A Freeway Rebellion Rises in the Unlikeliest of States: Texas

“There’s no train, there’s no bus, there’s no anything that supports mass transportation. It doesn’t exist.” -Houston resident Fabian Ramirez.

May 2, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

I-45 and I-69

Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

“Texas, with its wide-laned roads and supersized highways, seems like an unlikely place for a rebellion against the supremacy of American car culture.”

So begins a feature-length Guardian article by Oliver Milman that flips the script about Texas as a potential location for a freeway rebellion. According to Milman, “last week a band of residents from across Texas descended upon the state’s department of transportation (DoT) to voice fury over new highway expansions that are set to displace thousands of people and raze hundreds of businesses, schools and churches.”

At the center of the growing rebellion are plans to expand Interstate 45 in Houston, a project known officially as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, which we at Planetizen have been documenting since 2015.

According to Milman, however, the I-45 widening plan is only one sign of a growing resistance to car-centric planning in the state of Texas. The resistance is being led by local governments, the status quo of automobile dependency, by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

“San Antonio planned to narrow a two-mile stretch of Broadway Avenue, a key thoroughfare, and add protected bike lanes, only for Texas DoT to overrule the city in January to halt it, citing fears over worsened traffic congestion, reports Milman for one example. For more, Milman writes: “Beyond the highway expansion in Houston, Texas is upsizing major roadways that carve through Austin and El Paso, as well as eliminating the planned bike lanes and pedestrian crossings in San Antonio.”

Like in the recent example provided by Republican legislators in Wisconsin, Milman suggests that the state funding made available by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is fueling the car-centric fire. “While some states, such as California, have started to recognize studies that show if you sow more asphalt you simply reap more traffic, Texas is pushing ahead with an unprecedented blitz of new road space for cars.”

“In Texas, the mandate for the supremacy of roads comes via the state constitution, which requires that highways are funded to the exclusion of almost anything else that moves people around. About 97% of the $30bn a year the state gives its transportation department is spent on highways, leaving very little for buses, trains or bicycles,” adds Milman.

The resistance is saying the concrete has finally gone to far—displacing low-income and communities of color, killing too many pedestrians and drivers, and creating too many greenhouse gas emissions and public health-impacting air pollution.

How is it that a grassroots rebellion has risen up against the Goliath status quo of car-centric planning in the state of Texas? Click through at the link below for a lot more detail.

Friday, April 29, 2022 in The Guardian

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

A Gold Line AnsaldoBreda P2550 train enters Mission Station in South Pasadena on February 25, 2012.

Land Banking to Prevent Transit-Oriented Displacement in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will implement a new land banking program to mitigate gentrification and displacement around future transit lines.

June 28, 2022 - Los Angeles Daily News

Washington DC Metro

Washington Metro Faces Budget Deficit, Safety Issues

The capital’s public transit system, the country’s third-largest, has been plagued by a series of problems ranging from a looming fiscal deficit to train crashes and track fires.

40 minutes ago - Governing

View looking down on construction of multiple buildings in San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center District

San Francisco to Reconsider Inclusionary Zoning as Development Slows to a Crawl

Critics of inclusionary zoning frequently point to San Francisco as an example of what not to do. A sluggish year of development has some local politicians ready to reconsider the city’s program.

July 4 - San Francisco Chronicle

110-10 Interchange

California Senate Committee Kills Freeway Expansion Bill

The proposed legislation would have prohibited new construction in historically underserved areas that often bear the burnt of the negative impacts of freeways.

July 4 - Streetsblog California

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.