Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sheriff reports on policing in The Woodlands

As we head into transition to one contract for policing the community, there are some opportunities to improve on what we have started. Generally, the community has been nervous lately about all the news and rumors floating around about bank robberies, car break-ins and suspicious persons. As the Sheriff noted tonight at an association meeting, statistics still support the statement that The Woodlands is "the safest place to live in Montgomery County", possibly in Texas. A special task force to deal with the perpetrators of the bank robberies has been working hard and long to solve all the robberies here. All the other email chains and rumors are not on their books and may have never happened. "If there is a problem, there is a solution to the problem." Basically, he is concerned that perhaps people may not be reporting some of the crimes. Unreported crimes never happened statistically. No one is working to solve or prevent them. So please, make sure you report crimes to the Sheriff, especially if you experience one or if you are a victim.

"The Woodlands contract is sort of special to me", he went on. After all, it's been his baby. "I am surrounded by good people." That makes his team competent and resourceful. He reminded residents that traffic stops account for a large portion of criminal abatement in a community. Recent studies in one state revealed a 90% reduction of crimes as a result of traffic stops. A similar study will be conducted in Montgomery County to see if we have the same or similar data relationships.

In 2010 it is hoped by some that we will have an expanded system similar to the Dotson recommendation where there is basically one officer assigned to each village around the clock. The budget will be monitored in 2009 to see if we have favorable budget to support something better in 2010.

In my opinion, based on statistics and the Sheriff's department track record, I believe we are in very good shape but may need a little more help on the fringes of the community. We need to be cautious and not over spend with too much of a police presence. I certainly hope we do not have any more bank robbing residents here, but glad the department found this one in a routine traffic stop, as the sheriff confirmed. We were just lucky on this one. Part of that luck was not luck at all, because we had the deputy presence required for the traffic enforcement that incarcerated the alleged resident.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Local residents' comments on State of Mobility in The Woodlands

This is the fourth article in a series on the subject of mobility in Montgomery County. Additional entries added 03-25-09

I have asked for input on this subject from selected readers and friends. The question I posed to them was “What is right and what is wrong with mobility in The Woodlands and the immediate area surrounding it?” This inquiry was not sent to all readers, and to compensate, I will entertain emails from anyone locally on this subject and update this article, as well as possibly subsequent mobility articles in this series, for the next month, as time allows. I want to be inclusive with diverse thinking on this subject. I also occasionally ask people on the street what they thunk and have included as many of those conversations as I can recall. These do not necessarily reflect my own opinion, only those who have commented on the subject. Updates will be closed about April 20th. Send any input by clicking on this line. You will also have an opportunity to participate in a survey to be initiated near the beginning of April.

Resident and Local Area Comments
On the most part, these comments are unedited. The only edits I have made are grammatical and a few for improved clarity.

