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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New $243 Million Astrodome Renovation Plan a Hodgepodge of Recycled Ideas

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Jeff Balke
A legitimate idea or just a way to get all the neighbors to play nice?
When the Urban Land Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, released its report on Monday detailing what it recommended for preserving the Astrodome, it sounded an awful lot like what had been previously proposed. The suggestions included a large indoor park, meeting space for the massive annual Offshore Technology Conference, an area for Rodeo events, a history museum, a pre-game activity center for Texans games and even additional parking buried beneath the structure. The only former suggestions not represented were an indoor amusement park, a luxury hotel and a giant fake ski slope.

In all, the proposed renovations were rather underwhelming considering the iconic nature of the building. I am someone who has written about preserving the old gal for future generations and I respect the findings of the ULI, but I have to wonder just who they surveyed and how much influence the plans already on the table had on their findings.

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7 Things Houstonians Should Give Up for Lent

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Mai Pham
This is gonna hurt a little.
Whether or not you are a religious practitioner whose faith requires you make certain sacrifices during this part of the church calendar, Lent is a good time in general to take stock of your life and maybe put aside a few nasty habits, at least for a few weeks. Think of it as like spring cleaning, a way to renew some of those New Year's resolutions you've probably already abandoned.

For Houstonians, there are plenty of things we could all be doing better, and maybe Lent can be a time to set aside our problems and bad habits. Sure, we'll likely go right back to them soon enough, but even a brief reminder might make us think twice the next time.

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9 Hazards That Come With Parking in Houston

Photo by Friends of San Jacinto
Do as the sign says and no one gets hurt...probably.
There's only one thing worse than driving in Houston, and it's parking in Houston. It's bad enough that we have to weave our way through a million cars every day, but then we have to locate a place to park and hope it isn't ten blocks away from our destination when it's raining. We also don't have the strongest parallel parkers in the world here, which is why so many spaces in downtown have been converted to slant.

But there are numerous parking hazards around town that have little to do with our own driving problems or with getting lost in a massive parking lot à la Seinfeld. Our issues could get you towed or worse.

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Spring Sprung: Nine Ways to Know Winter Is (Almost) Over in Houston

Categories: Houston 101

via Wikimedia Commons
Football season may be over, but outdoor exercise season is just getting started.
Houston is not exactly a place where the transitions between seasons are direct and obvious. Weather here flows from warm to hot to warm to less warm and back again. Trees lose their leaves but only in the midst of what most of the country refers to as the dead of winter. And the leaves kinda change, but this ain't exactly New England.

Still, there are signs that time is passing. It isn't as dramatic as the first thaw of snow or anything like that, but its there and we Houstonians recognize the telltale characteristics of springtime in the Bayou City.

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Things You'll Miss About Houston If You Move Away

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Cayden Leicht

Moving sucks. But moving away from Houston? Well, that sucks even more than just plain ol' moving.

Trust. I know.

By the time you read this, I will have packed up all of my stuff and headed on up to Dallas, where I will be, for the first time in my adult life, something called a "Dallasite." Go figure.

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5 Legendary Houston News Personalities to Help Celebrate Dave Ward's Career

Categories: Houston 101

Screenshot of Channel 13 interview with Dave Ward

It looks as if another legendary Houston news anchor may be inching toward the end of his nightly run.

Dave Ward announced last week that he will be slowing things down in his gig at Channel 13, and starting in 2015 he will only anchor the station's 6 p.m. newscasts.

"You have invited me into your hearts and into your homes, you have trusted me with the day's news, and I have trusted you to be there, and you have been, for almost 48 years," Ward said. "I am honored and humbled to still be doing the work I love, anchoring ABC-13 Eyewitness News. So let's be clear -- I'm not going anywhere! I'm just going to go home a little earlier, that's all."

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Things That Made Us Laugh at Houston in 2014

YouTube screenshot of "I Stand Sunday" video

Oh, Houston. You guys never cease to amaze us.

From Mayor Parker's ill-fated religious subpoenas to a robot-sounding robber, this city gave us bucket after bucket of delightful anecdotes in 2014.

It'll be hard to top the accidental (and often inappropriate) hilarity in 2015, but we're sure the City of Sizzurp will give it that good ol' college try. Until next year, y'all.

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10 Ways Houston Christmas and Traditional Christmas Are Different

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Jeff Balke
The Houston City Hall reflecting pool all lit up for the holidays.
The traditional vision of Christmas tends to be based on snowy winter wonderlands, forests of evergreens and happy children waiting for Santa. In Houston, we do have a lot of green trees and kids waiting on St. Nick. Snow? Well...

Fact is, there are a lot of differences between a traditional Christmas and what we celebrate here in Houston. We like to believe they are for the better...most of the time.

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10 Things We Hate (But Have Come to Accept) About Houston

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Jeff Balke
Hey, we're not THAT ugly...right?
I am an unabashed supporter of the city of Houston. I am a third-generation Houstonian and despite having visited places around the country and world, I'm perfectly happy to call Houston home. That doesn't mean it doesn't have its problems. Oh, it has a boatload of them. Some are fixable. Others, not so much. But sometimes the Serenity Prayer and all that stuff about acceptance play a role in where you live, too.

This is not to say a lot hasn't changed. If you lived here in the '80s, moved away and didn't come back until this year, you'd probably wouldn't recognize the place with the exception of the lovely oak trees and the endless expanse of strip malls and abandoned car dealerships along Interstate 45 North.

Still, if you are going to live here, you may as well get used to a few things that have very little chance of changing.

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