, though - they get yelled at real quick when they do that

I can't speak for the Green and Purple lines, but on the Red lines, more than half of the time I've ridden it, there is some kind of police presence.  Whether it's MetroCops, or HPD, or fare checkers.  The people running the trains don't put up with shenanigans.

Last week, a train driver refused to leave the station until a bag lady got off the train because shopping carts aren't allowed.  The bag lady wouldn't budge, and then all of the other passengers started barking at her to get off so they could go on their way.  She left right quick.

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On 1/9/2023 at 6:59 PM, editor said:

Immediately after Katy’s last expansion, in 2008, the project was hailed as a success. But within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion.

Back to the topic, I want to be 100% clear that the above quote posted by Editor from the New York Times  is not supported by the source they reference and appears to be completely false.   If their theories of freeway expansion were true, one would think they wouldn’t have to resort to lies to “prove” them.

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11 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

Back to the topic, I want to be 100% clear that the above quote posted by Editor from the New York Times  is not supported by the source they reference and appears to be completely false.   If their theories of freeway expansion were true, one would think they wouldn’t have to resort to lies to “prove” them.

It looks right to me.  The Times cites City Observatory, which cites Transtar's Historical Freeway Travel Times statistics.  I put them into a spreadsheet, and here's what it looks like:

I-10 from Beltway 8 to Downtown - Percent of time the freeway is "congested," by Transtar's definition:

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 12.10.10 PM.png

Sure looks like the numbers got worse, not better.

 

And here's the congestion expressed in amount of time, again according to Transtar:

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 12.11.13 PM.png

 

Which part of Transtar's numbers do you think are "lies?"  Do you have any theories about why Transtar might put false numbers into its statistics?

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9 minutes ago, editor said:

It looks right to me.  The Times cites City Observatory, which cites Transtar's Historical Freeway Travel Times statistics.  I put them into a spreadsheet, and here's what it looks like:

I-10 from Beltway 8 to Downtown - Percent of time the freeway is "congested," by Transtar's definition:

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 12.10.10 PM.png

Sure looks like the numbers got worse, not better.

 

And here's the congestion expressed in amount of time, again according to Transtar:

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 12.11.13 PM.png

 

Which part of Transtar's numbers do you think are "lies?"  Do you have any theories about why Transtar might put false numbers into its statistics?

Nowhere did I suggest that Transtar's numbers were lies or in any way false or misleading.  The lie is in City Observatory's, The New York Times' and your narratives that the number tell us that "within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion."  The Transtar numbers do not tell us that.  In fact, it would be impossible for these Transfer numbers to tell us that, because they don't include any pre-expansion numbers.  The earliest numbers shown were 4 years after the completion of the expansion.  The only thing these Transtar numbers tell us is the rather obvious fact that, in a metro area adding 100,000 - 150,000 people every year, traffic volumes increase.

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1 hour ago, Houston19514 said:

The only thing these Transtar numbers tell us is the rather obvious fact that, in a metro area adding 100,000 - 150,000 people every year, traffic volumes increase.

you forgot the rest of this statement.

....traffic volumes increase when no other reliable transit options exist.

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4 minutes ago, samagon said:

you forgot the rest of this statement.

....traffic volumes increase when no other reliable transit options exist.

Oh boy, the logic there.

Yes if you're adding 150,000 people to a metro area year after year after year, regardless of "reliable transit options," one should expect traffic volume to increase.  Why?  Because it's the primary driver.

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15 minutes ago, samagon said:

you forgot the rest of this statement.

....traffic volumes increase when no other reliable transit options exist.

Only in a fantasy world do other reliable transit options prevent traffic from increasing in a metro area growing as fast as Houston.

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17 minutes ago, Houston19514 said:

Only in a fantasy world do other reliable transit options prevent traffic from increasing in a metro area growing as fast as Houston.

It is a fact that the cities with the best mass transit systems (London, NYC, Chicago, etc.) also have the WORST traffic congestion.  I am not saying to not add mass transit.  Just dont expect it to alleviate traffic.

