Houston city boasts of a population of over 4.3 million within the city and its Harris County Metropolitan boundaries. The Houston area has been faced by land subsistence issues, edging it out as the metropolitan area in the United States to be adversely affected by such land issues. This case has been largely attributed to the ground-water pumping systems in addition to underground oil and gas extraction. This subsequently has led to increased frequency of flooding over the years. In extreme instances, the flooding has led to extensive damages to transport infrastructure, damaged reservoirs, water contamination and industrial damage (Camagni, et.al. 2004).
Proper urban planning and extensive environmental policy analysis have been used as the forefront measures in solving the society’s pressing contemporary issues such as congestion and subsequent pollution. Urbanization, considered as a dominant yet contemporary process has contributed to the rapid growth of the population that dwells in cities and urban areas. Statistics indicate that a greater percentage of the global population dwells in urban areas. With this trend in consideration, urban transportation issues should be handled with prime importance. This is due to support that passengers and freight and mobility stakeholders require while implementing their duties and programmes in large urban settings. Transportation systems in urban areas on the other hand are highly complex because of the modes and numbers of people involved, the mass of origins and destinations, and the amount and variety of traffic (Meyer& Miller, 2000). Conventionally, many individuals tend to focus of urban transportation has been on passengers as cities were viewed as locations of utmost human interactions with intricate traffic patterns linked to commuting, commercial transactions and leisure/cultural activities. However, Houston city is a hub of production, consumption and distribution of both goods and services. These among other activities are directly linked to movements of shipments in the busy city.
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Conceptually, the Houston urban transport system is intricately associated to spatial structures and the urban form of the city. Urban transportation is an important dimension of mobility, conspicuously in high density areas such as cities. For proper policy planning and implementation, it is of key importance to appreciate the multifaceted relationships between transportation and land use. This in return facilitates the urban planning process through the devised models that have been developed and subsequently discussed in this paper.
Extensive research not only in the state of Houston but also the united states in general indicate that doubling the density of development in cities such as Houston would reduce vehicle miles traveled by only about 10 percent in the next decade (Pickrell and Schimek, 2000). Furthermore, statistics available from government agencies such as the USDOT indicate that pollution significantly decreased during the 1980’s and 1990’s although the vehicle mileage records had increased. This, as experts insert was as a result of engine control and innovation in the automobile manufacturing industry. Smart growth has generated popular interest and some very attractive demonstration projects. As a result, the overall impact of the policy implementation has been mild to extents of negligence.
Strategies and mechanisms are continuously being placed to facilitate the sustainability through comprehensive land development planning for cities and the rapidly developing towns. This reaction has been partly triggered by rapid urban growth. This implies that the rapid growing towns and already established cities experience more dynamic decisions involving the setting up of rules and regulations per year more than in those experienced in the cities exhibiting slower growth (Newman& Kenworthy, 1999).
The city of Houston relies on the design of transportation facilities such as roads, driveway access points, sidewalks, and bike routes to relay a major impact on its development. In turn, these facilities are the result of comprehensive and influential land use decisions. The council in charge of the city has over time addressed land use decisions in relation to the planning and development of transportation facilities. The transportation principles and strategies to be used and their incorporation into the land use planning process, is a sole responsibility of the council to ensure that only feasible projects are embarked on. Studies have established that improved integration of land use and transportation planning significantly reduces the adverse effects of degradation and in the process, maintaining the quality of the Houston communities (Meyer& Miller, 2000).
Similarly, cities that exhibit extensive motorization also reports space issues both for auto users and non- auto users. This over time has been expressed by many as a significant social fragmentation that demands for urgent, workable and maintainable mechanisms. In cities that are practically and universally motorized, such as in Houston, social fragmentation is not as widely troublesome as that in low-income cities where a considerable number of residents has cars. Rather than being classified as a social issue, the matter has for a while been categorized as a potentially serious political problem in widespread cities in the world at large.
To counter the issues related to poor urban planning, large amounts of land in Houston especially the strips categorized as peri-urban land have been switched to the ownership of interested individuals out of will (Gwilliam, 2001). The responsible parties are charged with the responsibility of overseeing the land issues, its development which over a period of time translates to “leapfrog” urbanization. This mechanism has been workable not only in Houston but also in much of the developing world that is massively characterized by ownership of large tracts of land by government agencies, religious institutions and the military.
