City poised to open streets to ‘dockless’ bike sharing 

docklessA rainbow of bicycles likely is coming to Houston sidewalks soon, so long as the yellow, green, orange and gray bikes do not get blacklisted by a skeptical City Council.

Houston officials are poised to open the city to at least six dockless bike-sharing companies that will distribute the readily-available cycles throughout the 11 council districts – something council members stressed is a priority.

Source: City poised to open streets to ‘dockless’ bike sharing – Houston Chronicle

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Harvey’s lasting legacy – disaster prep

Sporting goods and hardware stores are reporting increased sales and interest in on solar power generation, batteries and water filtration, as many people try to prepare for what they recognize is an eventuality in Houston: Living without aid for a few days.

Even some items at grocery stores are doing brisk sales after the waters have receded. HEB carries five kinds of powdered milk and typically sold about 500 units per week in the Houston area, grocery spokeswoman Cyndy Garza Roberts said.

“The week the storm hit and the week prior we averaged 2,000 units sales a week,” she said.

prepEven as the intense recovery sales have ebbed, HEB still is selling about 600 units a week, though the increase could stem from various factors, including people still living in limited conditions as they rebuild homes.

Source: Harvey’s lasting legacy – disaster prep – Houston Chronicle

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Post-season seats can be obstacle for disabled Astros fans

astrosGerald Sanchez and his father, Sam, are true Houston sports fans. Not even a stroke that confined Sam to a wheelchair six years ago could sideline their attendance at Astros, Rockets and Texans games.

Sam’s wheelchair, however, did keep them out of Minute Maid Park for the past two playoff series, a casualty of the team’s popularity and high ticket demand.

“It’s just a shame,” Gerald Sanchez, 41, said, noting the importance he and his father place on their time supporting Houston teams.

Astros officials said they work to accommodate every request from fans, but cannot guarantee wheelchair-accessible seating in lieu of conventional tickets if others have bought the seats.

Source: Post-season seats can be obstacle for disabled Astros fans – Houston Chronicle

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Agreement first step in bringing a high-speed rail connection between Houston and Dallas

Calling a planned high-speed rail connection to Dallas “an idea whose time has come,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an agreement Thursday with the bullet train’s backers that both sides said is the first of many steps to making the trip a reality.

“This is the starting point to begin the process of definitive agreements,” Turner said, underscoring that the agreement between Houston and Texas Central Partners lacks specifics but commits both to cooperate on a project both want built.

Before a formal signing ceremony at City Hall, the city and company said the memorandum of understanding commits both sides to share environmental surveys, utility analysis and engineering related to the project and surrounding area. It also calls for them to work together to develop new transit and other travel options to and from the likely terminus of the bullet train line.

Source: Agreement first step in bringing a high-speed rail connection between Houston and Dallas – Houston Chronicle

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Texas ban on texting while driving takes effect Sept. 1

Citing a need to protect Texans, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed a bill banning texting while driving, shortly before calling on lawmakers to set clear statewide standards for all phone use behind the wheel.

“It took 10 years, but we got here,” said State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who championed the bill with State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland. “We got there with people and a lot of hard work to convince others texting while driving is dangerous and deadly.”

Previous attempts at texting bans either failed to get out of the Legislature or fell to the governor’s veto pen.

Source: Texas ban on texting while driving takes effect Sept. 1 – Houston Chronicle

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Hyperloop envisions Texans traveling in tubes at 700 mph

Anyone who’s sat long enough in Texas traffic knows it feels like going in circles. So maybe it’s fitting that one day it could be replaced with a loop that could make traveling from Houston to San Antonio, Austin or Dallas take about as long as a drive to Galveston.

No, seriously. Four cities in a little less than two hours, give or take. Some far sooner, via a system that would feel a lot like flying in a commercial plane, but in a closed tube across the ground.

