Uber Can Now Legally Drive You to the Airport in Houston for a Couple Extra Bucks

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Uber

New rules that will allow ride-share drivers to pick up and drop off passengers at Houston airports were rather quietly approved by City Council Wednesday.

Under the new rules, which saw no discussion from council members yesterday, ride-share drivers can pick you up and drop you off at Houston's airport if they get the right airport-specific permit. They will also be required to pay the same fees taxi drivers are charged, which amounts to about $2.75 for each departing ride at Bush Intercontinental and $1.25 at Hobby.

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The New I-10 Access Ramp From 290 Is a Thing of Beauty and Wonder

Categories: Traffic

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Jef With One F
Having lived the past three years in Jersey Village, I have been mostly at the mercy of 290 when it comes to getting into town. It's either that or coming around on the tollway and booking it inbound on I-10. Both are often equally annoying, although the Beltway less so since they started the construction to expand 290 over the past year.

So for months I have been stuck in a car with no air conditioning moving at the slow torture of random freeway closures, narrowed lanes, and the constant accidents and endless rubbernecking that seem to plague the Northwest Freeway. That last one hasn't gotten any better now that acceleration lanes are often nonexistent, and the same drivers who simply must creep to 20 mph in order to gawk at a truck with a flat tire seem to find it against their honor to move over and let those trying to join the derby on the road.

Until recently, that is.

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Houstonians Hate Traffic, Have No Desire to Change

Categories: Traffic

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Photo by TexasDarkHorse
Sure, traffic sucks, but what do you want ME to do about it?
Those of us who live in Houston are a diverse lot. We have members of our community from all over the world, never mind the state of Texas. Yet we can all agree that traffic here is god-awful. But what we can't seem to agree on is why or how to fix it. A recent study from Texas A&M University's Transportation Institute points out some rather bizarre discrepancies between how we feel about the traffic we encounter every day and what we want to do about it.

There are a few things that are certain when one peruses the data, however. We all think traffic is awful. We agree more money should be invested in transportation issues. We should not raise taxes to do it. Public transportation is both inconvenient and under-utilized. And, as cute and quaint as the notion of cycling and walking might be, you can pry the keys to our big cars from our cold, dead hands.

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Worst Freeway Interchange in Houston to Get Partial Makeover

Categories: Traffic

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Photo by TexasDarkHorse
Traffic at every interchange in Houston, but will it improve with a new change?
In February, I wrote about what I considered to be the three worst freeway interchanges in Houston. One of them, the 290/North Loop/Interstate 10 mangle that came in third, is undergoing extensive renovations slated to be completed in January as part of the larger project to widen and improve Highway 290 out to the Grand Parkway. Now, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle, the number one worst interchange on the list is about to be given a two-year, multimillion-dollar makeover.

The Texas Department of Transportation has decided to change the way traffic merges onto Highway 59 from Interstate 45 South as it moves north into downtown, creating elevated lanes parallel to the existing raised stretch of road that deposits drivers in downtown. The project is meant to ease the awful traffic that occurs when drivers, unclear about how or where to be so they can merge onto 59, weave all over the road.

It is certainly a serious problem, but will the change make a substantial difference to the entire interchange?

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YouTube Channel Spotlights Houston's Dumbest Drivers

Categories: Traffic

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YouTube screen grab.
One of Houston's dumbest hard at work.
We see them every day, especially if we have to spend any time at all in traffic. They are inconsiderate. They are dangerous. They are inattentive. They are Houston's dumbest drivers and one man started a YouTube channel recently to highlight people behind the wheel in our car-obsessed city.

"I see a lot of crazy driving on my drive from Clear Lake to Downtown every single day," says Ian Henderson, a legal word processor who started the Houston's Dumbest Drivers channel in August after a discussion about road rage on Reddit. "I just wanted to start a channel to sort of publicly shame some of the erratic and sometimes downright scary driving tendencies that a lot of people complain about."

Henderson, 22, began collecting videos from willing participants and now has a handful of snippets of drivers going in reverse on city streets, driving the wrong way on a one-way roads and creating near misses with other drivers, all captured via mounted dashboard cameras. "I do not doubt the normal Houstonian driver's intelligence, rather the drop of intelligence once they get behind the wheel," he told us via e-mail, recounting a story of a Ford truck that flew past him this week doing way over the speed limit and nearly causing him to crash into another car. Unfortunately, his camera wasn't on at the time.

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Texas Has Fastest Average Driving Speed in the Country

Categories: Texas, Traffic

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Welcome to Texas!
Setting aside for the moment that Cars.com referred to Texas as the "Longhorn State" (some Texans might fight you over that one), they do paint a picture of the LONE STAR state as a place for wanton speeders in a report about speeding in America. In their report, Texas ranks higher than any other state at 78 mph. Not all that surprising when you consider the 80 mph speed limits on highways, also the highest in the nation.

On the other end of the spectrum were Alaska and the District of Columbia coming in at a modest 55 mph. Of course, in Alaska there are probably more off-roads than roads. And does D.C. even have a freeway?

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Uber, Lyft Now Legal in Houston After Council Vote

Categories: Traffic

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Now all new and legal!
A friend who is coming over for dinner this weekend included the phrase in a response e-mail, "Uber!" Another responded that he recently used Uber and got a date...with the driver. Such positive experience from an essentially outlawed form of transportation until now. On Wednesday, City Council voted 10-5 to allow car services like Uber and Lyft to operate in Houston. It took five hours of deliberation over a series of amendments, but they did finally get it passed.

Amendments that made it through included some protections for citizens with disabilities including requiring five percent of fleets must be wheelchair-accessible within three years. Companies must provide equal access or face suspension of licenses. Key insurance provisions were also included requiring insurance on passengers from beginning to end of trips. There had been some concern over insurance for passengers of Uber and Lyft.

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When Will Houston's 290 Traffic Nightmare End?

Categories: Traffic

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TXDOT
Map of construction sections along 290...or Death Alley as we refer to it.
The short answer is 2017, but that doesn't really begin to cover the mangled mess that is Highway 290 from the 610 Loop way out to somewhere near Hempstead or maybe Austin. According to TXDOT, the 38-mile stretch of Highway 290 being currently destroyed and rebuilt will be completed by 2017, but portions of it will be done much sooner, as soon as early next year.

From 2920 all the way to the Loop, 290 is undergoing the kind of massive overhaul necessary to both fix a badly congested freeway and bring misery to anyone who lives and works in the area...at least in the short term. The good news is that the section that impacts more people than any other -- the 610/290/I-10 interchange -- is slated to be finished in early 2015.

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Houston's Traffic Pain Is a Slow Burn Thanks to a Lack of Vision

Categories: Traffic

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Photo by Texas Dark Horse
This is our fault.
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.

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.

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Proposed I-45 Redo Includes Option for Replacing the Pierce Elevated With Parkway

Categories: Traffic

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TXDOT
A re-imagined parkway along Pierce Street (left) is one proposed option.
Imagine downtown Houston with a wide parkway right down its southwestern edge no longer blocked by a massive elevated freeway which currently highlights a giant neon cross and a ton of traffic at all times of the day. This is one proposed option being offered by TXDOT as part of a massive overhaul to one of the city's most thoroughly trafficked freeways and also one of its ugliest. For years, the blight along one of two arteries leading directly to our largest airport -- from strip malls and abandoned car dealerships to strip clubs and decaying apartment buildings -- has been a sore spot for residents, but a plan is getting underway to change the scope of Interstate 45 from downtown to the Beltway.

Typical freeway expansion plans are of course part of the concept, but perhaps the most intriguing options include how the Pierce Elevated is handled.

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