On May 2nd, the Houston Coalition for Complete Streets hosted the City Planning and Public Works & Engineering Department for report on their work in building Complete Streets. 70 people representing Coalition organizations, management districts, and city departments attended the meeting. We learned that the City of Houston is now critically not putting car through-put as the number one priority, but rather evaluating mobility as a whole. New design standards will be put into place to make this routine, along with better community engagement and regulations. One example of this is that West Alabama will be rebuilt to include bike lanes!
May 2nd Meeting Summary:
History – November 2013 Houston Complete Streets & Transportation Executive Order
-Established that we as a city need to consider all modes of transportation, car mobility matters but is not the only or top priority on all streets.
– Now walking, biking and transit considerations are fully embraced
– Context sensitive approach
Ex: Dunlavy and Kirkwood have different contexts and pu rpose and need different designs.
Now coordination between Planning and Public Works and Engineering (PWE) enables PWE to better listen to the community and design a street that fits the context. 2 examples of this new process:
-W. Alabama – traffic volumes called for 4 lane roadway but this was not reflected in traffic studies or with community interest. Final design will include bike lanes.
–Lower Westheimer: Again Traffic models say need 8 lanes but if we do this, then people will come drive on Westheimer instead of 59 and this is not what the community wants. Westheimer has unique context and is getting an ‘enhanced pre-engineering study’ ie talking to the community before designing. This process is just wrapping up and calls for keeping the unique, funky feel, and prioritizing transit, walking, and creating parking. Instead of adding traffic lanes, the new project will remove traffic lanes but still allow for the same number of cars to travel through by improving bus flow. Check out the Chronicle article on it here and BikeHouston comments here.
New standards are coming to make this process routine – a new Infrastructure and Design Manual chapter on new design tools for bikeways. Once it is in the process then it’s in the day to day; “Rootinize it”, incorporate E.O. into thought and practice
Measures of Success
– Annual report, projects we have built.
– Reporting on actual improvements to the infrastructure and things we have put on the ground.
– There are things we are not currently measuring; either because we are not set up to measure them or don’t know how to measure them; come to the community to help us design how to measure these things.
– To define success we have to measure these things that we are not currently measuring
– PWE is learning to do community engagement, not expert yet, but welcome feedback where we succeed and where need improvement
– Communication is two-way, talking and listening
Beyond public investments in streets – we know private development has an impact on walkability as well, so re-looking at our regulations
– Ensuring a regulatory framework that encourages creation of walkable places (Ex. building lines, parking requirement flexibility);
– Walkable Places Committee, meets once a month, public forum.