Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Changing culture

Texas has long been considered a very car centric city, with cars and oil very much ingrained in the state's culture and economy. Planning in Texas is vastly different to the previous cities we have travelled to. Texas has been the first instance of seeing large scale urban sprawl through every city we visited. 

Texas has a lack of coherent planning, as can be seen from the many parcels of undeveloped land in between the sprawl. This was not helped by the amount of land dedicated to the automobile. All Texan cities we visited had an extraordinary amount of ground surface car parking in largely sought after areas. In some parts of the interstate, there was up to five layers of bridges. It could be seen from the amount of time the bus spent in heavy congestion, that even with the large amount of road network, Texas still cannot keep up with demand. Therefore other forms of transport need to need to be seriously considered, like in Houston, where a dedicated bus lane is being implemented. It seems like Texas’s solution to heavy congestion is more freeways, which is terrible and not at all sustainable for the future. 

Texas’s planning appears to be in complete disarray with very unclear land uses. The counties have very little control over land use, and this is very problematic when looking at how bad the sprawl already is especially along the intestate. Texas is the state most in need of implementing a growth boundary to heavily reduce sprawl. This needs to be done before Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston morph in to one low density mega city. 

Steve and Rebecca showed us a completely different side of Austin. A community centric, green, climate conscious neighbourhood that showed the state is changing with times to be more sustainable, such as the cities motto ‘keep Austin weird.’ This form of housing looked to incorporate cycling and walking as the more popular forms of transport, showing that not all of the state is entrenched in the car dominant ideology.

The one exception was San Antonio. Not as many car parks and more aesthetic streetscapes made the city appeal more old timely. The downtown was more clearly defined, and less based on car dominance. Although we didn’t get to see the whole city, the parts we did see felt less in your face and more laid back. San Antonio’s downtown area is great, however not seeing how bad the city's sprawl is, it cannot be said if the city is going the same way as most other Texan cities.


Texas is definitely more anarchy than innovation, however the cities still work -  just with more congestion. The land use is ad hoc and there are very few controls. Urban sprawl and car dominance are problems that both need addressing in the near future to stop the state becoming the worst example of sprawl in America. If the state's planning continues the way it is going, then the whole state will become a mass centre of sprawl. The state's culture needs to change as well. If change is to be effectively carried out, the population has to want to change its habits. However in Houston, there were small amount of change presents with a dedicated bus land going in and the retention of the large parkway in close proximity to the city centre. It was a real eye opening experience seeing Texas, and then hearing Australians complain about congestion (considering how bad it is in Texas).

Jack Francis