  • We over built and Woodlands Parkway is a killer. SH 1488 is in a state of grid lock, so people who would take SH 1488, take instead SH 2978 to Woodlands Parkway to reach I-45. In fact the only viable way to I-45 is Woodlands Parkway, for people from the back of The Woodlands to Magnolia. The Woodlands Parkway fly-over gives them a better flow than trying to use SH 2920 or SH 1488 to get to I-45. The majority of people will not take public transportation, because they don't want to be without their cars. Brazos Transit does not run buses all day like Houston Metro; they say it is not cost effective. I believe the first bus is at 3PM. SH 1488 should have been built out long before Woodlands Parkway, and I'm not sure the current plan will be viable. The majority of the well paying jobs are still downtown, not The Woodlands. My wife makes considerably more money in Houston than she did here. Several people, with whom I have talked to, say the same.
  • One of the main reasons I moved to the Woodlands was so I could take the bus downtown for work. Previously I lived in Fort Bend County where no public transportation was available. The better paying jobs are downtown. There needs to be a way to commute cost effectively to those job locations. The Brazos Transit District does a pretty good job with the park and rides (compared to Metro's they are much better). Although they run full from all three Woodlands lots, their hours are limited. The biggest problem is getting to the HOV lane at FM 1960 - I don't understand why the HOV hasn't been extended up to the Woodlands. It appears the infrastructure is there, but is unused. The longest part of the trip in the morning is just getting to the HOV!
  • I ride the Woodlands Express. The buses are not on a consistent schedule... especially at the Sawdust location. Buses arrive to the Park and Ride late. When picking up, sometimes buses can be 20-30 minutes apart. The traffic lights here need to be timed. There can be times, even when the roads are not busy, that I hit almost every red light... especially between Lake Woodlands and Terramont. Then, those who are at left turns sometimes pile up and block traffic in the traveling lanes. This can be cleared out by allowing left turns before and after the travel lanes get their green light... especially during rush hours. I doubt there will be future roads, but roundabouts should be considered if there are plans for new roads.
  • I used the Woodlands Express for most of my 19 years working downtown Houston, up until I retired in 2004. During most of that time they kept a very tight/on-time schedule - not sure what is done now. The worst part of the round trip commute was from the park and ride to HOV, both going south and coming north. There is just no fast way to get to the Park and Ride lot on Research. It would have been nice to have a fly-over at Research and have that be where HOV started...dreamer that I am. My round trip commute was about 2.5 hours per day, counting walking to the bus stop, waiting on the bus and then getting home from the Park and Ride lot - sometimes 3 hours in bad weather/bad traffic. That was my reason for early retirement. I could no longer deal with the stress of commuting.
  • Woodlands Express works great for me. As a new resident I looked at commute options. Having a bus drop me off at my building is great. My company encourages us to use it. The HOV should be extended, possibly as far as Conroe. The Sawdust Park and Ride is twice as far as Research for me; however, the additional time it takes the bus to reach the Research Park and Ride makes it better to take Sawdust. I avoid Woodlands Parkway due to the traffic lights. From Indian Springs to Sawdust Park and Ride it is shorter to take the Parkway by one mile rather than take Glen Loch and come in the back-way on Sawmill. However, the traffic lights make the commute longer on the Parkway. Most of the light sensors seem to work. However,I have been held up several times by non-working sensors on Grogan's Mill from the Parkway to Sawdust.
  • My biggest complaint in The Woodlands is the number of people talking on the phone and not paying attention, including the Realtor who rear-ended my wife. I can only hope her increased insurance rates will put a dent in her talking.
  • What the County is into right now, and for the next several years, is not spending money, but rather producing revenues. They are increasing, on a grand scale, traffic cameras, video surveillance equipment, and ticket writing. They are aggressively going after revenue, and will continue to do so, all the while "talking about" improved mobility. You want improved mobility...extend I-45 HOV from 1960 to The Woodlands. That should have been done years ago but will not be done. In The Woodlands, there is one king/ruler of mobility, the county, and sorry folks, but they're not spending, they're collecting.
  • If you are looking for problems, you should probably start with the masses of idiots who seemingly got their licenses out of crackerjack boxes!
  • The roads are overloaded with maniacs too intent on saving a few seconds to be bothered with trivial things like red lights, stop signs or speed limits. And maybe they should eliminate the dangerously used Woodlands Parkway lanes at Panther Creek.
  • Bad: Too few ingress/egress points. There are roads like Kuykendahl and Research Forest that shift from divided lanes to single lane. Too many roads have inadequate shoulders for bicyclists or runners (Kuykendahl again). There is a lack of sidewalks/hike and bike trails on roads like Gosling (between the Post Office and Creekside) and of course Kuykendahl between Alden Bridge and Sterling Ridge. Good: Traffic lights instead of stop signs on Lake Woodlands and Woodlands Parkway.