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28 minutes ago, steve1363 said:

It is a fact that the cities with the best mass transit systems (London, NYC, Chicago, etc.) also have the WORST traffic congestion.  I am not saying to not add mass transit.  Just dont expect it to alleviate traffic.

Also very true--it would be helpful for me at least for people to express what they want rather than what they don't want.  It's reducing congestion on one hand, but maybe it's more of congestion is OK as long as the freeway is not as wide.  Or maybe it's congestion is great because people will be forced to move.  It's transit on one hand, but maybe it's not commuter rail as much as it is frequent transit inside the Loop and the suburbs can pound sound.  Like the Stop IH-45 Now stuff, I really just don't understand what they want.  I think if they thought about it hard, maybe they'd come up with a different approach.

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2 hours ago, steve1363 said:

It is a fact that the cities with the best mass transit systems (London, NYC, Chicago, etc.) also have the WORST traffic congestion.  I am not saying to not add mass transit.  Just dont expect it to alleviate traffic.

Correlation is not causation.

Tigers are frequently found in jungles.  Jungles do not cause tigers.

I don't think anyone believes that transit is a cure for all traffic for everyone.  But many people believe it should be an option for those who choose it, and would rather see a portion of the billions spent on widening freeways spent on improving transit.

Perhaps if Metro met some minimum standard for transit service, then pro-transit people would feel a little less aggrieved with the situation.  But as the city grows, it is no longer sufficient for TxDOT to throw crumbs at transit, and steak at concrete companies.

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4 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

Nowhere did I suggest that Transtar's numbers were lies or in any way false or misleading.  The lie is in City Observatory's, The New York Times' and your narratives that the number tell us that "within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion."  The Transtar numbers do not tell us that.  In fact, it would be impossible for these Transfer numbers to tell us that, because they don't include any pre-expansion numbers.  The earliest numbers shown were 4 years after the completion of the expansion.  The only thing these Transtar numbers tell us is the rather obvious fact that, in a metro area adding 100,000 - 150,000 people every year, traffic volumes increase.

You pretend as if these numbers didn't exist.  Transtar was measuring numbers long before the numbers I included in the spreadsheet.  I didn't include the numbers before 2012 because they are not currently available on Transtar's web site.  That doesn't mean they don't exist.  It's entirely possible that they used to be online, but aren't anymore because the original link to the Transtar numbers was 404, and I had to search for the new page.  That doesn't mean that the Times, or City Observatory didn't look them up, request them, or otherwise find them.   It's trivial for a Times reporter to call the Transtar flack and have the numbers in hand in a matter of hours. 

Do you have evidence that the earlier numbers were not part of the reporting or the analysis? 

1 hour ago, mattyt36 said:

Also very true--it would be helpful for me at least for people to express what they want rather than what they don't want.  It's reducing congestion on one hand, but maybe it's more of congestion is OK as long as the freeway is not as wide.  Or maybe it's congestion is great because people will be forced to move.  It's transit on one hand, but maybe it's not commuter rail as much as it is frequent transit inside the Loop and the suburbs can pound sound.  Like the Stop IH-45 Now stuff, I really just don't understand what they want.  I think if they thought about it hard, maybe they'd come up with a different approach.

If you think people haven't expressed what they want, you haven't been listening.

As for the anti-I-45 people, that wasn't a transit issue.  It was people who didn't want to be bulldozed into oblivion without having a say in the matter.  They're tired of being marginalized and ignored. 

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59 minutes ago, editor said:

You pretend as if these numbers didn't exist.  Transtar was measuring numbers long before the numbers I included in the spreadsheet.  I didn't include the numbers before 2012 because they are not currently available on Transtar's web site.  That doesn't mean they don't exist.  It's entirely possible that they used to be online, but aren't anymore because the original link to the Transtar numbers was 404, and I had to search for the new page.  That doesn't mean that the Times, or City Observatory didn't look them up, request them, or otherwise find them.   It's trivial for a Times reporter to call the Transtar flack and have the numbers in hand in a matter of hours. 

Do you have evidence that the earlier numbers were not part of the reporting or the analysis? 

