Saturday, January 12, 2013

Grating on a Curve

I was in Houston for a work meeting last spring and went on a tour with our good friend Christof Spieler who has taken a hiatus from blogging at CTC Houston while he is an active member of the board for Houston Metro.  He was kind enough to take me around to a lot of the new construction going on to complete Houston's three newest light rail lines.  I must say I was blown away at the progress and opportunities that the system holds.

Houston's Light Rail Plans via Christof Spieler

North Corridor Construction

I know there is a lot of consternation in Houston from certain congressional parties that if they had it their way would never have let the city build its first line.  But I'm sure glad they did because it's allowed them so much political support to push forward with the system they are installing now.  While even that had its fits and starts as well as issues with general managers and vehicle orders, I firmly believe that this will be the most European system in the United States when completed.

North Corridor Construction

North Corridor Construction

Unlike any other LRT system in the United States, they eschewed existing freight rights of way and made the conscious decision to run in the major corridors with dedicated guideways.  This is going to bring unprecedented mobility to the newly served areas as well as perhaps a few issues as well.

While many say that Houston has no zoning, what it really means is that Houston has no use restrictions.  Unless your neighborhood has existing deed restrictions, anything is fair game as long as it pencils in your pro-forma.  Making that pro-forma more difficult is all of the setback and parking regulations that are required from the city.  It costs a lot of money and changes development dynamics but the lack of use restrictions allow development such as the housing below.  Townhouses on small lots that would never have been allowed in any other single family neighborhood. 

Southwest Corridor in East Downtown (EDO)

East Downtown LRT

This also raises the issue of affordable housing.  While the lack of building restrictions keeps prices fairly low, extremely low in fact when compared to SF or NYC, it doesn't mean that neighborhoods won't see some drastic changes coming to their neighborhoods.

Light Rail Construction in East Downtown

If you would like to see a few more of the images from the trip, check out my Flickr page


Anonymous said...

"Townhouses on small lots that would never have been allowed in any other single family neighborhood."

Portland allows all kinds of townhouses on small lots in single family zoned neighborhoods. So do most of the cities in the metro area.

MB94128 said...

Some links :
MTA of Harris Co., Houston, TX
Houston Metro's Rail Expansion Projects

Davistrain said...

I remember when the first segment of the Houston light rail system opened, they had a rash of collisions with cars and pickup trucks. Is this still a problem, or have the locals finally started paying attention to the trains?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the small lot townhouse thing isn't all that unique -

Anonymous said...

Ya, the small lot townhouse thing isn't all that unique -

Unknown said...