Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mayor Parker (inadvertently) stumbles onto something.

Still more pay-wall hidden information from Chr$nBl$g today as they discuss how the proposed parking regulations would be a boon for neighborhoods seeking to reclaim their streets from the masses.  Withing this article is a nugget from Mayor Parker stating that Houston is a "city of neighborhoods" where ham-handed, monolithic, one-size-fits-all solutions are rarely the way to go.

And yes, all of this was said without an inkling (that we can detect) of irony given the central-planning tendencies of both Council and the Mayor but it's hard to say that they're on the wrong path here given the realities of the Houston region.  Of course, at the bottom of the article, one finds the usual topic of "density" and nods toward the shining path of new urbanism, and that's to be expected in a city where groups like Houston Tomorrow are provided a serious platform instead of being patted on the head and fed a cookie.

Much of this is caused by the Chr$n itself, in part by them naming David Crossley a Houston "bright", in part by their endless campaigning for a public transit system that makes no sense when placed in the context of Houston and in part by providing Lisa Gray an unchallenged platform. Part of the blame also has to be cast at the feet of the dissenting parties as well, as much for their abandonment of local issues as for their inability to string together a coherent thought without mucking things up with UN policy and whispers of a global agenda.

The point is, and this gets lost in the fray quite often, the debate on Houston future is often quite one-sided and it's increasingly getting to be held in the back room of the Chr$n financial lock-box.

That's why it was nice to see, whether inadvertent or not, Mayor Parker admit out-loud what most of us have already realized. Houston is indeed a city of neighborhoods and not the shoe-horned in face to elbow sausage factory that our new-urbanist friends want it to be.

You would think then, since we realize that parking regulations needs to not be 'one size fits all' that we would also understand that other aspects of urban planning would work in this manner.  You'd be wrong, of course, but you can go ahead and dream.  In fact, with the rise of complete streets and the continued focus on an ineffective transit system designed solely to move residents to and from the central core, there's a certain amount of insanity that has to be in place to think this will work at all.

If we can all agree that Houston is really just a grouping of diverse neighborhoods co-existing in our own ways then perhaps transportation routing should take a page from the Interstate system in America instead of the wagon wheel relic from the 1800's. Instead of ferrying everyone to the downtown core perhaps it'd be best to think of ways to shuttle us from neighborhood to neighborhood?  From business center to business center?  From neighborhood to entertainment center and then back again?  Of course, this would have to be multi-modal, so buses and (yes) even rail could be considered options, but automobiles would also need to be in the game as there's the possibility that someone living in Oak Forest might have a desire to pop by the Heights without being diverted to the downtown transit center only to take a 1/4mile ride on the Danger Train before being dropped off at a transfer point before taking a bus back out to their destination. When you figure they might be attempting this on a Saturday when the kids have baseball practice, dance lessons, trombone lessons, classes on how to make your own chips and salsa from locally sourced, organic, free trade ingredients and daddy has slow pitch softball that evening then that type of diversion is just silly.

If you think about connecting neighborhoods and job centers this becomes a very real possibility.  If you continue to focus on the new urbanist dream of a vital central core through which all travel becomes a necessity than it doesn't.  Right now we're constantly being told what we can't do and what is unsustainable lest we all end up in the devil's convection oven, in January.

But this is Houston.  We're already spending time in Satan's broiler in July.  Let's focus on getting from point to point in air conditioning, without worrying about offending those who are terminally angry that they weren't born in Paris.

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