I have not in the least pretended the pre-expansion numbers don't exist.  I am certain they do exist.  That makes the narrative all the more mendacious.

Evidence?  Look at City Observatory's report. They show you the numbers on which they based their report.  2011 - 2014. Not sure why you spent your time putting together your own spreadsheet when City Observatory had already shown us their work. AND, they explained it:  "We extracted these data from Transtar (Houston’s official traffic tracking data source) for two segments of the Katy Freeway for the years 2011 through 2014.  They show that the morning commute has increased by 25 minutes (or 30 percent) and the afternoon commute has increased by 23 minutes (or 55 percent)."

https://cityobservatory.org/reducing-congestion-katy-didnt/

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 5.56.27 PM.png

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13 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

"We extracted these data from Transtar (Houston’s official traffic tracking data source) for two segments of the Katy Freeway for the years 2011 through 2014.  They show that the morning commute has increased by 25 minutes (or 30 percent) and the afternoon commute has increased by 23 minutes (or 55 percent)."

So, where's the lie again?  You seem to be backing their assertion that commuting times have increased, not decreased.

Or is the point of contention that their data doesn't include pre-construction numbers?  Wikipedia seems to indicate that the last major expansion was completed in 2008.  In order for the delay numbers to be meaningless, you'd have to believe that spending billions to expand a freeway is only intended to relieve congestion for a short period of time — Four years, in this case.  I don't think this was sold to the voters as "We'll ease traffic at a cost of x billion dollars a year for four years, and then it ends."

Perhaps when these massive freeway projects are proposed, they need some kind of freshness label.  "Will reduce congestion by x% for y years."  It seems possible to model that sort of thing.  I think that kind of transparency would be helpful to voters.

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50 minutes ago, editor said:

So, where's the lie again?  You seem to be backing their assertion that commuting times have increased, not decreased.

Again, they said “within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion.”  They did not even look at pre-expansion travel times, so  it is not possible to truthfully make the claim that is the premise of the Observatory article, the New York Times article , and this thread.

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21 hours ago, editor said:

If you think people haven't expressed what they want, you haven't been listening.

Why don't you be a doll and summarize it for us, Ed?  You started this thread with an article employing spurious logic--doesn't seem you have been listening very closely either.

21 hours ago, editor said:

As for the anti-I-45 people, that wasn't a transit issue.  It was people who didn't want to be bulldozed into oblivion without having a say in the matter.  They're tired of being marginalized and ignored. 

"Bulldozed into oblivion"?  "Tired of being marginalized and ignored"?  I didn't have you down for a bleeding heart, Ed.  Puhleeze.  Yeah all, what, 900 housing units of them?  More than half of which are in the The Lofts at the Ballpark and Clayton Homes--many of these people who already moved out years ago?  If the standard for "not being ignored" is that a $10 billion public works project that serves more than 100,000 people a day must be abandoned full stop, well I'd say they're out of touch.

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On 1/13/2023 at 3:01 PM, steve1363 said:

It is a fact that the cities with the best mass transit systems (London, NYC, Chicago, etc.) also have the WORST traffic congestion.  I am not saying to not add mass transit.  Just dont expect it to alleviate traffic.

it is also a fact that those cities are far more populous than Houston.

could you imagine what a Houston with the population of either of those cities might have to look like with our current transit options?

or another way, could you imagine either of those cities without mass transit?

so I thought I'd update this post with some information, so it's not just questions without some facts to have in your mind when you're thinking about the questions.

39% of New Yorkers use the subway. 80% of Londoners take mass transit. in contrast, 80% of Houstonians are driving alone in their cars. for sources, I pulled these numbers from wikipedia.

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On 1/14/2023 at 8:03 AM, Houston19514 said:

Again, they said “within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion.”  They did not even look at pre-expansion travel times, so  it is not possible to truthfully make the claim that is the premise of the Observatory article, the New York Times article , and this thread.

how do you know they didn't look at pre-expansion travel times? 

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1 hour ago, samagon said:

how do you know they didn't look at pre-expansion travel times? 

None of their comparisons show pre-expansion times. I haven't found the data for pre-expansion times yet, but I'm still looking.

