Seeking to define short- and long-term mobility projects and options, a transportation workshop held recently by The Energy Corridor District (ECD) drew representatives from some of the area’s property owners and multinational businesses, traffic engineering firms, Harris County, METRO and the City of Houston Planning & Development Department.
Transportation workshop attendees joined The District’s staff and Board of Directors to discuss The District’s major projects planned for the next five years, while looking toward future efforts designed to keep The Energy Corridor a desirable place to work and live.
And, with 150,000 people expected to work in The Energy Corridor by 2030 (according to the report presented by CDS Market Research during the workshop) the time is now to align property owners’ short-term objectives with The District’s long-range vision, explained Clark Martinson, The District’s general manager.
“An underlying theme explored in the workshop was how we can all get on the same page, moving toward a similar vision about making The Energy Corridor a great place to work and live, not just today but 10 years from now,” says Martinson. “We encourage our stakeholders to become an integral part of this planning process, to ask questions, suggest projects and present their own near-term priorities.”
Ask they did, during a freewheeling session after a variety of presentations on present and future land use, transportation priorities, upcoming projects, place-making initiatives from the 2015 Energy Corridor District Master Plan, and growth and transportation scenarios from the West Houston Mobility Plan, the community-driven document now guiding regional government planning.
“Ultimately, we want short-term transportation projects that are designed to be sustainable for the environment, resilient, energy efficient, economically sound and encourage socially responsible developments,” says Fabiana Demarie, urban planner for The District.
Setting the stage, the workshop opened with a review of The District’s master plan principals and its three core frameworks of land use, mobility, and parks and open spaces.
Steve Spillette, with CDS, then presented an overview of current land use and demographics in The Energy Corridor and the changes expected by 2030.
In an effort to encourage alternative transit use, The District is working to start a new commuter circulator service that would connect the Addicks Park and Ride with major business campuses in The Energy Corridor. Scott Barker, transit planner at HDR in Houston, presented the routes, along with The District’s plans to implement a commuter transit service in 2017 linking the Ft. Bend Express Commuter Park and Ride to The Energy Corridor, with plans to add connections to the Katy/Pin Oak and Cypress areas.
A core master plan foundation is creating safe places to walk and bike. Farzine Hakimi, Kimley Horn designer, shared The District’s protected intersection concept with workshop attendees. It’s a project designed to transform six busy intersections along IH-10 and one at Memorial Drive and Eldridge Parkway into places where pedestrians and cyclists are welcomed.
Several transit, bicycle/pedestrian facilities and roadway improvements outlined in the West Houston Mobility Plan are part of The District’s 10-year projects list. Randy Schultze, principal with Walter P Moore, presented those projects and discussed how they address the West Houston Mobility Plan’s recommendations to improve mobility for all users.
And those users – from Houston and surrounding counties – can now post their own ideas aimed at improving transportation via Mobility Houston’s new online platform, according to Thomas Visco, director, Glasshouse Policy. Visco described the five-month initiative that invites residents to post their ideas and comment on others. The most popular and salient ideas produced by the community on www.mobilityhouston.com will “float to the top,” says Visco, and could become real policy as the ideas get delivered to city, county and regional officials for actual consideration.
Current plans for the eagerly awaited Republic Square mixed-use development on the former Exxon-Mobil Chemical 35-acre site were reviewed by Randall Tuller, project manager and developer for Houston EC Development. Tuller answered questions from workshop attendees about the project and described the type of activities planned at each of the buildings.
Creating a place where millennials want to be is an opportunity for both property owners and The District to attract high-quality employees, explained Les Lee, principal with eSiteful, ECD’s communications partner.
“Attracting the next generation of employees and residents is a key challenge in the coming years,” Lee says. “Millennials, research tells us, want to rely less on cars and be able to enjoy different commuting options, along with desirable parks and walkable streets.”
That’s one reason The District’s master plan and transportation initiatives are designed to reward the short trip and create places where people want to spend time, explains DeMarie.
“The comments from workshop attendees aligned well with The District’s master plan principles and core frameworks,” explains Demarie. “We hope the transportation workshop is the beginning of a strong collaboration between property owners, other stakeholders and The Energy Corridor District to ensure that short-term actions support a long-term vision to keep the Energy Corridor internationally recognized as a high-quality place to live, work and invest. A special place that’s connected, where transportation options prevail and people want to be.”