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Read on for the latest news:

Urban Corridors moves to the next stage

January 9th, 2009 by Kay

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In June 2006 Houston City Planning embarked on an initiative to “create a high quality urban environment” along the METRO light rail corridors by changing the way the City looks at development and infrastructure requirements in these areas. After two and a half years of research, public workshops and staff/consultant analysis, the City’s Urban Corridor Planning initiative has entered the implementation phase. The consultant’s report, with recommendations, has been published, along with a description of the City’s implementation approach.  The City is now in the process of developing ordinances to actualize the recommendations of this initiative.

Significance to rail on Richmond. A major goal for RichmondRail.org from the beginning has been creation of a more walkable, neighborhood-friendly environment concurrent with the building of light rail along Richmond. We believe that this is critical both to the success of the rail line and to the health and vitality of our neighborhoods. New development standards based on the Urban Corridors work currently offer the best prospect of achieving our goal. But the recommendations in the Urban Corridors report are just that; there are still many questions to be answered and details to be worked through. Perhaps most important for us is exactly how the pedestrian realm is defined. For example, we believe that a generous standard for the minimum width of unobstructed sidewalk should be applied along the length of the rail line on Richmond.

It should be noted that these new rules will only apply to new development and redevelopment. Except where sidewalks are rebuilt as a result of rail construction, any improvements resulting from the new standards will only be evident over time.

Planning Committee meets to consider ordinances.  For guidance on how the recommendations should be translated into ordinances, the City has called on the Planning Commission’s Mixed-Use/ Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Committee.

The Mixed-Use/TOD Committee, which is composed of members of the real estate and development community as well as representatives from Houston-Galveston Area Council, Houston Tomorrow, METRO, and City Planning, Public Works and Legal departments, has met three times on this topic. Guided by City Planning Director Marlene Gafrick and Senior Planning Fellow Steve Spillette, the committee is working step-by-step through the elements presented in the Urban Corridors report. At its most recent meeting on December 10, the topic was the pedestrian realm.The Urban Corridors plan proposes a 15 foot pedestrian realm, with 10 feet allocated to utilities and landscaping and 5 feet designated for pedestrian sidewalks (current city standard for sidewalks is 4 feet). The committee was asked to consider:

  • Is the proposed standard for the pedestrian realm with a 5 foot “clear zone” for pedestrians adequate?
  • Where should the standard be applied? -Only on the transit street around the stations? -In between stations? -On cross streets in the corridor?

One committee member questioned whether a 5 foot sidewalk standard would be sufficient long-term as density increases; another asked how this standard compares to those employed in other cities that are implementing light rail lines. Neither of these questions was fully addressed. However, a key point made by the Planning Department was that within the 10 foot planting/utilities zone there would be flexibility to expand the sidewalk area (e.g., using tree wells and paving in between). In some locations that would mean that virtually the entire 15 feet could be walkable. The committee generally agreed to follow the consultants’ / Planning recommendation on the dimensions of the pedestrian realm. However, at one point photos were shown of pedestrian design in the Woodlands, where they employed 4 foot planters for trees and 6 foot sidewalks. Some members of the committee asked the Planning Department to look into the possibility of modifying the proposal to fit this scenario, yielding a 6 foot minimum pedestrian clear zone. When Gafrick noted that Parks and Recreation had specified 5 foot planters, members suggested looking at tree types that might be more compatible with a smaller planting well or ways to design the wells to maximize the walkable area while also providing for healthy trees.

On the topic of where the standard should be applied, the discussion moved toward the idea of defining a 5 minute walk zone around each station where the codes would apply. Thus, in locations where stations are close together the potential for a continuous walkable corridor would be established. There was also some discussion of how these codes might apply to future stations and other areas of town. Some committee members suggested that there might be a mechanism for an area to opt in to the Urban Corridor codes even if there were no transit station currently planned. One member even suggested that the City needs to complement the new development ordinances with actual investment in walkability, perhaps making use of TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone) funds.

Committee meetings are open. The Mixed-Use/TOD Committee meetings are open to the public but only committee members and City staff are permitted to participate in the discussion. Visitors are asked to sign in and introduce themselves at the beginning of the meeting. The next meeting is January 14 with additional meetings to be scheduled if necessary.

