In the wake of my 2 part story on downtown Houston, 2 of my Texas friends, and another friend, tossed their 2 cents in, and I replied, all in the comments. I’ve decided that the discussion deserved more attention and so have promoted it…
(2 pt. story begins here: http://goo.gl/F3ZGI )
I lived in California (mostly SoCal) for nearly all of the first 62 years of my life, and I have been in downtown LA only three times: once to court over child-custody; once to the theater (one of the last performances of "Phantom of the Opera" there) and then to a restaurant; and once to take a tour of one of the original Bank of America buildings when they were first opened.
Over almost 30 years as a teacher, I took students to LACMA, USC, Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits, the Schubert Theater ... oh, wait! Those places aren't in downtown! I've been all over the Los Angeles area since I was about 14, but only those three times in downtown. Do I think I missed anything? No. Do I like the Metrolink system? You bet!
It's far superior to Houston's 7-mile toy train!! We could go from my parents' home outside of Riverside to any of the beach towns during summer without having to get on freeways!
Houston has a wonderful aquarium, zoo, theater district, and museum district. I've been only to the first two, though, because I refuse to drive in that city ... or even to the city and find parking! Houston's main problem is travel ... the streets, the street-level train that is terribly dangerous, the awful drivers ... and
the powers that be don't seem to be very interested in building a train system
like LA's or SF's BART or DC's Metro or any number of others.
The system needs to bring people INTO the downtown area from the suburbs and airports. Otherwise, they are just spouting air!
Danger Train collection:
I love Part 2 of your series. So much to explore online... and maybe get my daughter and grandkids interested in exploring on our own.
(I need my daughter to do the driving!!)
Marilyn Smith, Spring TX
One of the true joys of any city, town or village is exploring for the first time, or for the 500th time. When I was a lad in a little town (Population 2000) in Arkansas, the 5 years I lived there I ALWAYS found something new, some new place to go or old haunts to visit. Explorers R Us.
GM Roper, McAllen TX
What a fabulous topic, Kiril! How do you attract people to downtown Houston? So many opinions, so many different points of view to consider. I would never classify you as a "combustible" person, although I do think you are a very curious and creative person. Your integration of southern California and Houston options was a little confusing, but other than that, I enjoyed this one. Very interesting addition to the references at the bottom of your post.
Amanda Socci, Alexandria VA.
I could have been clearer in my discussion of the options, I think... Houston seems to have torn down a lot of its teen's thru 40's buildings in the core, while Los Angeles has not, and while the first floors of many found uses, the upper floors remained empty for decades. In the past decade owners of those buildings in Los Angeles began to find new ways to make their buildings useful again, and make the downtown core come alive in new ways (an ongoing challenge, still).
Houston can learn to do the same with what it has left, I think. The transit issue is important because Houston is such a car-centric city, as is the rest of the county. While Los Angeles, the county, and surrounding area are as well, they found ways to get more people out of their cars and into other modes of transportation, thus helping the economy in new ways. This opened up opportunities for people in the work, shopping, and recreation areas of their lives that they never had before. Businesses were helped as well and new housing, shopping and entertainment options often sprouted up around transit hubs, and along well used routes.
Between Santa Monica on the west, and San Bernardino on the east, Ventura on the north, and San Clemente on the South, this vast swath of southern California (5 counties) has many transit agencies, overlapping in some spots, and a vast, local (numerous routes in Los Angeles & its suburbs), and region-wide (with a hub in LA's Union Station, it serves 5 counties), commuter light rail system.
What does Houston and Harris County have? A sometimes confusing and frustrating Metro bus system, with 132 bus routes (No 1 size fits all schedule book, but dozens of schedule pamphlets instead) and 1 very nice light rail that runs maybe 7 miles or so.
When the only way for a person like me, with no car, to visit the San Jacinto Monument involves a couple of busses, followed by a 14 mile bike ride, one way.... Not good, not good at all, despite having some really modern busses for the long commuter routes from downtown to the far reaching suburban cities. Do those other cities in the county-wide area have their own transit? I don't know. I want to visit Marilyn, in Spring, but may have to use my bike for part of the trip. In fact, visiting the Mercer Arboretum, out there, would involve 3 or 4 busses, and a 30 min. walk.
Houston IS, apparently, building at least 2 more light rail routes, both possibly longer than the first, but I am not sure if they will connect with the existing one,
in the core, or not, or when they will even be completed and ready for use.
As for "combustible"...Over the years some of my stories, especially on my old bike blog, made more than a few people rather, um, cranky, including a few who were the subject of the posts. A curious writer/journalist, who does his/her job, is a plus to society, and sometimes a pain in the ass to those whose activities have aroused his/her curiosity.