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Houston planners envision less reliance on automobile

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  • Houston planners envision less reliance on automobile

    Oct. 24, 2004, 9:46PM

    MOVE IT!
    Houston planners envision less reliance on automobile

    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

    OSLO, NORWAY - I've recently spent 11 days traveling through Scandinavia. Not once have I set foot in an automobile.

    It's truly a different world. With cities built hundreds of years before the car was invented, modern transportation systems function a world apart from a place such as Houston — one of America's numerous auto-crazy cities.

    The capitals of Sweden, Finland and Norway, like most of the rest of Europe, have phenomenal public transportation. When I stepped off the plane in Stockholm, an express train was ready to whisk me the 27 miles into the city center in 20 minutes at speeds up to 125 mph. Once there, a massive network of subways and commuter trains made getting to any part of the region quick and efficient.

    It was the same case in Helsinki and Oslo though on a smaller scale.

    And even with all the transit options, more often than not I have relied on my own two feet.

    Changes at home
    Getting around Houston, as we all know, is a much different story. Transit options back home are limited, and our massive sprawl and neglected infrastructure often make walking impractical.

    But this is changing. Last week a broad coalition of city leaders unveiled a 21-year plan to continue upgrading Houston's downtown into a vibrant core where the automobile no longer is king.

    If this plan is carried out, in 2025 we'll no longer assume a Houstonian without a car can't afford one. There will be tens of thousands of urban dwellers who walk, bicycle, and ride buses and trains everywhere.

    Sound far-fetched? It's how millions of Europeans live. Riding transit isn't reserved for the downtrodden. Everyone does it.

    I was struck by my experiences in Stockholm (population 1.25 million). After walking to the subway station at 3 a.m. after the bars closed Friday and Saturday nights, I found the platforms crowded with young people who were finally forced to call it a night. I couldn't even get a seat on the full trains.

    I was surrounded by hundreds of jovial people — and not a single one worried about needing gas or getting pulled over for drunken driving.

    A new vision
    Leaders in Houston recognize our booming city has to grow differently from the way it did in the latter half of the 20th century. The Houston Downtown Development Framework calls for 17,000 more residents in the city center by 2025 — a nearly sixfold increase.

    "Houston cannot build its way out of its congestion," the document acknowledges. "The answer lies as much in the desire to live near one's work in the central city as it does in more freeways and transit."

    The framework also details the need to greatly expand noncar mobility options.

    "Access will need to include a variety of travel modes so that traveling downtown does not automatically mean dealing with traffic congestion, but instead offers an increased number and quality of noncongested options," the report states. "Because the downtown experience is superior and often more practical when not in an automobile, the community should place special attention on alternative means of travel."

    It documents 120 blocks for residential development — more than a third of the land downtown. Anyone who has been to Europe, or to larger U.S. cities, would eye the goal of 20,000 downtown residents as too small for a city of nearly 2 million.

    Improvements in the past few years have made living carless a real possibility in the Bayou City. Only time will tell if tens of thousands adapt that urban lifestyle.

    Please e-mail comments and questions to [email protected], call 713-362-6832, fax to 713-354-3061 or mail to Lucas Wall, Houston Chronicle, 801 Texas Ave., Houston, TX 77002. Include your name, city or county of residence and daytime phone number.
    "Blue Oh-Two" (#424)
    Rick's header, Hondata gasket, Mugen thermostat/fan switch, Mugen radiator cap, Aussie mirror, Lucid's rear speakers, Alpine CDA-7893R & KCE-865B, Muz's saddlebag, Windscreen Light, Modifry's glove box organizer and lots of Zaino!

  • #2
    I guess they invisioned this using "LSD" too.

    If I had no car, I would starve to to death.