A Texas plan using the Hyperloop concept envisioned by Tesla founder Elon Musk is one of 35 proposals from around the globe competing this week in Washington for bragging rights as the best initial project for the technology. Hyperloop One, the company currently testing the idea, sponsored the contest.

hyoer“From a planning perspective and from a regulatory perspective Texas is a good first step for Hyperloop,” said Steven Duong, the team leader, based in Dallas, for Hyperloop Texas. “Population is a big part of it, but not just population, but population growth. So is the climate in Texas for development.”

Source: Hyperloop envisions Texans traveling in tubes at 700 mph – Houston Chronicle

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State accelerates start time for major I-45 improvement project 

So the project some only dreamed about is, at least on paper, a reality, pending the allocation of more than $900 million for the reconstruction of two major interstate intersections in the downtown area.

Though these first steps are incremental compared to the overall plan, officials say they are important and send the clear message: The I-45 freeway is relocating and the elevated portion along Pierce will be abandoned and maybe demolished within the next dozen years.

“We are turning the key and starting the engine and moving,” said Quincy Allen, district director for the Texas Department of Transportation in Houston.

Source: State accelerates start time for major I-45 improvement project – Houston Chronicle

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Texas legislators trying to put brakes on Houston-to-Dallas bullet train

State lawmakers on Tuesday moved to derail plans for a privately-funded high-speed rail line in Texas, filing nearly two dozen bills to stop the project in its tracks or lessen its effect on landowners should trains roll ahead.

The 18 bills, nine in the Texas Senate with companions in the Texas House, and five others focus on severely limiting Texas Central Partners’ ability to develop a Houston-to-Dallas bullet train line. The project is supported by officials in both cities, but strongly opposed by many rural landowners and elected officials.

Opponents called the deluge of fresh legislation an impressive and persuasive show of the uphill battle the 240-mile rail project faces.

“There is a solid block,” said Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail. “How many other issues do you know that generate this solidarity? This is a big deal.”

Source: Texas legislators trying to put brakes on Houston-to-Dallas bullet train – Houston Chronicle

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Two recent bicyclists’ deaths put spotlight on Metro rail collisions 

Since 2004 when the original 7.5 miles of the Red Line opened, the train has been a source of tension and frustration for drivers. Though many lament the loss of block after block of left turns from Main, others have always questioned the safety of having trains intersect with vehicle traffic.

Incidents are common enough that critics have for years called the line the “danger train” because of its role in accidents.

As the mileage of light rail in Houston has grown, so have the number of collisions. In 2014, before the Green Line and Purple Line opened, Metro reported 58 collisions. Last year, the number of collisions jumped to 108, though many were along the Red Line.

Source: Two recent bicyclists’ deaths put spotlight on Metro rail collisions – Houston Chronicle

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Texas officials drafting wish list for potential infrastructure funding windfall

infraSteve Costello – Houston’s chief resilience officer, aka “flood czar” – needed less than a second to answer how to spend a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure for America.

“I would want about $3 billion for the city of Houston and Harris County for the bayous,” he said.

Any Houstonian who’s dried couch or car upholstery after a recent flood might easily agree, for what’s becoming a part of living in some neighborhoods. Powerful, persistent storms the past two years soaked streets, stranded drivers who risked a high-water ride and lost. In some neighborhoods near bayous the rains busted in, leaving behind waterlogged carpets and mud stains before receding back within the banks.

Ask engineers in Texas, and like the saying goes everything is bigger here, including the needs and costs for new water pipes, locks and dams and roads and bridges. A plan to realign Interstate 45 in the Houston area alone is expected to cost about $7 billion, about the same as the lowest cost estimates for storm-surge protection for Galveston Bay.

“Anybody can easily come up with a $1 billion or $5 billion way to spend on infrastructure, whatever amount you say,” said Mike Voinis, Houston office leader for HNTB, a national engineering company. “There never is going to be enough money to handle all that, so we need to come up with innovative ways and creative ways to leverage the dollars we have… No amount of money can solve what we have.”

Source: Texas officials drafting wish list for potential infrastructure funding windfall – Houston Chronicle

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