Thursday, 26 November 2015

From anarchy to innovation

The state of Texas has had no previous zoning and has resulting in urban sprawl, disconnected transportation systems and anarchy. In recent times, Texas has slowly moved away from anarchy to catch up to other cities. While slowly moving forward, they have showed some innovation in their development and planning.

Uptown Houston is the 15th largest business district and displays signature stainless steel features throughout its streetscape. Uptown is moving away from the previous anarchy within Texas and has built a consistent character within its urban environment with mix use developments of residential, office, retail and hotel use. Their development of residential dwellings within Uptown has increased density, contrasted to the sprawl within Texas and its cities. The development of Uptown has been successful compared to Houston as Uptown generates 2 and a half times of revenue from hotels compared to the CBD and also generated $3.6 billion in retail sales within the year 2014.

Uptown's daytime population grows by a one third as employees commute into the area for work. This is fed by the Interstate 10 freeway and the 610 West Loop, which is currently the second most congested freeway within the United States. To solve their congestion problem, they propose to extend the existing Park and Ride service to Houston and create transit centres to transfer passengers into Uptown. To accommodate these buses, the creation of dedicated rapid transit lanes would be created and will have platform loading and unloading. The transit system will harmonies with the existing streetscape and nature, keep six lanes of normal traffic and widen pedestrian footpaths. Compared to a light rail system, bus transportation is more flexible, cheaper, does not require a large ridership volume to operate and uses the same infrastructure as the existing transportation system. Contrasted to previous transportation developments within Texas, the Bus Rapid Transit system has been planned to maximise the potential of existing transportation infrastructure and systems, is integrated into the existing urban landscape and does not disturb other transport methods within the area.

The city of Houston produces a large amount gross domestic product and is home to major companies such as Apple, Dell, IBM and BP. The lack of zoning provisions within Houston allows bad urban planning  to occur but also allows innovation to bloom. After multiple community efforts for a general plan have failed, the city of Houston have moved forward and adopted its first general plan late September 2015. Implemented correctly, the plan will coordinate development and coordination within the city.

In the city of Houston, a public private partnership was created to develop an existing parking lot and transform it into Discovery Green. Discovery Green is a park that is 14 acres large and was $87 billion to complete. It has transformed the urban environment around it, attracting development, people and creating revenue for the city. It's large area accommodate events and underground parking to service neighbouring retail and office spaces. The city has also provided a bicycle track from park to park. The first stretch of light rail was built in 2004 to move visitors from the hotels downtown to the football stadium. Since then, the transit system has been slowly expanded to catch up to other cities. It has now to developed to serve the theatre district, surrounding neighbourhoods, and universities.

Through the development of transportation systems, neighbourhood character and parks, Texas has moved from anarchy slowly into innovation.

Jennifer Lim