Research and discussion for citizens and decision makers

Livable Houston Initiative - The CHARM Model

Next meeting: May 25

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Houston Tomorrow and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) have co-hosted monthly lunch meetings to discuss a wide variety of urban issues since November 1999.

Livable Houston Initiative meetings take place on the fourth Wednesday of every month from noon to 1:30 pm and are free and open to the public. Bring your own lunch.

Livable Houston Initiative is held at:
H-GAC Building
2nd Floor, usually in Room C, but sometimes A
3555 Timmons Ln.
Houston, TX 77027 (map)

NEXT MEETING: May 25, 2016
CHARM: An Interactive Mapping Tool for Urbanization, Conservation & Coastal Resilience
Experience a live demo and try your hand with this comprehensive planning tool that has the power to map and analyze growth with real-time feedback. The mapping application is supported with a library of mapping data about urbanization, storm surges, conservation, public facilities, and coastal resources.

Register now

(List has not been updated for a little while)


Jeff Taebel on mapping tools to prioritize walkability investments
Jeff Taebel, Director of Community and Environmental Planning at the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), will showcase new interactive online tools designed to help take the guesswork out of where to prioritize investments and policies for improving walkability.

April 11: Health in All Policies
Carra Moroni and Patricia L. Cummings on how both the City of Houston and Harris County are incorporating the idea of Health in All Policies into their work.

February 25: Climate Change, Food, and Houston’s Future
Dr. Bob Randall, Founder and former Executive Director of Urban Harvest, on his years of research on how climate change will affect Houston, particularly as it relates to food availability and effects on taxes and services - and what we can do to mitigate the damage.

January 28: First Look: The General Plan for Houston’s Future
Jennifer Ostlind, Manager of Development Services in the City of Houston’s Planning and Development Department, presented the draft vision and goals for the General Plan for Houston’s future. This will be the City’s first comprehensive plan for its future and is expected to be approved by City Council this summer.

October 22: “Why Walk in the Energy Corridor?”
Clark Martinson, General Manager of the Energy Corridor Management District, discussed how he and his staff are working to transform the Energy Corridor into a walkable, mixed-use urban district. With the completion of hike and bike trails, a new focus on expanding transit services, and a plan to build high-quality transit-oriented development, the Energy Corridor’s transformation is well underway.

September 17: The Modern City Re-Invented
Shafik Rifaat discussed and explored possible solutions for creating environments that can successfully deal with massive urban expansion, which lie in an urban form defined by public transportation and high-density/mixed use development, combined with a focus on sustainability including close-in agriculture and food production.

August 27: Citizens Vision for Houston’s Future
Blueprint Houston’s chair Joe Webb told the story and presented the vision for Houston’s future, as the City of Houston’s process to create a General Plan for Houston’s Future got underway.

July 23: Houston’s first Bus Rapid Transit line,coming soon to Uptown
The Uptown District is getting all its ducks in a row to reconstruct Post Oak Boulevard with a true BRT system that emulates light rail service at a fraction of the cost. Uptown’s director of research and economic development, Bob Ethington, laid it all out.

June 25: Metro’s New System Reimagining
Metro proposed a complete re-do of local bus routes to make the system more frequent and more sensible in order to increase ridership and work better with the light rail system. Metro board member Christof Spieler led the year-long reimagining effort and explained it all.

May 28: First Look at the New Regional Transportation Plan
The Houston-Galveston Area Council 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) is a document that identifies the Region’s transportation needs, goals, and policies over the next 25 years. The RTP sets the framework for a balanced and forward thinking system with the identification of major investment strategies supporting roadway improvements, mass transit, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities. With the assistance of transportation planners, engineers, elected officials and the public, the RTP document helps to identify transportation facilities and services needed to support the Region’s anticipated growth using available resources.

April 23: Diversity mismatch
White males occupy nearly all the seats on the major transportation planning entities in Houston - the most diverse region in the nation. Houston Tomorrow’s Jay Blazek Crossley presented a first look at a new Houston Tomorrow report examining the demographics of the region’s people, elected officials, and governing boards.

March 26: Fusion - Reuniting Wild Nature and Quality of Life
Houston was founded on a true wilderness, teaming with wolves, buffalo, bear, and eagles. Today, much of Houston has become a patchwork of tame lawns and little natural diversity. Is there a meeting place for these two worlds - one that improves quality of life of all Houstonians both wild and human? Katy Praire Conservancy’s Jaime Gonzalez explored ways in which quality of life proponents and wildlife supporters can be mutually supportive to create a thriving new city.

