Houston's Biggest Blunders: Mass Transit

Categories: Houston 101

Public Domain via Wikipedia
The Galveston-Houston Electric Rail used to get Houstonians to the beach in just over an hour.
Houston is a wonderful place, but we have made more than our share of mistakes over the years. From traffic to tear downs, sprawl to self promotion, we have found ourselves cleaning up the messes of former Houstonians for decades. We hope this series will help illuminate some of the issues and maybe even spur us on to find some solutions.

Imagine yourself on the way to Galveston on a Saturday morning, your car filled with kids, beach towels, umbrellas and swim toys. A lazy day on the beach awaits you, but only if you can get through the gridlock of brake lights staring at you through the windshield. It appears everyone had the same idea.

Now, think about it again, but this time, you're sitting on an electric train whizzing by those suckers stuck in traffic. Had you lived in depression-era Houston, that dream would have been a reality. For more than two decades in the early 1900's a train shuttled people from downtown Houston's Union Station (now the cornerstone of Minute Maid Park) to Galveston Island. It took about 75 minutes to get to the island including stops as the train paralleled Interstate 45 eventually crossing the causeway on a bridge considered at the time a modern architectural marvel.

In 1936, it was shuttered and the right of way it once utilized handed over to utilities for power lines and commercial developers for strip malls. Throughout Houston's history, we have opted for highways over mass transportation and the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway is one of the earliest examples of our obsession with driving ourselves everywhere. And almost 80 years after our mass transit option to the beach went under, we are still making plans.

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Wrestlemania 31 Preview and Predictions

Categories: Game Time, Sports

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Simon Q via Flickr
You can measure how far we've come technologically as a species since 1985 in a number of ways.

You can look at medical advancements and our ability to treat certain diseases or heal certain injuries. You can look at transportation, and how much easier it is to get from one place to another quickly and efficiently. You can look at communication and how technology allows us to convey messages electronically in seconds while actually seeing the recipient on a TV screen!

Hell, we don't even need to wait for nudity to arrive in the mail anymore! (Is Playboy still a thing?) The interwebs serves it up to us within seconds! WHAT A WORLD!

However, I'm an old soul, and for me, the advancements of 30 years can be summed up in one nuance...the way in which we consume Wrestlemania.

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Judge: Anti-HERO Signatures Shy of Referendum, But There Are Still More to Count

Categories: Courts

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Flickr/torbackhopper HE DEAD
Come Mr. Tally Man, tally me signatures.
Opponents of the city's equal rights ordinance are still about 3,000 signatures short of the amount required for a referendum, the Houston Chronicle is reporting. But 8,500 more signatures are still to be reviewed for authenticity.

A coalition of conservatives who opposed the bill submitted what they said were enough valid signatures last year, but city officials questioned the legitimacy of many of the signatures, and said the ordinance's opponents fell short. The opponents sued the city, and a jury found in March that their petition "contained forgery and other flaws."

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It's NCAA South Regional Time. Are You Ready?

Categories: Sports

John Royal
Curtaining off large sections of NRG Stadium is one way to make up for low ticket sales
The NCAA has rolled into town, turning NRG Stadium from a huge barn into a huge basketball arena. Last-minute touches were still being applied to the stands, but Duke, Gonzaga, Utah and UCLA were in town and prepping for tonight's games. Yesterday was media day, the chance for players to practice on the raised court on the middle of the floor surrounded by temporary bleachers and huge black curtains while answering mostly innocuous questions from assembled members of the media.

The Stadium Layout

The layout's no different from what it was for the 2010 Regionals or for the 2011 Final Four. The court's raised about three feet on the middle of the stadium floor. Temporary metal stands line run up to the press area on the baselines. The depth perception on the court, or anywhere in the arena, is nonexistent, which once again means that shooting percentages should be anemic. The view from most of the seats should be of little dots running on a little board, and the fans will probably spend more time looking at the video boards than at the actual play on the court.