  • BAD: Traffic lights that turn red and STAY red for half the day.
  • BAD:The camera/sensor sees when there is traffic but not when there is no traffic. I have sat at a red light with no cross traffic in sight either way - yet the light stays red as prescribed.
  • I can't even count the times I've sat at a red light looking at zillions of cars stacked up in ALL directions. North/south traffic stopped, east/west traffic stopped, left turn lanes stopped.....all while one empty left turn lane stays green for 20 minutes. What's WRONG with this picture????
  • I think having the entrances and exits to the schools on major arteries was a bad idea. Increased traffic and slowing traffic to 20 mph during the morning rush hour commute makes getting to the highway take nearly a half hour from Alden Bridge. It would seem to make more sense to have the school entrances and exits within the residential subdivisions that they serve. The end of Research Forest drive at I-45 is a nightmare in the morning or anytime there is a game at the new sports complex behind Home depot- Sam's club. There are two lanes; the left lane is for going straight and left, while the right lane is to turn right. The left lane can back up past Grogan's Mill at times and inevitably someone blocks off the right, better moving lane trying to cut into the left lane.
  • There is one bad traffic signal at the intersection of SH 2978 and SH 2920. This is not in The Woodlands, but it affects those of us that work to the west. Tomball Public Safety really needs to fix the timing on that. The Woodlands Bank stadium traffic, while not “in” The Woodlands per se, is awful during major sports seasons. I-45 and the feeder just gridlock.
  • As far as I can see, the only thing that even could benefit The Woodlands is a reduction or elimination of Lexus drivers. Other than that, I also would do something about those right lanes at the intersection of Panther Creek and Woodlands Parkway where people use them to rush past Panther Creek instead of what they were intended.
  • BAD: Lack of timing of lights on all roads, lights on Woodlands Parkway stay red for all cross traffic for too long (since Ike) and sometimes, turn lanes never get a green signal (have sat for over 5 minutes in Sterling Ridge area many times) with the lack of right hand turn lanes (cut the pavement and let us go). Here are some suggestions: The Woodlands should not be a cut through for Magnolia residents (give them another way to go – please!). Increase the speed limit on Lake Woodlands. Remove the backup at intersections on Woodlands Parkway between Gosling and Panther Creek. Creekside Park people should not be cutting through The Woodlands. I hate the traffic here!! Hate it!! No, I'm not moving - refuse to – I have lived here for over 12 years and just would like things to flow smoothly.
  • I have given some thought to the new trolley system. These are my questions:
    * Who in TW would drive or walk to one Center just to wait for a trolley to another, unless it's a teenager trying to go to work, in which case they will probably have a car or a ride available? * Who is the township trying to target with this program? * Who will answer if this turns out to be a big income loser? * Is there really enough people looking for a way to shop at these out of the way Village Centers? * Is this another part of the Advertisement of TW as a tourist stop? * Will the Board at least wait till we become incorporated so we have adequate police protection? This comment made by two people who felt a criminal element might use the system to scope out targets.
  • There must be a way for Magnolia residents to get to I-45 without going through The Woodlands. An hour and a half commute, or more, into Houston is not working. The local Woodlands traffic fills up local Woodlands roads. No amount of road widening will be enough for Magnolia traffic AND The Woodlands traffic AND traffic from 2978. Adding more traffic to The Woodlands roads only creates a bigger traffic mess. Friends from Magnolia already do not want to go to the mall because of the stop and go traffic in The Woodlands. Magnolia commuters need to travel to I-45 without having to pass through zillons of stoplights and school zones. An expressway to I-45 will be the only solution - commuting to Houston is hard enough and we need relief not a bigger traffic jam.
  • I have no bright ideas, only a question. Why is The Woodlands Parkway’s stop lights so dang long? How come left-turn lanes are so short? I can't tell you how many times either I have been blocked by cars in the straight-away lane to where I can't get in my turn lane or even sometimes I am the person blocking someone else from the turn lane! I don't mean to, but you can only scoot up so much. I realize that is the case for people blocking me. But I still call them names when I'm blocked!
  • I cross the parkway regularly at Gosling, normally pushing my wife in her wheelchair on a morning walk. I don't have much of a problem crossing. I press the button but it is almost worthless, because it does not allow adequate time to cross, and it takes forever before giving us a green light. We will usually cross when there is a momentary opening in the parkway traffic.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mobility Expansion Plans for South Montgomery County