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On 1/14/2023 at 3:09 PM, mattyt36 said:

I didn't have you down for a bleeding heart, Ed

Again, you imagine me as the person you want me to be, not the person I am.

I'm no longer going to engage with you on this topic.  Considering that every time someone refutes one of your assertions with logic or facts you pivot to a new line of attack — and for some reason you choose to make your responses about me, rather than the topic at hand — it is clear that you are not interested in discussion or knowledge, just in arguing for the sake of argument.

It's OK.  It's not your fault.  Sociologists have noticed for the last few years that some people just like to bicker in public as a way of reminding themselves and others that they exist.  Around 2015, the Pope called it "a coming epidemic of loneliness." 

As I told you in another thread back in July, "If you want low-brow, low-quality arguing, you are welcome to join any one of the 50,000 newspaper web sites, or other social fora that cater to that sort of thing… Whether it's chron.com, or Facebook, or Twitter, or Trump Social, I expect that you will find no shortage of people happy to engage you at the level you require.  I hope you find what you're looking for on those platforms."

 

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2 hours ago, samagon said:

how do you know they didn't look at pre-expansion travel times? 

Well, I guess I can't guarantee they didn't look at pre-expansion travel times, but if they did, that only elevates their level of dishonesty.  The fact is, they told us what numbers they examined and they showed us the numbers.  Nothing from pre-expansion.  READ THE REPORT!

https://cityobservatory.org/reducing-congestion-katy-didnt/

Again, there we have seen zero evidence that "within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion."  It is a lie.

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To directly address the question posited in the thread title, the premise of "fixing traffic" is holding transportation projects to an impossible standard, especially in a metro area growing as Houston does. "Fixing" traffic is not the goal.  Moving people and products is the goal, and that is why we keep widening (and improving) highways.  It would be just as unfair/dishonest to hold a mass transit project to the standard of "fixing" traffic; they don't; never have; and never will.  But cities keep building them, because they move people.  

Even if it were true that the Katy Freeway was more congested five years after expansion than it was before (and again, that is NOT true), that would not necessarily mean the project was a failure.  It's hard to deny that the Katy Freeway moves many more people and products than it did before the expansion. That is a positive result and a success.  THAT is why we keep expanding highways.

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wahoo, I found some published data, and bonus, not behind a paywall...

https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Expanded-Katy-Freeway-shaves-minutes-from-commute-3941203.php

Quote

Four years after the project was completed, a comparative analysis of drive-time data for a three-year period before and after the expansion shows that at both peak and non-peak periods of the day, it takes less time to traverse the Katy Freeway than it used to.

It's a matter of mere minutes - the morning commute from Barker-Cypress to Taylor, for instance, a distance of 19 miles, now takes, on average, 27 minutes. It used to take about 33 minutes.

The evening commute on that stretch now takes an average of 28 minutes as opposed to 38 minutes and 30 seconds.

so there we go, prior to expansion, commute times from Barker Cypress to Taylor took 33 minutes prior to expansion. 

and there's even data on the reverse commute.

they state that the actual winner was off-peak hours, which at the time were better. I think now they are probably just as bad (remembering my own experience with I10 before the expansion).

anyway, so maybe now we can all agree that the article isn't lying.

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14 minutes ago, samagon said:

wahoo, I found some published data, and bonus, not behind a paywall...

https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Expanded-Katy-Freeway-shaves-minutes-from-commute-3941203.php

so there we go, prior to expansion, commute times from Barker Cypress to Taylor took 33 minutes prior to expansion. 

and there's even data on the reverse commute.

they state that the actual winner was off-peak hours, which at the time were better. I think now they are probably just as bad (remembering my own experience with I10 before the expansion).

anyway, so maybe now we can all agree that the article isn't lying.

Not sure which article you are saying we can agree wasn't lying.  This Chronicle article confirms that the New York Times/City Obervatory/OP in this thread were all lies. In fact, the numbers in your linked article show that travel times decreased in the several years following, and as as a result of, the expansion, not increased as was falsely claimed. Thanks for proving my point.

