Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Houston eyes “walkable development” for LRT

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Houston’s commitment to light rail expansion has proven to be an influence on the city’s development code, a phrase once considered nearly oxymoronic for the largest city in Texas. Houston’s City Council Wednesday unanimously voted to change the development code to aid “walkable development” in the vicinity of light rail stations.

New rules dictate sidewalks of five feet in width, up from four feet, for new development in most of the city. Incentives for developers of property along the six light rail routes existing or planned include a 15-foot “pedestrian realm” with broad, unobstructed sidewalks and other features intended to create walkable environments.

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In exchange for agreeing to create a pedestrian zone, developers will be exempt from other rules, such as building setbacks at a specified distance from the street.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Harris County currently operates the city's 7.5-mile light rail line which opened in 2004, but is committed to adding five additional lines totaling 29 additional route miles.