What: Planning Commission Mixed-Use/TOD Committee Meeting
When: Wednesday, January 14, 3:30 - 5 pm
Where: 611 Walker, 6th floor, Raia Conference Room.

RichmondRail adopts resolution of support for transportation alternatives

January 8th, 2009 by Kay

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Walkable neighborhoods along Houston’s transit corridors, and streets that provide safe access for pedestrians, as well as people on bicycles, will be crucial to the success of our entire light rail system. That’s why the RichmondRail.org steering committee voted to adopt the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition resolution of support for transportation alternatives. Included is a call that “all transportation agencies must invest in infrastructure to provide excellent access to neighborhoods, jobs, and other destinations using all travel modes, including walking, biking, and mass transit.” (read the full CTC resolution)

A major milestone passed on the path to rail on Richmond

July 21st, 2008 by Kay

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On June 18th, Houston City Council approved the Consent Agreement for Phase 2 METRO Rail and the METRO Solutions Plan. The consent agreement is the compact between the City and METRO that governs use of public streets and city right-of-way, responsibilities for project management, review of the design and plan, operation and maintenance and who pays for what. This agreement covers all five lines of the expanded light rail system.

The signing of the consent agreement has enabled METRO to begin construction on the East End Line; additional steps must be completed for the other lines. On the University Line, these steps include completing and submitting the Final Environmental Impact Statement and securing federal funding.

City’s University Corridor Workshop Jan 30 & 31

January 27th, 2008 by Kay

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Be sure to attend the city’s University Corridor Workshop, part of the Urban Corridors planning initiative to develop new city standards and parking regulations for the Houston transit corridors.  For details on the University Corridor Workshop, see the workshop flyer

Before you go, you may find it useful to review materials from the Richmond Avenue Workshop on related issues, e.g., the Pedestrian Realm, Traffic and Parking, and Neighborhood Development, which are posted here.

Richmond Avenue Workshop Saturday Jan 19

January 14th, 2008 by Kay

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RichmondRail.org is teaming up with other stakeholder organizations and institutions in our neighborhood to host a Richmond Avenue Workshop. This will be a highly interactive two hours designed to help define neighborhood-friendly rail — we’ll pose key questions, learn how others have addressed similar concerns and discuss ideas specific to Richmond. The workshop will be held 10 am to noon, Saturday January 19th at the University of St. Thomas Crooker Center.  For more details click here.

Please plan to join us!

An Invitation

November 25th, 2007 by Kay

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With the METRO Board’s selection of an alignment for the University Corridor on October 18, our vision of neighborhood friendly light rail on Richmond is getting closer to reality. There are still important City and Federal thresholds to be crossed, but the momentum is clearly building.  Our grass roots movement has played a critical role in generating that momentum.

We are only at the beginning of the neighborhood friendly part of our goal. RichmondRail.org has an important part to play in sharing specific ideas and concerns with METRO as they develop the detailed design of the rail line, and in urging the City and other stakeholders to make important investments in sidewalks, lighting, trees, signage and other improvements that make our streets safe and attractive public places. We also need to continue our commitment to Richmond Ave. businesses to see them through construction.

On Tuesday, December 4, we invite you to join us for a special Tuesday Night Out at a favorite Richmond restaurant, Maria Selma.  Please come and help us CELEBRATE our successes and ENVISION Richmond Avenue with rail.  This will not be our typical Tuesday Night Out. We’re expecting a senior official from METRO and representation from City Council to share their views on the role RichmondRail.org has played and can play in the next phase. Bring your ideas - we’ll also take time to begin crafting a vision of what will make the University Line the neighborhood asset we all want.   

What:   A Special Tuesday Night Out for RichmondRail
            Hot Hors d’oeuvres & Soft Drinks, Cash Bar
When:  Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 6:00 to 8:00 pm
Where: Maria Selma Restaurant, 1617 Richmond Ave.
Reservations:  $15 in advance, admission $20 at the door

Click here to reserve your place and pay in advance. If you plan to pay at the door, please RSVP with the number in your party by Dec 2. When you make your reservation we ask you to also consider making an additional donation. With your help, RichmondRail.org will continue to promote constructive solutions that look towards the greater good of our community and a sustainable quality of life.

