We've at least made peace with the fact that city government can't really do anything about the weather. It does have the power to mitigate the effects of the weather: plant more trees, install more awnings, enclose the entire city in an enormous air-conditioned dome, etc.
The City and our Metropolitan Transit Authority have made great strides recently toward making it easier to get around without a personally owned motor vehicle. The amount of MetroRail track has tripled; the bus system makes more sense; there are more and better bicycle lanes and hike-n-bike trails (and they're working on getting more of those trails connected into a proper network).
Unfortunately, the trend toward more housing and jobs inside Loop 610 is making more of us kvetch about the Big Issue of traffic. The Inner Loop may be 1/16th as population-dense as Manhattan, but it still gets Manhattan-style gridlock in its four business districts: Downtown, Uptown, Greenway Plaza, and the Texas Medical Center. Even Midtown, Montrose, and the Museum District are not immune.
Here's my latest kvetch, adapted from a Facebook post:
We've grown accustomed to freeways resembling parking lots, but now Downtown streets are getting just as bad between 5 & 6 pm.
To my amazement, here's one spot that's getting observably worse by the week: traffic on Richmond Avenue eastbound at 5 pm weekdays now backs up from Montrose all the way past Mandell, sometimes as far as Dunlavy. That's a kilometer-long line of vehicles.
Another plum spot is Greenbriar at Rice. I get to observe this from my bicycle en route from work to Rice Village.
- Eastbound traffic on Rice is stopped at the red light at Shepherd, and it backs up two long blocks to Greenbriar.
- Northbound traffic on Greenbriar (mostly Med-Center folks avoiding Main and Fannin Streets, I'm betting) tries to turn right, but has nowhere to go.
- Southbound traffic from one-way Greenbriar tries to turn left in the limited green time, with no left-turn arrow.
- Result: Classic Gridlock! Westbound traffic on Rice gets a green, but can't get through the intersection.
If the City doesn't want to put a left-turn arrow up for the southbounders, it needs to encourage them to turn onto Sunset instead of Rice. This would actually make their trip shorter, going due east on Sunset instead of east-northeast on Rice. Check the map.
- In the 1980s, the federal government gave Houston a mandate to get its ozone pollution under control.
- A big part of ozone pollution, even in the Petro Metro, is car and truck exhaust.
- Since then, our population has grown by half a million, and we have not managed to decrease the number of automobiles on our streets and highways.
- The only thing in recent years that has decreased the amount of vehicle miles traveled has been high fuel prices.
- Gasoline is back down to $2 a gallon, so people are driving more than when it was $3.75; judging from the amount of big-ass SUVs I'm seeing inside the Loop, they also seem to be purchasing gas-guzzlers again, because they never learn.
- As we add population, it's only going to get worse.
- I recommend changing the 1% Metro-service-area sales tax to a fuel tax collects twice as much as that sales tax and specifically benefits Metro. Also, let's jack up the tolls on the Katy, Westpark, Hardy, Gulf, and Fort Bend Tollways. That way Metro can increase its budget dramatically and put together a serious transit network for the 21st century.