Quotes from the linked article:

"Expanded Katy Freeway shaves minutes from commute"

"the drive home on this gargantuan slab of concrete actually used to take longer."

"Four years after the project was completed, a comparative analysis of drive-time data for a three-year period before and after the expansion shows that at both peak and non-peak periods of the day, it takes less time to traverse the Katy Freeway than it used to."

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11 hours ago, editor said:

Considering that every time someone refutes one of your assertions with logic or facts you pivot to a new line of attack — and for some reason you choose to make your responses about me, rather than the topic at hand — it is clear that you are not interested in discussion or knowledge, just in arguing for the sake of argument.

Ed, buddy, c'mon.  That's your MO, right there, as described.  You may not "attack" (Ouch! Words hurt!), but I have yet to see you seriously consider an alternative point of view in any post, ever.  This thread is but the most current example.  

Otherwise, I'm glad to know you fancy yourself such an advanced student of human nature.  🙄  The irony is, shall we say, palpable.

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14 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

Not sure which article you are saying we can agree wasn't lying.  This Chronicle article confirms that the New York Times/City Obervatory/OP in this thread were all lies. In fact, the numbers in your linked article show that travel times decreased in the several years following, and as as a result of, the expansion, not increased as was falsely claimed. Thanks for proving my point.

Quotes from the linked article:

"Expanded Katy Freeway shaves minutes from commute"

"the drive home on this gargantuan slab of concrete actually used to take longer."

"Four years after the project was completed, a comparative analysis of drive-time data for a three-year period before and after the expansion shows that at both peak and non-peak periods of the day, it takes less time to traverse the Katy Freeway than it used to."

am I taking crazy pills? 

this is what you said: 

On 1/12/2023 at 12:12 PM, Houston19514 said:

OMG.  This whole thread is based on a lie.  Did anyone read the article? Did anyone look at the source of their claim that "within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion."  That (yes, the very premise of their anti-freeway-widening article) is a lie.  

One wonders if the NYT author even read his/her own source material; if so did he/she not understand it?  Either way... the both the City Observatory article and the NYT article are deeply dishonest.

The linked "study" is one I believe we have discussed here before and it compares peak travel times on Katy Freeway for the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.  In a city adding 100,000 - 150,000 people every year, it should come as no surprise that traffic is increasing. The expansion of the Katy Freeway made it possible to handle that additional traffic. But the noteworthy part is the earliest year they compared is 2011, three years after the completion of the Katy Freeway widening.  No comparison whatsoever to the freeway's performance before the widening project commenced.  

For everyone's convenience, here is a link to the NYT's source  https://cityobservatory.org/reducing-congestion-katy-didnt/

prior to expansion peak travel times were around 30 minutes (data from the chron article I posted). 5 years after expansion peak travel times not only were worse, but they were up to (and over) 50 minutes (data confirmed from multiple sources including transtar).

what am I missing?

now, if you have any concrete evidence that the NYT lied (which is a libelous statement by the way without actual facts to back up your claim, I'm not sure what the actual number of readers is on this thread, but it's probably not enough for the NYT to even lift a finger), it really needs to be shared. at the moment this isn't a good look for you.

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3 hours ago, samagon said:

am I taking crazy pills? 

this is what you said: 

prior to expansion peak travel times were around 30 minutes (data from the chron article I posted). 5 years after expansion peak travel times not only were worse, but they were up to (and over) 50 minutes (data confirmed from multiple sources including transtar).

what am I missing?

now, if you have any concrete evidence that the NYT lied (which is a libelous statement by the way without actual facts to back up your claim, I'm not sure what the actual number of readers is on this thread, but it's probably not enough for the NYT to even lift a finger), it really needs to be shared. at the moment this isn't a good look for you.

The Chron analyzed:

Barker Cypress to Taylor (19 miles):  Pre-expansion 33 minutes.  Post-expansion 27 minutes

They also did Taylor to Barker Cypress (also 19 miles, of course):  Pre-expansion:  23 minutes.  Post-expansion:  18 minutes.

The 50 minutes (and over) post-expansion time pulled from the City Observatory study was peak-time for Pin Oak to downtown  (30 miles).  

