It’s time to be proactive about getting a pedestrian streetscape on Richmond Ave.

We were thrilled to see METRO formally “break ground” on the North and Southeast Light Rail Lines in July. That means that work is underway on three of the five new lines planned for the expanded light rail system.  We’re looking forward to the day that construction begins on the University Line, but we understand that won’t happen for some time. METRO estimates that the University Line is at least a year behind the other lines.  In the meantime, METRO is planning the design of the line, and we’re thinking and talking about the things that will make a difference in how well light rail serves our community. 

For the coming light rail line to be a true asset to our neighborhoods, the streets leading to the transit stations must accommodate pedestrians more safely and comfortably than is typical for Houston streets outside downtown. If enacted, the proposed transit corridor ordinance (aka the Urban Corridor ordinance, which we hope to see on the City Council agenda for approval soon), would foster the evolution toward a more pedestrian-friendly environment as redevelopment occurs along the light rail corridors. That will take time. We believe that there is a near-term opportunity to achieve a better pedestrian environment along the University Line on lower Richmond Ave

Virtually all of the public right-of-way on Richmond Ave. from Spur 527 to Kirby Dr. is only 80 feet wide. When METRO builds the University Line, we anticipate that they will also need to rebuild the sidewalks along that stretch of Richmond. What better time to create a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape than when the rail line is being built? However, the right-of-way constraints do present challenges. 

RichmondRail has a solution: allocate the 80-foot right-of-way such that the street will safely and comfortably accommodate not only trains and cars, but also pedestrians. Allowing 10 feet for traffic lanes (2 in each direction) and a 23-ft trackway for the trains would leave 8 1/2 feet on each side — sufficient for 6-ft wide unobstructed sidewalks plus Richmond streetscapespace for street trees. has put together a resolution outlining this and other proposals. In addition to the recommended right-of-way allocation for rail, cars and pedestrians, the resolution proposes specific provisions for pedestrian crosswalks, the placement of surface infrastructure and trees, the burying of utility lines and other important improvements. Take a look at our Resolution of support for a pedestrian streetscape on Richmond Avenue for more about our proposals and a streetscape cross-section. An important note — METRO appears to be trying to keep property takings to a minimum, with most takings on Richmond expected to be around the planned transit stations. Our recommendations focus on the streetscape on Richmond between transit stations, and we are not proposing any additional property takings

Both METRO and the City must agree to them for our proposals to become reality.  We know that there are hurdles — recently updated City standards call for 12-ft traffic lanes and frown on mid-block crosswalks; laying grass on the trackway isn’t likely to be approved without an agreement in place to maintain it; and burying utility wires will require an investment beyond what anyone has currently planned.  But the new light rail line and the the resulting streetscape will become an integral part of our community, one that will be in place for decades to come.  It’s critical that we invest in a plan that will enhance the livability of our neighborhoods and make the most of the investment in transit.  

A number of organizations and institutions along lower Richmond have signed on in support of the RichmondRail resolution, and we are continuing to meet with civic associations and others to share our ideas.  We’d love to hear from community organizations who are interested in learning more about our proposals –  contact us.

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