This is the third in a series of articles on mobility in The Woodlands. Updated 03/30 and 04/01 with new information

The regional mobility plan currently has solutions to ease east and west congestion in The Woodlands and to provide traffic relief and mobility options in south county as documented in the 2035 TxDot Regional Transportation Plan1. It gives us an idea of how much growth and at what development speed the county planners think will drive additional capacity and the coverage required for county transportation in the next 14 years. Currently there are two local projects being funded by the Stimulus bill of the Federal government. Neither is in our area. There is a Harris county project for Gosling that will have potential effect on our traffic. Apparently, there is a farm in that area now that will be developed in the future4. In the same plan, there is federal money going to Town Center for regional and local mass transportation3.

The projects on the books affecting our immediate area include:

  • Widen Research Forest to six lanes from the lake bridge to Shadowbend as soon as mony can be acquired to fund it. The expansion plan from Gosling to Kuykendahl has been canceled. The small segment to SH 2978 is not planned but don't be surprised if it suddenly appears in a plan; the development company controls the funding and trigger on this project.
  • Widen FM-1488 – this project is in progress. FM-1488 is to be a four-lane highway from FM-149 to I-45. It might be part of the solution to our problem, but perhaps it should be six lanes from I-45 to FM-2978.
  • Construct fly-over for SH-242 at I-45. This will be an electronic toll way and should help exchange traffic with I-45. In 2012, SH-242 is to be widened to 6 lanes from Green Bridge to I-45. Smart street technology is not to be added until 2023.
  • Widen FM-2978 from Harris County line to FM-1488 in 2013. Smart street technology in 2023.
  • FM-149: widen to 6 lanes starting in 2018.
  • Widen Glenloch to Sawdust Rd by adding 2 lanes in 2023. The speed limit on Glenloch is currently 25MPH.
  • Extend Gosling south as a 2-lane road to Kuykendahl starting in June 2009. This Harris county planned project is shovel-ready, proposed in the 150 million dollar economic recovery program4. Extend as 4-lane road from SH-242 to FM-1488 in 2033. Construct new section of Gosling from Loop 336 in Conroe to FM-1488 in 2018. Add bridge over Spring Creek and widen Gosling to Panther Creek Pines. Widen Gosling to 4 lanes from SH-242 to Research Forest in 2023.
  • Widen Grogans Mill to 6 lanes from Research Forest to Woodlands Parkway in 2023. Add Smart Street technology in 2023.
  • Extend I-45 HOV lane out to FM-1488 in 2010. Reconstruct 2 managed HOV lanes and bridges to SH-242 in 2023
  • Widen Kuykendahl to 4 lanes from Flintridge to Harris County line in 2023. Construct 2-lane roadway from FM-1488 to N Villa Oaks (missing segments) to make continuous road in 2009. Widen to 4 divided lanes by sections in 2011. Smart street technology in 2023.
  • Construct grade separation on Lake Woodlands at Grogan’s Mill in 2023. Widen to 6 lanes from I-45 to Gosling in 2023.
  • Construct 4-lane divided bridge over Spring Creek for Sawmill to High Oaks in 2023. This will provide another means to access I-45 from the Village of Creekside Park. Don't we already need this?
  • Widen Woodlands Parkway to 6 lanes from I-45 to Gosling in 2008. Use existing bridge. Unable to get full financing in 2008; financing preempted by Hurricane Ike. Now scheduled for completion in August 2009. Smart street improvements in 2023. Widen to 6 lanes from Gosling to Kuykendahl in 2013.
  • Construct Town Center transit terminal in 2011 to interface future light rail and other future transit modes, as well as at Six Pines and Lake Robbins to serve The Woodlands Town Center Transit Corridor. Efforts to add to this have already begun. A Park and Ride has been proposed for Town Center, and government grant money has been requested to fund it3. This will of course attract potential shoppers to Town Center. Although I have not heard of any plans to put an additional Park and Ride in the back of The Woodlands, an expansion of the Sterling Ridge Park and Ride this year (2009) will provide an additional 1000 parking spaces and a passenger facility. This will provide a total of 1200 parking spots at this location. Work will commence about in July.
There are other possible projects that have been discussed but are not in either of the state regional plans.I plan to update this document with any additional information I may obtain in the future.

More regionally, we find several projects having potential impact on us:

  • Segment "E" of SH-99 (Grand Parkway) from I-10 to SH-290. $180 million from stimulus package starting 2009 and open to traffic in 2011. The continuing development of this road leads us to conclude that the project will meet its schedule of completion by 2015. The probability of impacting regional transportation and development of the region becomes higher with segments "F-1" (SH-290 to SH-249) and "F-2" completion by 2013. It will provide regional residents including us, access to the Grand Parkway and thereby to other freeways from relative close junctures to traffic on SH-2920, SH-2978, Kuykendahl, and Gosling and at several points along the way in Harris County. This will tie our region to the Houston-Galveston regions. Construction is scheduled to begin on segment F-2 in 2010 and open to traffic in 20136. F-2 is currently in "Design Phase". The F-1 segment is scheduled to open in 2012 so that when segment F-2 opens, we will have a fully functional 45 MPH or faster roadway all the way to I-10 West and beyond to the southwest. The implication here is that development will be opened up along that road and expand out, providing a better mobility platform for development to the west of The Woodlands, especially to fill in near and around Tomball. We can speculate on what will happen with SH-149 and SH-249 in the long term as a result of the availability of this highway.
  • Hardy Toll Rd Extension is in design phase now. Construction is planned to begin late in 2009. This will help commuters living in The Woodlands get to downtown and the medical center during rush hours. It may change some of the bus routes for the bus systems using the park and rides of The Woodlands7.
Regarding plans for pathways and bicycle lanes to help move people about locally:
  • A path is scheduled to be built in 2009 from the pathway at Gosling and Panther Creek to the entrance of Creekside Park Village. This will improve safety for pedestrians and bike riders traveling between villages.
  • A path is also planned in 2009 for the missing segment on Flintridge.
  • Additional paths are planned for Creekside Park but no information is quickly available at this time.
  • Bike lane plans are not readily available. To discover those plans, if any, is an action item for me.
Plans for mass transit includes:
  • Park and Ride center in Town Center. Application has been submitted for a federal grant. Included in this plan is a vertical parking garage and additional bus capacity to downtown Houston for regional passengers.
  • Expansion of Park and Ride in Sterling Ridge. $1.9 million in a grant and another $2.3 million in stimulus funds will fund this 2009 project. The facility which will include an additional 1,000 spaces (currently 200 spaces are there) and a permanent passenger facility. Construction should begin in May or June of this year.
  • Trolley service to/from village shopping centers using the centers as parking lots.
References
  1. 2035 TxDot RTP as input by Montgomery County
  2. PDF file from TxDot - Montgomery County Projects in the 2035 RTP, dated Nov 19, 2007.
  3. Houston-Galveston MPO 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program FY 2009 Projects County TXDOT District: Houston. February 2009 Update.
  4. Houston-Galveston MPO Out of Cycle Projects. March 2009 Update.
  5. The Villager - Woodlands Growth brings traffic, road projects. 01-23-09
  6. Grand Parkway Project - schedule
  7. Hardy Toll Road Extension Project

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pedestrian Friendliness in The Woodlands Texas

This is the second in a series of articles on mobility.

The Woodlands has many miles of pedestrian paths available for running, walking and cycling. This is one of the most valued amenities enjoyed by a large number of residents and outside persons. A person is able to enjoy the outdoors while going to the grocery store, to a local store, to a friend’s home, or for exercise. Being able to smell the flowers and the trees, to be able to make visual contact with nature is one of the superlatives used to describe the lifestyle here.

There are some shortcomings to this amenity. Highways separate our villages from one another. Moving about on foot is not as easy and safe as it should be. Take Gosling and Woodlands Parkway as an example. Try to cross Woodlands Parkway by foot in rush hour. As a person walks down the pathway on Gosling going north, and tries to cross the parkway, a person must first cross the right turn lane to reach the pedestrian switch to request a green light to proceed across the intersection. A vehicle could easily hit someone trying to reach the signal control button. Then the person stands on the island where the control button is located until given permission to cross. Often, so much time passes that a pedestrian becomes frustrated and crosses without permission. All the time spent on the island presents a risk that a driver may come by using his cell phone or being distracted otherwise, and swerve to hit the pedestrian on the island. Another type of pedestrian must cross this intersection. Elderly folks live in a nearby apartment complex and take their electric carts to the grocery store. I hope we never have one injured there. This is not pedestrian friendly engineering design! It is the result of engineering without master planning. What happened to pedestrians’ mobility planning anyway? Now we wait for an expansion to a six-lane highway. I can't imagine what it is going to be like after that is completed!
This path is sort of a secret. It provides the pedestrian in Panther Creek a means to safely cross under the Woodlands Parkway. This is an example of creativity and was constructed because residents were part of the solution..

