Christof completed a three-part look at streetcars in Houston (see parts one and two for background) by discussing possible places that streetcars in Houston might make sense. Not surprisingly, they tend to mirror the places where streetcars had been built over a hundred years ago and led to the development of neighborhoods that are still walkable today. All of them look like they would still fit in and be useful today.
Two of the locations Christof flags are of particular interest. One is the Inner Katy Corridor, which is being studied for light rail in the next expansion phase beyond 2012. The other is Kirby Drive, which isn’t identified at this time as a possible light rail corridor, but which (as Christof notes) should be, at least in my opinion. I’ve been thinking about what a light rail line might look like in both of these locations. Here are a couple of Google maps that I’ve put together with my suggestions. Click the More link to see them.
These are just my concepts of what an Inner Katy and Kirby Drive lines might look like. There’s a million ways you can quibble with them – Christof thinks that the Kirby line needs to turn down Holcombe instead of taking the path I’ve drawn, for instance. I’ve thought about that and don’t quite agree – I think that comes too close to the Main Street line and thus doesn’t really add much functionality. If I had to alter the southern end of the line, I’d think about having it turn east on Old Spanish Trail and terminate at Almeda, where it would serve the various new and previously existing medical facilities in between. There are other possibilities as well.
There will be many technical, political, and financial issues to overcome before any of this could be turned into something real. I’m more than happy to discuss and debate any aspect of these ideas. The one thing that I won’t yield on, however, is my belief that both of these are needed. An Inner Katy line is already on the drawing board; it’s just a matter of where, and my argument is for a line that serves Washington Avenue and Memorial Park, then connects to the Uptown line, thus providing a one-train ride from downtown to the Galleria. As for the Kirby line, it corrects the one glaring omission on all the current and future light rail maps I’ve seen, which is a north-south route for central Houston, through the densest part of town outside of downtown. There’s enough population to support this line, there are multiple employment and retail centers along the way, the traffic and parking situation is bad and getting worse, and as drawn this route would provide a non-highway means to get from north of downtown to points south, thus potentially helping to ease congestion on the Pierce Elevated. I believe the case for this couldn’t be clearer. The question is whether there’s the will to fight the battles. As Christof said about his imagined streetcar lines, if this is to happen it will be because a neighborhood — residents, merchants, institutions, landowners — decides it wants it. I hope I can do a little something about that.