Archive for July, 2006

It’s time for John Culberson to answer some tough questions!

Monday, July 31st, 2006

On Tuesday, John Culberson will “announce his decision” regarding the Universities light rail line. How can he presume “to decide” the fate of this line?!? This is not his role in the process, since other local elected officials have that duty, and he knows that. His role only comes into play to ensure Houston gets its desired federal transit funds, and so far Culberson is dropping the ball on that.

Why is John Culberson working with a handful of NIMBYs from just one or two neighborhoods? John Culberson took an oath to represent his entire district, and the Universities rail project will affect all Houstonians. But he’s soley sided with a small group of anti-rail leaders from Afton Oaks. Why?

Why is John Culberson pandering to fear mongerers? Richmond rail opponents continue to claim that rail will hurt traffic while METRO has now shown that NO traffic lanes will be lost and nearly every left turn will remain. Rail opponents have personally terrified small business owners on Richmond with false claims that METRO has now refuted, but Culberson is standing firm.

Why is John Culberson suddenly a new champion of displaced businesses? He personally oversaw the condemnation of more than 480 properties to expand the Katy Freeway — including Courtesy Chevrolet, Ciro’s, 90% of Spring Valley’s commercial tax base, and others — all to “improve mobility.” In contrast, METRO has now shown they can run rail down Richmond to bring urban transit to Greenway Plaza and the Galleria by taking only 8 properties, one of which is vacant and one an “adult” bookstore, but Culberson “won’t let that happen.” Why???

Why won’t Culberson support urgently-needed urban transit for central Houston? Two weeks ago, Culberson’s House committee awarded $700 million to Dallas for another 45 miles of light rail, doubling the size of their system. But back in Houston, Culberson co-chaired Texans for True Mobility which fought the METRO referendum and he has failed to deliver the federal funds Houston is depending on.

John Culberson represents our Congressional district and we’re depending on him to fund this rail expansion project. Culberson clearly owes his constituents some good explanations. We promise to be at his press event Tuesday to do some asking!

For the future of Houston

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

In the fifty years that I have lived in Houston, I have seen many changes - some good and some bad. I remember when Richmond Avenue was a two lane street that stopped at Post Oak. I remember when Gerald Hines got his start by building small office buildings near Buffalo Speedway; I even helped to design some of them. I remember when a whole neighborhood of nice little houses was torn down so that Greenway Plaza could be built. I remember when Richmond was widened into four lanes and then a year or so later torn up to install a new utility line. Now I am witnessing even more changes along Richmond - old apartment complexes and office buildings being replaced by new apartments, a huge HISD complex being converted into shops and apartments, explosive growth on the west side of town…the list could go on and on. The point is that Richmond Avenue, just like most of Houston, has been changing for at least 50 years, and it will continue to do so for the forseeable future. The street will not stay just like it is. It could become another multi-lane Westheimer-outside-the-Loop, or it could have a light rail line added down the middle to handle the coming increase in traffic, thus preventing the need to add more traffic lanes.

As an architect and urban planner, that is the kind of growth that I would like to see. I travel Richmond frequently as I go between my residence in Midtown and my office on Weslayan at West Alabama. With the rail in Richmond, I could get on the light rail in Midtown and ride to the Weslayan Station, close enough to my office to walk the rest of the way. Or, I could join friends for an evening at the regular Art Crawls along Richmond and Colquitt (Kirby Station) and not have to worry about finding a parking place or driving home. This is all part of making Houston a city of the future, a place where we can truly have options in the way we travel about the city.

It is time for us to get past the misinformation and the fears and start embracing the most feasible way to provide transportation options where the people are!

Facts trump fears – neighborhood impact will be minimal!

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

At a public meeting on July 18, Metro rolled out the latest data and conceptual drawings for the University Corridor light rail line. These documents show clearly that most of the fears about a potential Richmond alignment have been unwarranted. METRO has demonstrated that they are working hard to address the legitimate concerns of residents and businesses along Richmond.

Concerns over rail have included exaggerated fears over excessive use of eminent domain, loss of traffic lanes, disappearance of trees, and major disruptions of business along Richmond.