February 26: Houston’s Impending Transportation Crisis - Another View
Houston Tomorrow’s David Crossley presented a novel view of the regional solution and some new ideas about the solution for the Urban Core.

January 22: Houston’s Pending Transportation Crisis
J. Sam Lott of Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. described several key missing elements within the regional transportation plan which – if implemented – would provide the lowest cost and most easily accomplished near/medium term solutions for transporting of large quantities of people with high capacity mass transit.

September 25: History of Houston Tomorrow
In honor of our 15th birthday party, Houston Tomorrow President David Crossley presented a detailed history of the organization.  We have come a long way.

January 25: Pat Walsh on the Sugar Land Mobility Plan
Sugar Land’s Director of Transportation & Long Range Planning, presented the city’s new Comprehensive Mobility Plan. This Plan identifies recommendations necessary to accomplish the City’s long-range vision for mobility

December 21: Houston Coalition for Complete Streets
The newly formed Houston Coalition for Complete Streets seeks a future where streets are safe for all users at all times throughout Houston.  They discussed their vision and advocated attendees to sign a relevant petition.

October 26: John Jacob and the amazing weTable
John Jacob of the Texas Watershed Program demonstrated their We-Table, a tool for participatory GIS on tabletops at public workshops. The We-Table transforms an ordinary tabletop into an interactive computer interface. This affordable participation tool allows teams to collaboratively explore and use computer based data and programs in a workshop setting.

September 28: Houston’s Tree Crisis
Barry Ward, executive director of Trees for Houston, spoke about the dying trees and the critical role of the region’s urban forest in sustainability planning and climate change mitigation.

July 27: Houston’s 2nd Transit Era
David Crossley, editor of TOMORROW Magazine, gave an overview of their fourth issue.

May 25: The Metro 2040 Vision
George Greanias, Metro’s president and CEO, discussed the agency’s long-range 2040 transit plan and the public workshops currently being held to help formulate that plan.

April 27: What Houstonians Want
David Crossley, President of Houston Tomorrow, examined what recent survey data shows people want.  Three recent surveys from the National Association of Realtors, Smart Growth America, and the Kinder Houston Area Survey reveal a lot about what people want in terms of where they live and the amenities they desire. The case for walkable neighborhoods is getting very strong.

March 23: Census Significance
Jay Blazek Crossley, Program Development and Research at Houston Tomorrow, discussed implications of the most recent Census numbers.

Feb 23: The Future of Houston: Long Boom or Soft Path?
Andy Hines, Lecturer and Executive-in-Residence at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Future Studies, presented on two potential scenarios of Houston future. The presentation suggested key trends and underlying values that could lead to each scenario.

Jan 26: State of the Region
Jack Steele, Executive Director of the Houston-Galveston Area Council, provided a broad look at the Houston region and implications for its future.

October 27:  H-GAC’s 2040 Forecasts
Dr. Dmitry Messen, Socioeconomic Modeling Program Manager for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, discussed the Houston area’s 2040 forecasts. Regional growth forecasts from H-GAC traditionally draw a lot of interest from public and private decision makers. While the 2040 forecasting is still in process, Dmitry Messen gave a tour of the model and provided a snapshot of what he’s seen so far.

September 22: Houston Tomorrow’s Vision for 2036
Houston Tomorrow’s David Crossley discussed their new 2036 vision for the Houston region:
On its 200th birthday, the Houston region is home to the healthiest, happiest, most prosperous people in the United States.

August 25: Energy Corridor District Livable Centers - panel discussion
Several members of The Energy Corridor District’s visioning team led a panel discussion.  The Energy Corridor District leads transportation, mobility, infrastructure and safety initiatives to preserve and enhance the quality of life. Its goal is to attract high quality development and be a transit hub and bicycle and pedestrian friendly place. The District is promoting a Livable Center at the Addicks Park & Ride Lot to promote development for a more sustainable future, which will reduce the carbon footprint of all who live, work, play and reside in the Energy Corridor.

July 28: Sustainability in Houston
Laura Spanjian, director at the City of Houston’s Office of Sustainability described the city’s role in preparing for the future.

June 23: Low Impact Development in the Katy Prairie
Dan Barnum, vice president of HBL Architects, and John Jacob, Director of the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, discussed their Salon des Refuses plan, which calls for true low-impact development on a 640-acre tract on the Katy Prairie west of Houston.