 

Larry Katz

October 17th, 2007 by Marilyn

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As a property owner with a financial services business on Richmond Avenue, I support “Rail on Richmond.”

Richmond Avenue represents a major east-west artery for Houstonians. The rail will reduce automobile traffic and emissions while providing greater mobility. The people who live, work, and patronize merchants in the area will benefit greatly. Without rail we will likely see an increase in automobile traffic and ultimately adding more lanes to Richmond. Widening the street will obviously result in some property loss to landowners and reduced customer parking on Richmond Avenue.

With due regard to projected costs and funding, I think the only logical and viable corridor for the proposed rail route is along Richmond to Cummins to Westpark. It improves mobility between Greenway Plaza and Downtown and the Medical Center. For the inexpensive price of a rail ticket you can save time and money traveling to those destinations. In addition to reduced congestion, rail will eliminate the frustration associated with limited and high-priced parking in those areas.

Any delay in this project will increase future expenditures to improve mobility in an ever-growing metropolitan area. Houston is already 20 years behind the times when it comes to mass transit. For the good of all Houstonians, we deserve an overall rail system comparable to the ones in other major cities.

RichmondRail GPAC to announce candidate endorsements!

October 13th, 2007 by blog

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We at RichmondRail.org are pleased to share this invitation from the RichmondRail Political Action Committee (RRail GPAC), a separate organization that shares our vision for rail on Richmond.

RRail GPAC candidate <a href='http://092.me'><a href='http://092.me'>question</a></a>naire” align=”right”></a>The RichmondRail political action committee (GPAC) asked every Houston City Council <a href=candidate point blank: “Do you support Rail on Richmond from Main to Cummins?” This Tuesday evening we will all find out who said yes!

The RRail GPAC will announce endorsements in 11 out of 15 races for Houston City Council and Controller. Candidates were asked the following questions (pdf):

  • Do you support Rail on Richmond from Main to Cummins?
  • Will you vote to approve the franchise agreements necessary to allow for the construction of rail on Richmond from Main to Cummins?
  • Will you work for, and vote to fund, such improvements along Richmond Avenue in order to make our new light rail system truly neighborhood and pedestrian friendly?
  • Will you partner with Metro and the Community to develop meaningful programs to mitigate the negative impacts of the light rail projects?

Please plan to join us at Maria Selma Restaurant on Tuesday, October 16, from 5:30 to 6:30 pm as we come together to find out which candidates support our issue and will work hard on our behalf. Enjoy a festive beverage, meet the candidates, and stay for dinner!

We want to show the candidates that we value their support, and we have also invited the media. Your presence will help us make an impact!

What: RichmondRail GPAC announces candidate endorsements
Where: Maria Selma, 1619 Richmond Ave. west of Mandell, 77006, (713) 528-4920
When: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 5:30 pm sharp!

Please note: Election season is busy and we will only have candidates in attendance for 30-45 minutes. Plan to arrive no later than 5:45 pm if you don’t want to miss them!

METRO board to vote October 18th!

October 13th, 2007 by blog

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METRO board meetingSince April 2006, RichmondRail.org volunteers have worked ceaselessly to make sure METRO does what we need them to do: build neighborhood-friendly rail on Richmond Avenue.

The biggest decision we’ve been waiting for — and working towards — is nearly here. The METRO board is expected to vote at their October 18th meeting. They will choose an alignment for the University line, and we’re counting on them to choose the Cummins option west of Main Street.

Once again, we will come together to show the decision makers our strength in numbers. We’re planning to attend the METRO board meeting downtown and speak up for rail on Richmond. Will you plan to join us?

You can now donate to RichmondRail online

August 15th, 2007 by Kay

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RichmondRail.org’s pro-rail efforts are entirely funded by our volunteer directors and passionate individuals like you. We operate on a shoestring, but the coming weeks are critical as we approach the METRO board’s choice of a final alignment. Your donations today will help us ramp our efforts and solidify public support.

We will very much appreciate any amount you can give! You can give by credit card or by check. To find out how, click here (or follow the Donate! link under Pages at the right). While contributions are not tax deductible, they do help us ensure your voice will be heard!



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