Now METRO has responded:
The plans, details and renderings shown Tuesday demonstrate that we can have rail on Richmond for the good of both our neighborhoods and the whole City. Here is what Metro’s plans reveal:

  • No loss of traffic lanes
  • Left turns allowed at 35 of 42 intersections
  • Full access to existing businesses and neighborhoods
  • Short 180-day construction windows
  • Only 8 constructive (whole) property takings
  • Most right-of-way widenings less than 4 feet
  • Medians and trees remain west of Kirby; plant new trees east of Kirby
  • Convenient and attractive stations at Montrose, Dunlavy, Shepherd, Kirby, Buffalo Speedway or Greenway Plaza, Weslayan, South Rice, and the Hillcroft Transit Center

That sounds like neighborhood-friendly light rail to us!

The facts are in and it looks like we can have rail where the people are — on Richmond — with minimal impact to businesses and neighborhoods! This proves the point has been making: facts will rule over fear and misinformation. Now that the concerns of anti-rail people are being addressed, and given that studies and experts agree that light rail brings value to neighborhoods, this should be a no brainier. Richmond all the way.

But you should see for yourself. Download METRO’s presentation (pdf) and meeting materials, and get your questions answered at two more meetings next week:

  • Monday, July 24, 2006 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm
    Third Ward Multi Service Center, 3611 Ennis
  • Tuesday, July 25, 2006 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm
    St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 5501 South Main St.

Then help us spread the word!

Houstonians want rail on Richmond!

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

It’s true! We asked you to sign our online petition to show your support for rail on Richmond. In just two weeks, more than 700 Houstonians have signed up!

We told you that we would make sure your voices are being heard. So we just sent all of the petitions to METRO, Mayor White, Judge Eckels, Rep. Culberson, and all of the relevant elected officials at the city, county, state, and federal levels. We introduced them with this letter:

Mr. David S. Wolff, METRO, Mr. Frank Wilson, METRO, Members of the METRO board

Mr. John Culberson, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee, Ms. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Mr. John Cornyn, Mr. Garnet Coleman, Ms. Martha Wong, Mr. Bill White, Mayor, Ms. Anne Clutterbuck, Ms. Ada Edwards, Ms.Pam Holm, Mr. Robert Eckels, Mr. El Franco Lee, Ms. Sylvia Garcia, Mr. Steve Radack, Mr. Jerry Eversole

Dear Mr. Wolff and Mr. Wilson:

In just 15 days, more than 700 Houstonians have signed their support for this clear statement:

“I support neighborhood-friendly light rail on Richmond Avenue.”

We are residents, business owners, workers, and students living and working on or near Richmond Avenue. We are civic leaders and professionals with a stake in Houston’s quality of life and economic vitality. We are landowners and institutions with a specific interest in the long term health of Richmond Avenue. And we want light rail on Richmond.

We want to preserve and enhance the quality of life and vitality of our neighborhoods, businesses, and institutions. We want to ensure the long term quality and success of our neighborhoods through the addition of light rail along Richmond Avenue from Main Street to its connection with the Uptown line and beyond.

Houston will not have a healthy and vital future without a mass transportation system that is built where the people, places, and destinations are. will be fighting for rail on Richmond and for solutions that maximize the benefit for all citizens - and minimize the negative impacts on businesses and neighborhoods in the corridor.

In the coming weeks, we will be signing up thousands more residents, institutions, and businesses along the Richmond corridor that support a Richmond alignment. The more than 700 Houstonians listed with this letter are just a taste of the broad based support for and logic of a Richmond rail alignment.

We expect METRO to thoroughly study and expertly design the Richmond alignment. We expect our local elected leaders to support it. And we expect our Congressional representatives to fund it.


Doug Childers, Chair

We even faxed the whole stack of names — all 46 pages — to Rep. Culberson’s office in Washington!

Culberson keeps telling everyone that he won’t let METRO build rail anywhere the people don’t want it. The more petitions we get, the harder it will be for Culberson to claim that no one wants rail on Richmond!

Can you help us build our base? Ask your friends, neighbors, and coworkers to sign the RichmondRail petition, either online or on paper. And ask them to do it soon!

Thanks to everyone who already signed the petition.