May 26: US 290 Corridor Improvement Plans
Robin Holzer is a former business consultant turned civic leader who lives in the Montrose neighborhood of urban central Houston. She chairs the board of the nonprofit Citizens’ Transportation Coalition (CTC). CTC is an all-volunteer, grassroots advocacy organization with members across the 8-county Houston-Galveston region. Since 2004, CTC volunteers have worked to engage neighborhood leaders in the planning of transportation projects that affect our neighborhoods.

Robin discussed the US 290 Corridor Final Environmental Impact Statement. You can find the entire FEIS as well as other information about the proposed project at the My 290 website or you can read Houston Tomorrow’s story on the proposals.

April 28: Houston: A Vision for a Livable City
Bob Eury, President of Central Houston, will revisit his 2000 vision of Houston capitalizing on its evolving activity centers, as outlined in his 2000 essay called “Houston: A Vision for a Livable City”, and talk about possibilities for the future.  “Ten years have flown by since we entered the new millennium, a time when we envisioned Houston in 2020 as an incrementally evolving network of livable city centers connected by transport corridors that delight the eye. While we were not named the host city for the 2012 Olympics, a key driver for this scenario, many elements are rapidly becoming a reality. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on progress and how a vision for a ‘Livable City’ might differ as we look forward to 2030,” says Eury. 

March 24: Austin: The Sustainable Comprehensive Plan
David Rouse is the lead planner for the Austin initiative, and has 30 years of experience in community planning and design. He presented his ideas for a Sustainable Comprehensive Plan to the American Planning Association in 2009. A WRT principal and leader of the firm’s city and regional planning practice, Rouse has a special interest in planning and design for sustainability, community engagement in the planning process, and capacity building for implementation.

David’s work has been recognized with numerous awards such as the EPA Overall Excellence in Smart Growth awarded in 2009 to Lancaster County and the APA National Outstanding Planning Award for a plan for the FOCUS Kansas City Comprehensive Plan. He is known as a presenter on community planning and implementation topics at conferences across the country and is an adjunct faculty member in city and regional planning at the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania.

February 24: Running for Mayor and thoughts on the future of Houston
Peter Brown, architect, planner, and former at-large City of Houston Council member, will talk about his experience in running for Mayor in 2009, and will also address his ideas for the City’s future.

January 27: Energy Corridor District
Clark Martinson, General Manager of the Energy Corridor District, discussed new transit service in the Energy Corridor, a Livable Centers project, and an ambitious plan for the future that adds up to an energy activity center that is much more multimodal than people think.

October 28: Transit-oriented development in Austin.
Molly Scarbrough, a senior planner with the City of Austin, talked about how Austin is encouraging transit-oriented development in anticipation of future rail transit.

September 23: Freshwater inflows to Galveston Bay.
Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation discussed how freshwater inflows maintain proper levels of sediments, nutrients, and salinity in the Galveston Bay, and how growth could threaten those flows.

August 26: Urban district mobility.
Sam Lott discussed fully-automated urban circulators and other strategies for getting people the “last mile” to their destinations in densely populated areas. Lott said that cities must plan ahead and set aside land now, citing Miami as a good example.

July 22: Regional planning for sustainability.
Uri Avin discussed techniques he and his team at Parsons Brinkerhoff use to analyze the carbon, economic, and social impacts of transportation infrastructure decisions on a regional scale.

May 27: New interpretations of Houston’s growth.
Jay Blazek Crossley of Houston Tomorrow divided the Houston area into 25 different squares—each one the approximate size of the 610 Loop—and compared population and job trends in those districts.

April 22: Growth demographics in Houston.
Dmitry Messen discussed recent findings on the sources of Houston’s growth, as well as the next round of forecasts that his team will develop for the upcoming 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.

March 25: Adapting to climate change in Houston.
Jeff Taebel presented a recent H-GAC report entitled “Foresight Panel on Environmental Effects,” which makes a quick assessment of the possible effects of climate change on the Houston region and then presents a series of measures H-GAC should undertake to prepare for disasters and mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

February 25: Community forum on urban corridors.
About 50 participants discussed the proposed urban transit corridor ordinance.

January 28: Sustainable water quality in the Houston region.
Jeff Taebel of H-GAC said that there are 16,000 miles of streams and shorelines in the 13-county Houston-Galveston region, of which 66 percent don’t meet water quality standards. He discussed H-GAC’s efforts to clean up the water.

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