In 26 years, the average Houstonian will be forced to endure a three-hour commute, according to a mobility study submitted to the Greater Houston Partnership's Transit Planning Committee. The study was presented by Ray Chong, the City of Houston's outgoing Deputy Director of Public Works for Traffic and Transportation.
As president of Houston Tomorrow, a non-profit that examines urban issues and wise growth, David Crossley sees the study's conclusion as more of a warning than a plan. "Nobody is a fan of three-hour commutes," he says. "The reality is nobody will do that if that is confronting them. In all of history people have, on average, allowed themselves about an hour to get to work and back. This is a traffic model that predicts something that doesn't have human behavior in it."
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You could term this study the "What Grand Parkway Shall Wreak" plan, Crossley believes. Should Houston's third (or fourth, depending on if you count FM 1960/Highway 6) loop road ever come fully online, there will be explosive growth in rural areas far from most of the jobs in the area.
"That's the biggest one," Crossley says. "There are more, but all the road projects that are distant will produce a lot more driving, and they will produce a lot more congestion because of the style of development doesn't allow connected streets. It's all cul-de-sacs, so everyone is forced on to the same street and they sit there."
If the idea of three-hour commutes seems absurd, Crossley believes it is at least the logical result of the illogic of Houston's traffic planning. (If that makes any sense.) "The biggest problem with this city's mobility plan is that it has no goals and no guiding principles," he says. "The development plan is ever-expanding geography, with longer and longer roads and longer and longer drives, and separating residential areas from jobs," Crossley says.
So let's bring on the Grand Parkway and to hell with trying to infill Houston's 600-plus square miles of existing land area. After all, we're getting some of that stimulus money to do it, and to paraphrase Jebediah Springfield "More concrete, infinite sprawl, and longer commutes embiggen our souls."