Mike Snyder brings us this report on Houston‘s babysteps toward TOD. Houston is well known for being America’s largest city without a zoning code, but their development patterns wouldn’t reflect it at all. According to this article, they require 25 foot setbacks and only 4-foot sidwalks, which is actually against the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires five feet, the space needed for two wheelchairs to pass each other or for one wheelchair to turn around. Well, in their effort to encourage TOD, they have increased that standard to five feet, and six feet along transit corridors. This is for sure an improvement, but if you look at the transect, a 6-foot sidewalk is for principally residential areas, not a large city. Houston’s sidewalks should be no narrower than 12 feet, to allow for street trees, street furniture, and window shopping. They also neglected to change their parking requirements, because they felt that even if they changed them, the retailers would demand more parking. That’s why minimum parking is a problem, and some, such as Andres Duany, encourage maximum parking standards. Houston’s TOD probably won’t work, because by allowing loads of parking, you still encourage people to drive instead of taking the train. I hope this isn’t the case and that TOD’s can change Houston, but I don’t have high expectations.
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