Houston's Traffic Pain Is a Slow Burn Thanks to a Lack of Vision
One of the toughest things to deal with besides daily traffic in Houston is the prolonged traffic nightmare faced by Houstonians over years and years and years thanks to poor planning and a lack of foresight. While most cities struggle with similar issues, ours feels like its own special brand of hell because Houston has so much physical area. Getting from one extreme end of the city to another would be like driving between multiple towns in some parts of the country.
Photo by Texas Dark Horse This is our fault.
But more than size and planning, there has been an inherent lack of vision from our city's leaders and its citizens for a very long time.
We could spend hours discussing the insane tangle of freeways that snarl traffic thanks to an inability to predict development or the non existent zoning laws and restrictions on growth that turned vast expanses into strip mall-covered wastelands that act as not much more than landmarks for people on the way home from work to the 'burbs. We could talk about the problems and corruption that have plagued public transportation for decades or how builders have somehow owned every political argument seemingly in Houston history often to the detriment of the city practically and aesthetically.
But none of that would matter if we had a collective vision for what we wanted from a city and from the transportation in and around it.
Of course, it is tough to develop a vision when your city's demographics have so markedly changed. In the last 40 years, Houston has undergone a massive shift from blue to white collar, industrial to technological, and we are struggling to keep up.
For decades, growth beyond the Beltway on Highway 290 was speeding along. From Jersey Village to Copperfield, the northwest corridor was exploding, yet the primary artery for getting people to and from there was ignored. Finally, construction is proceeding that should transform the entire freeway and areas around it, but it took nearly 20 years to see it happen.
On Wednesday, I wrote about proposals to do something about the North Freeway and possibly the Pierce Elevated. God knows how long that will take, but at least the powers that be are discussing it. The drive from Bush IAH to downtown Houston is abysmal. The only follow up question is when will the Gulf Freeway get its turn?