Not really a legitimate comparison.  With work like that, you might be able to get a job at the New York Times.  😉

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27 minutes ago, Houston19514 said:

The Chron analyzed:

Barker Cypress to Taylor (19 miles):  Pre-expansion 33 minutes.  Post-expansion 27 minutes

They also did Taylor to Barker Cypress (also 19 miles, of course):  Pre-expansion:  23 minutes.  Post-expansion:  18 minutes.

The 50 minutes (and over) post-expansion time pulled from the City Observatory study was peak-time for Pin Oak to downtown  (30 miles).  

Not really a legitimate comparison.  With work like that, you might be able to get a job at the New York Times.  😉

fair enough, I admit I didn't see that very important nugget, and yeah, that would be comparing apples and chickens.

the statement is still true though, if you are going to accuse them of lying, you need to provide the proof. whether it's a topic seen by 10 people or 10,000 people (which might get NYT attention), it is a very serious accusation and you absolutely need to deliver proof.

I'm not a subscriber of the NYT, but maybe since Editor is (and a longstanding subscriber) perhaps he can ask them to site the references for their sources of the data from prior to the expansion.

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51 minutes ago, samagon said:

fair enough, I admit I didn't see that very important nugget, and yeah, that would be comparing apples and chickens.

the statement is still true though, if you are going to accuse them of lying, you need to provide the proof. whether it's a topic seen by 10 people or 10,000 people (which might get NYT attention), it is a very serious accusation and you absolutely need to deliver proof.

I'm not a subscriber of the NYT, but maybe since Editor is (and a longstanding subscriber) perhaps he can ask them to site the references for their sources of the data from prior to the expansion.


What statement is true?  I have yet to see any evidence whatsoever that peak travel times are worse than before the expansion.

We know their source. They cited it in the article.  Their source is the City Observatory study, which did not discuss or compare or provide pre-expansion data. Again, City Observatory compared 3 years post-expansion commute times with 6 years post-expansion commute time.  It is dishonest to  use that comparison to claim that post-expansion commute times were worse than pre-expansion commute times, and disingenuous (at the very least) to use that comparison to "prove" that the expansion was unsuccessful.

https://cityobservatory.org/reducing-congestion-katy-didnt/

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1 hour ago, samagon said:

do you have data from before the expansion?

The only pre-expansion data I've seen is in the Chron article you linked.  With the number of times we've seen the claim made that "within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion," and similar claims, one would have thought someone would have provided a comparison of post-expansion data with pre-expansion data.  The only one who did is the Chronicle, and their data showed improved travel times.

From the data they say they examined (and that was shared), they cannot honestly conclude that congestion was worse after the expansion than before, because they did no such comparison.  The only thing they can honestly conclude is that congestion is increasing from year to year (thanks, Captain Obvious - again, that will tend to happen in a metro area growing as Houston does from year to year).

I'm done engaging with you on this, Samagon.  You can carry on as you please.

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2 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

The only pre-expansion data I've seen is in the Chron article you linked.  With the number of times we've seen the claim made that "within five years, peak hour travel times on the freeway were longer than before the expansion," and similar claims, one would have thought someone would have provided a comparison of post-expansion data with pre-expansion data.  The only one who did is the Chronicle, and their data showed improved travel times.

From the data they say they examined (and that was shared), they cannot honestly conclude that congestion was worse after the expansion than before, because they did no such comparison.  The only thing they can honestly conclude is that congestion is increasing from year to year (thanks, Captain Obvious - again, that will tend to happen in a metro area growing as Houston does from year to year).

I'm done engaging with you on this, Samagon.  You can carry on as you please.

sooooo, no, you don't have the data.

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On 1/11/2023 at 2:19 AM, Skyboxdweller said:

Houston is fortunate in that it has no natural barriers to development

no APPARENT natural barriers. 

The flood maps on ArcGIS say otherwise. All available land that won't flood catastrophically is already taken. We're going to end up with houses built on floating platforms able to adjust to the height of the tides in about 20 years if we don't change our ways.

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