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Blueprint Houston Newsletter - July 2005

FYI on Planning

  • Planning Director Retires
  • New Planning Director
  • Planning Commission Subcommittees
  • Revised Metro Plan
  • Bus Rapid Transit
  • Harris County Toll Roads
  • Housing Strategies
  • Planning Process in 4 Cities

Planning Director Retires after 14 years

After 10 years of serving as Planning Director, Robert Litke will retire at the end of August. During his tenure, Mr. Litke initiated the Super Neighborhood Program and the first major rewrite of Houston’s land development ordinance known as Chapter 42 to create new rules for urban development. He will be moving to New Jersey “to watch his grandchildren grow." Press Release

New Planning Director Announced

The Mayor has named Marlene L. Gafrick, Deputy Director of the Planning and Development Department to succeed Mr. Litke. She has more than 25 years experience in land development that includes ordinance development, implementation and enforcement, permitting and coordination with public agencies and special districts.

Planning Commission Committees Underway

From comprehensive planning to parking, the six committees of the Planning Commission are addressing issues that affect quality of place in Houston. Currently under discussion by more than one of these committees is Chapter 42 and its effect on urban style development in the suburbs-occurring from the Woodlands to West Houston. The need for variances in the City of Houston introduces elements of delay and unpredictability for such development outside Loop 610. Final reports are expected in December, 2005.

Meeting of these committees are open to the public. Click here for a schedule.

Revised Metro Plan Introduces Bus Rapid Transit

If implemented, Metro’s revised Metro Solutions plan will provide 97 miles of rapid transit, instead of the originally planned 36 miles. 55% of the funding will be committed to rapid transit rail services and the balance will be allocated to rapid transit bus systems (BRT).

Metro describes BRT as:

  • a rubber-tiered hybrid propulsion vehicle operating in-street or in a separate dedicated right-of-way, using easily recognizable buses operating at frequent headways (6 minutes or less) and providing similar service to light rail. 
  • approximately 60 feet in length with a seating capacity of 65 and a total capacity of 90 passengers per vehicle.  
  • Capable of speeds comparable to light rail. 
  • Having 70% low floor and multiple doors on each side for quick and easy boarding.  
  • Stopping at stations similar to the METRO rail stations with the same ticketing and boarding procedure. 
  • providing equivalent functiona lity and level –of-service as light rail

For more information on bus rapid transit systems in other cities, go to Bus Rapid Transit Central (http://www.brtc.homestead.com/). For more photos from Metro Board, go to 1, 2, 3, 4.

Next Steps for 5 New Toll Roads Approved in Harris County CIP

According to the recently approved Harris County Capital Improvements Plan for 2005-2010 , “The following projects have been evaluated and are considered to be the next five projects to be constructed by the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). "

  • Beltway East Mainlanes
  • Brazoria County Toll Road
  • Grand Parkway, Segment E
  • Hardy Toll Rod Extension into Downtown
  • Hempstead Road Managed Lanes

Federal and state governments require citizen input into the transportation planning process for all projects funded in part with any federal funds. TxDOT and METRO projects fall under this requirement. Because the Harris County Toll Road Authority does not use any federal or state money, citizen input is not required. For an outline of the steps to launch a transportation project by HCTRA and TXDOT, see HCTRA summary and TXDOT summary.

 

Housing Strategies Task Forces Present Reports to City Council

Mayor White and City Council have received recommendations on Housing Planning and Affordable Housing from two task forces appointed by Council Member Gordon Quan and supported by the American Institute of Architects Houston. See Housing Summary and Planning Summary.

Highlights include specific actions that would provide:

  • Incentives to promote city-wide planning priorities
  • Improved coordination and integration of local planning processes
  • Incentives for a voluntary site plan review
  • Expanded development options and connectivity within/between neighborhoods
  • Enhanced coordination among city departments and agencies

Planning Processes in Four Cities

Blueprint Houston studied the planning practices of San Diego, Nashville, Dallas and Charlotte in 2004. Each of these cities involved the public in identifying its values and goals for the future of the city and then adopted (or is adopting in the case of Dallas) a vision of its urban form. In each case, the vision serves to coordinate development and implementation of the various citywide infrastructure plans with smaller area plans for neighborhoods, employment centers, town centers and transportation corridors.

San Diego has adopted a city of villages vision. Charlotte has a corridors and centers vision. Nashville adopted the 2015 Plan. Dallas is in the process of adopting its vision for a comprehensive plan that “will provide the blueprint for implementation actions and act as a guide for the Dallas City council regarding allocation of City resources.” For more information see the following:

San Diego :

Vision: http://www.sandiego.gov/cityofvillages/vision/index.shtml
General Plan Monitoring Report: www.sandiego.gov/cityofvillages/pdf/generalplan/gpmonitoringrpt.pdf

Charlotte

Vision (2015 Plan): www.charmeck.org/Departments/Planning/Area+Planning/Plans/2015+Plan/Home.htm
General Plans/ Policy Guides: www.charmeck.org/Departments/Planning/Area+Planning/Plans/home.htm

 Nashville :

Vision (Concept 2010 Plan) http://www.nashville.gov/mpc/index.htm
Corridor Studies: http://www.nashville.gov/mpc/urban.htm
Community plans: http://www.nashville.gov/mpc/WhatIsCP.htm

 Dallas

Vision: www.forwarddallas.org/news/item.php?id=44
Community Workshops: http://www.forwarddallas.org/about/workshops.html

 

To contact us: 3015 Richmond, Suite 201, Houston, TX 77098
Phone: 713-522-0590, Fax 713-523-3057, E-mail