The issue of transportation in Houston Texas has led to the declaration by the concerned stakeholders who have presented the need for a regional transportation vision that plans for the expansion of roads and highways to keep pace with growth, maintains infrastructure, and finds alternative multimodal networks. Current Houston transportation planning is often disjointed is project oriented and conducted by many agencies and civic groups. A transportation network that links and supports the continued growth of the region’s livable growth centers and nodes is vital if the Houston region is to become a global city (Meyer& Miller, 2000). For example, it is argued that connecting Houston’s airports to its downtown is an important step in propelling the city into becoming a global city. The major growth centers and nodes in Houston need to own up to a long-term plan that allows the integration of its mechanisms to produce larger, more long-term vision that yields even better results. The involved experts argue that the implementation of long-term visions often translate into more consolidated and comprehensive infrastructure strategies. This in the long-term speed up the development process, saving both financial and time constraints that would have rippled as a result.
The land planning issues cannot be comprehensively explored without the addressing of the protection of its natural floodplains whose bayous nature not only provides natural habitat for fauna and flora in the eco-system but also provides exclusive opportunities for uniting the greater Houston region. The accessibility of the area will play a major role in the “opening-up” the area and linking it to the greater lake region. The panel put in place to survey the actual situation of development over and over expressed in their recommendations, the need and concern to ensure that environmental sustainability becomes a critical component in the development of Houston and Texas at large as a place of quality in terms of infrastructure mechanisms. The quality as referred to by the panel will in future, be responsible for an unparalleled population influx in the Houston region. As projected, this will translate to high degrees of success in the economy and on the negative side, problems associated with population increase such as pollution and underdevelopment of the rural centres (Batty& Xie, 1994 p.548). Houston has over the years been described as a pleasant place to live in and naturally, more individuals will be expected to migrate to the rapid developing city. The concerned agencies such as the environment docket should join in the capacity building process of the value of environmental protection and the support for the protection of Houston’s natural resources.
The local Houston metropolitan area council has displayed significant achievement by offering the residents with professional advice, at the same time ensuring that proper standards for planning, financial assistance and other support are well observed. The council acknowledges the minimum attention the issues of planning and development receive from the central or national governments. With this premise, the council ensures that adequate standards and advice for green transportation development is delivered to all the residents and stakeholders.
The council deemed it necessary to cope with the expectations of prior land use plans; this is to ensure that the plans meet the requirements of the present days’ commitments to improve the environment (Newman& Kenworthy, 1999). The local authorities are also concerned with the budgetary resources used in programme implementation processes which must be realistic to the council’s accounting systems.
Infrastructure planning is conventionally considered the part of the activity that receives the most attention in all government’s mechanisms. Houston for instance considers as important the Traffic Demand Management Plan (TDMP),that is foreseen to provide significant changes in the positive continuum on the apparent issues of congestion and pollution relief systems. Houston in the process joins a host of other cities that are already enforcing traffic restriction programs especially in the Latin cities.
In addition, Houston lays structures in place to work out feasible ways of radically reducing emissions and congestion to evade future environmental problems. A key policy and method established is the enactment of congestion pricing that targets transit users who act as the major culprits in emissions- production and congestion in cities. The management of public transport in Houston is o paramount importance considering the attention directed towards the management of public transport haulers (Gwilliam, 2001). Without proper mechanisms in place, Houston authorities were victims of duplication, corruption and other inefficiencies in the implementation of policies and schemes that continued to operate without comprehensive planning decisions. This as a result translated into wastage of resources that was a direct burden to residents and the taxpayers. The counter effect situation to this problem was the establishment of new, efficient yet affordable modes in particular the utilization of rapid transit (BRT) mechanisms. The ease of traffic has also been well administrated through continuous innovations in the public urban transport to reduce emissions and congestions. With the introduction of the famous green lights at road intersections that maintained order while easing the congestions experienced in cities. Observations on the current state of the city widely indicate steps in the positive direction in curbing the social predicaments associated with poor planning.
With the mechanisms put in place, it would be fair to judge that the future for Houston city’s transport issues will be accommodative and generally fair. With the trend currently in place, land use and transportation issues will be problems of the past. The actions proposed in the implementation process will certainly achieve significant results. With the considerations of the limitations of local government councils, then actions on land use and change are likely not to be an important part of the strategy for the council of Houston city (Gwilliam, 2001). However, like many other cities which experience insufficient authority over land use, attention will be granted to check the efficiency of Houston’s structures in the social, economic and political perspectives.
With the development issues at hand within many cities, Houston city, the home of Texas is increasing in size just as other primary cities in the world. Displaying great advantage from other secondary cities in the world, Houston boasts of the expertise in skilled scopes. In addition, the state exhibits high borrowing power and authority levels to generate new solutions.
Globalism is expected to benefit the city with the increasing emergence of migration and urbanization. The daunting challenges associated with the development trends and urbanization will be countered if the measures being currently implemented are maintained at that level or even made better. With these premises, it will only be a matter of time till Houston emerges as a global hub and a force to reckon with in the economy-world.
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