The Mayor and others continue to call Bissonnet a two-lane residential street, which it clearly is not.
The subject segment of Bissonnet is currently designated as a “Major Collector” street of “sufficient width” (emphasis added) by the City on its Major Thoroughfare Plan. The City’s current definitions are as follows:
- Thoroughfares: more than 3 miles long; connects freeways and principal thoroughfares; more than 20,000 vehicles per day; usually spaced one-half to 1 mile apart.
- Collector: One to 2 miles long; connects thoroughfares and local streets; more than 5,000 vehicles per day; less than 1 mile spacing.
Bissonnet is over 13.5 miles long, connects 3 freeways and numerous principal thoroughfares, and the traffic count in the 1700 block comprises approximately 14,000 vehicles per day. It is designated as a Major Thoroughfare along all but an approximately 1.25-mile segment, which includes the 1700 block, and which was only recently reclassified from a “Thoroughfare” to a “Major Collector” at area residents’ request. In short, the entire length of Bissonnet, including the 1700 block, more closely fits the City’s definition of a “Thoroughfare”, which in fact has been its historical classification.
At 36’ wide, Bissonnet could actually accommodate four 9’ lanes of traffic (the approximate lane width on Kirby Drive). By today’s standards (City-standard width is now 11’), Bissonnet can easily accommodate three lanes, including a “swing lane” (as do Greenbriar and West Alabama, for example) with width to spare, as it in fact does at Hazard, Shepherd and Greenbriar.
Additionally, the 1700 block of Bissonnet is part of a major public transportation corridor served by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO), which typically aligns its bus routes along major thoroughfares. METRO and its predecessors have run the #65 (and formerly #14) bus routes along the subject segment of Bissonnet since the introduction of bus service in Houston, making it one of the oldest routes in the city. Based on ridership (number of boardings), the 65 Bissonnet route remains one of the top 5 weekday and Saturday routes in the entire METRO service area.
Traffic Impact Analysis
The traffic impact analysis (TIA) that we completed voluntarily and that was subsequently approved by the City was done by the same firm the City uses for its own studies. That firm has been hired by Harris County to do a major traffic study for the Westpark Toll Road, as well. A copy of our original TIA can be found here and a copy of our second Level III TIA can be found here. The letter from the City approving our TIA can be found here and the City’s letter rescinding that approval issued just after the media and elected officials began to take a greater interest in our project is here.
The TIA for our development estimates that during the morning rush hour, there will be a total added street volume of 27 cars entering the property and 48 leaving the property. That’s an average of 1.25 cars per minute added to the morning rush period, which currently serves 982 cars east and westbound on Bissonnet. In the afternoon, the added street volume is calculated to increase entering vehicles by 94 and exiting vehicles by 69, an average increase of 2.7 cars per minute during a period that currently serves 1270 cars east and westbound on Bissonnet.
Where are the real sources of neighborhood traffic?
The fact is that high-rise residential is a low-impact land use with regard to traffic; in fact, single-family homes create a much larger number of daily trips. The greatest amount of traffic affecting this neighborhood today and in the future will not result from any kind of high-density residential use, including 1717 Bissonnet; instead, it will come from the Texas Medical Center, office buildings and retail developments.
The traffic that the neighbors are worried about will be an issue whether we build our project or not because Houston is growing. Demand for inner-city housing is growing with it. Two new developments recently permitted by the City of Houston - the Medical Clinic of Houston (600-car garage and 120,000 s.f. of professional services) and Sonoma in Rice Village (989-car garage, 100,000 s.f. of retail, 50,000 s.f. of office and 4 restaurants) - take primary access from two-way two-lane streets and both projects will have an exponentially larger traffic impact on the respective area streets than will 1717 Bissonnet (467-car garage, 9,000 s.f. of retail, 7,000 s.f. of office and a 3,200 s.f. day spa).
The projected growth of the Texas Medical Center alone will guarantee that density and development continues. The traffic impact from 1717 Bissonnet represents a drop in the bucket compared to that which the $2.4 billion in on-going construction at the TMC will have on these neighborhoods when completed. The next 6 years will see $7.1 billion in new construction at TMC, the addition of 27,000 new jobs and 23,480 new parking spaces.