But seeing as how there is no Texas team playing in the regional -- thus no pack of Baylor fans swarming the stadium and buying up most of the seats -- a large section of the stadium has been curtained off. Except for some metal bleachers, there is absolutely no seating behind the end lines. Of course, maybe if the tickets weren't so damn expensive -- there were rumors floating around yesterday that only about 20,000 seats had been sold -- the NCAA wouldn't have to deploy two humongous black curtains to block off most of the seating.

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March Madness 2015: Friday's Sweet Sixteen Best Bets

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Monica Fuentes
Hey, Houston, I don't know if y'all were aware, but the next round of the most widely watched basketball tournament in the world is about to take place right here in our own backyard....

I'm being cute. I'm sure you all knew this. (I think.) You just don't appear to be all that into it. Al least, that's what ticket sales for the NCAA Regional at NRG Stadium this weekend would seem to indicate.

According to data from Seatgeak (courtesy of the Houston Chronicle):

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10 Reasons the Texans Should Be on Hard Knocks

Categories: Game Time, Sports

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Photo by Eric Sauseda
So the rumor mill was spitting out information last week that the decision makers behind Hard Knocks, HBO's voyeuristic peephole into training camp life in the NFL, had the Cleveland Browns in their sights as the subject for this summer's edition.

I'm guessing there were some pretty formulaic reasons behind that, 98 percent of them centered around one Johnny Football. He's getting out of rehab! He's battling for his football life! All his celebrity friends have ditched him! Hey, I get it. Nobody likes a good train wreck more than I do (one of the many reasons I love myself so much!).

But honestly, does the Johnny Football story really have five weeks' worth of content? Does it really have any legs aside from the two that will take Johnny to and from the building every day? What if he truly is rehabilitated from his alcohol addiction and is snuggling with his playbook every night?

Worst season of Hard Knocks ever, right? So I ask you this...why NOT the Texans?

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Booking Agent Files Amazingly Insipid Letter About Matthew McConaughey's UH Speech

Categories: Texas

Is there a Dallas Buyers' Club discount for McConaughey speeches? We may never know...
A talent booker for Matthew McConaughey doesn't want anyone knowing how much the University of Houston is paying his client to deliver UH's commencement speech in May, and has outlined his arguments in one of the most idiotic letters to the Texas Attorney General we've ever seen. It's awesome.

Instead of doing something silly like having an actual attorney file an objection with the AG's Office, Celebrity Talent International President Glenn Richardson apparently hammered out the letter himself -- misspelling McConaughey's last name -- suggesting that disclosing the actor's fee might somehow put him in danger.

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March Madness 2015: Thursday's Sweet Sixteen Best Bets

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Monica Fuentes
I admire confidence. I despise stupidity. And I have no idea what category West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles' "guarantee" of a Mountaineer win over Kentucky falls under. I do know that I'm glad it happened, as it added some juice to an otherwise potentially juice-less game.

In case you missed it, Miles was asked a question about his team's upcoming opponent in the Sweet Sixteen Midwest Regional, and here's what he had to say:

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Judge Alicia Franklin's and Attorney Doug York's Tone-Deaf Honeymoon Registry

Categories: Texas

Screenshot, honeymoonpixie.com.
You can help a judge's dream honeymoon come true.
Lawyers in Houston are scratching their heads over a lavish honeymoon gift registry posted online by Harris County Family Court Judge Alicia Franklin and her fiancé, attorney Doug York.

We're joining in on the head-scratching, especially since the exposure of the site -- which describes the couple's plans to stay in Paris and the Maldives ("for a little r&r") -- comes on the heels of a report finding that Franklin collected $806,005 from the county for her work as a judge-appointed attorney between 2010 and 2014.

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Thousands of Low-Income Women Aren't Getting Cancer Screenings or Birth Control Because Texas Banned Planned Parenthood

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Francisco Montes
A new state report confirms what basically everyone who wasn't a die-hard anti-abortion activist or politician predicted a couple of years ago when Texas lawmakers kicked Planned Parenthood out of its widely successful program for giving uninsured, low-income women cancer screenings and birth control.

According to new numbers out of the state Health and Human Services Commission, critics that said the program would serve a lot less women if it shunned Planned Parenthood's family planning clinics (meaning even more women across the state won't get life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings or birth control) were dead-on right.

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