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Posts tagged "highways"

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Houston: Buses, Bayous, Beltways and Abounding Optimism for Better Mobility

Last week found me in Houston. And for a few hours (see above) I got to go explore their expansive bayou greenway system - which by 2020 will be the largest network of trails and parks in the nation. That may shock you about Houston, it's great trivia to pull out in a room with transportation friends.

But the primary reason I was there was to look at the ambitous realignment of Houston METRO's bus system, a complex multi-year project to make buses run more efficiently, faster, with more frequency and routes that make more sense for the city. It's already reaping great rewards and sweeping the nation with ample positive press so we thought it would make a great Streetfilm. Thus, thanks to our funding partners TransitCenter in a few weeks we'll be posting a film to tell the story.

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This photo is me with Janis "Bus Lady" Scott who is just one of the great folks I got to spend time with on the streets of Houston riding transit.  I think Janis just might be Jane Jacobs reincarnated.  She was so charming I might post a bonus Streetfilm segment just on her after finishing our primary feature on MetroBus.

I also got to do one of the more amazing things I have ever been allowed: I rode in an empty bus around downtown Houston just to get some driving shots after interviewing Cara (below) an energetic bus driver at Houston Metro who helped out planning some of the new routes. You'll meet her, the "Bus Lady" and many others in our film.

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While I was there, I was a guest speaker at Houston Tomorrow's Streetfilms screening at the Rice University Media Center. Always nice to see our films playing up on a handsome big screen with lots of folks. Furthermore, I was very excited since Jay Blazek Crossley their Executive Director, chose a great slate of Streetfilms mostly pulled from this blog post, which I've been cajoling communities to play. You should, after all they are free to screen.

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Streetfacts #3: Roads Are a Money Losing Proposition

The majority of the roads and highways built in America are simply bad investments. Continuing this pattern will only ensure that wasteful projects consume larger chunks of our federal, state, and local budgets, without addressing the real need for transportation options.

This Streetfacts chapter has a bit more math than usual, but we think we've made an entertaining and accessible profile of how government agencies routinely justify unnecessary road projects. The example we've chosen to illustrate the problem is a federally-funded "diamond-diverter" interchange in Colorado. The project as proposed may look like a pretty good deal for taxpayers at first, but after crunching the numbers, you'll see that's not the case at all.

Much of the inspiration for this piece comes from the outstanding work of Strong Towns, an organization that emphasizes obtaining a higher return on infrastructure investments. Strong Towns Executive Director Charles Marohn, Jr. has been getting his message out through what he calls curbside chats, and we'll soon be debuting a Streetfilm that features his work.

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Streetfacts #2: Americans Are Driving Less

We continue our Streetfacts series by looking at the data on driving in the U.S. Beginning in 2005, per-capita driving has declined every year. That's not a blip, it's now an 8-year trend.

The reason? Neither the state of the economy nor changes in gas prices offer a satisfactory explanation. Social preferences and demographic shifts seem to be playing a role. Young people today are less likely to own a car or have a driver's license than young people several years ago. At the same time, America's growing population of seniors are no longer in their peak driving years.

Whatever the combination of factors, people are riding transit, walking, and bicycling more. Even magazines like Motor Trend are examining the shift away from cars.

The upshot is that we need to start making smart transportation investments that align with the new reality: Americans are driving less.