Another pedestrian we should consider is the student. Do you know that in the village of Indian Springs, there are no public schools? Spring Creek, Gosling and Woodlands Parkway bound the village; both roads are highways and the one is heavily congested. Soon, there will be six lanes to cross over Woodlands Parkway, instead of four! The children are separated from their schools by these highways. There used to be a speed limit of 35 on Gosling, making it easier for children to ride their bikes to McCullough Junior High or Glen Loch Elementary. Now it suddenly has become 45 MPH that is actually 55 when the normal extra 10 mph is tacked on. Much of the traffic along that stretch consists of drivers from outside of The Woodlands. Of course students have access to and rely on buses to transport them to and from school. Sometimes they miss the bus or it is inconvenient to participate in an extracurricular activity before or after school. One thing for sure - if a parent can avoid travel by foot for the kids, she will find an alternative! A similar issue exists on Research Forest at the high school there, but fortunately the CISD police monitors the traffic during school zone times for obvious reasons. Many of those youngsters cross that road before and after school. Widen that road to six lanes and we will see a higher risk to students crossing Research Forest. It is already risky from cars turning right onto the road over the marked crossing.

Kuykendahl and Woodlands Parkway has the promise of future issues but today, I am not aware of any significant ones. I do see pedestrians crossing the parkway there. At the Kuykendahl and Flintridge intersection, residents routinely cross Kuykendahl. The traffic load is not very heavy most of the time.

We say that our community is pedestrian friendly, but it is generally so only within the confines of a village. I would say the paths are generally pedestrian friendly within the villages in most cases. I've been on many of them. However, the mobility of automobiles has trumped our pedestrian amenities at our highways.

I am hoping to see less safety risk on our pathways rather than more risk in the future. Residents need to speak up and not just accept what is provided. Status quo is not acceptable in a growing community. That is like putting our money under the mattress during inflation. We allow value to decrease or at least settle for less than excellence.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Highways through The Woodlands from the west

This article is the beginning of a series on Mobility for Woodlands residents.

What is this about highways through our community? When I grew up, I got to know about highways. My grandmother lived on one. The speed limit was 60 miles an hour, 55 at night, strictly enforced. As you approached the city limits, the speed limit dropped to 50 and then 40 in front of my grandmother’s home. As time advanced, we got “modern”. The limit was increased to 70 on the highway, 65 at night, but still was reduced to 40 in front of Grandma's house. Then people started changing. The idea was to get from one place to another as quickly as possible at the highest rate of speed that could be considered "safe" for the automobile and driver. Driver reaction time as a primary consideration for speed limiting became archaic. Instead, we began to define "safe" from an automobile manufacturing perspective. Now we call the movement of traffic “mobility”. After all, that is one of the values we embrace. We want to be mobile in a car, with our mobile telephone in hand and sometimes with our mobile computers and mobile locators. The sub-value of mobility is time. In recent generations, time has become more important, pushing us to rush from one place to another. That means we have to move a large number of vehicles sharing the road in minimum time.

For decades, the strategy has been to move people with their own vehicles from point to point. This has been a very costly strategy. Today, as the cost is getting higher to operate vehicles and to build roads and bridges, we all realize how costly this strategy can be. So, instead of using public money, we seek private money to build toll highways. Make the population, which utilize these roads, pay for what they get. Sound good? Maybe. It sure influences our choices on how to reach one place from another. But the principle reason for building networks of roads continues to be "people must be able to freely and efficiently move from point to point in their automobiles".

Two days ago, I heard someone talking about raising the speed limit on the Woodlands Parkway. Can we change the parkway to a freeway? I grimaced. OK, I thought to myself, this person would like a 70 MPH speed limit on the parkway without traffic lights. Right now, the speed limit is 45 with an additional 10mph no-ticketing policy; therefore, people travel at 55 on it regularly. The average speed is actually higher than 55 as measured by at least one county camera system. Doesn’t current driving practice already negatively impact our values? There are residents living in the back of The Woodlands who would like to see a freeway here. Therefore, we look at our constraints and decide to widen and build up. We need to take a different approach, and we are, in some aspects looking at real change.

What does all this have to do with mobility within The Woodlands? The assumptions are that all these automobiles we see out there are required to be on the road, and The Woodlands east/west transportation arteries are going to be an east/west conduit for new development towards our west. People living west of SH 2978 have to access I-45. Residents in the western part of The Woodlands also have to access I-45. Some of our residents work in Greenspoint and others in downtown Houston or the Medical Center. New data will be collected for the 2010 census that should reveal a commuting trend of local residents in and out of The Woodlands. This should be helpful in determining the commuting needs of this community.

We need to consider our values and let those values drive us to executable conclusions. Safety has to be the first on my list. There is nothing more valuable than the life of a child or resident. Second would be the quality of life that attracted us here to begin with. To me, that would be the forest and parks - their tranquility, beauty, and diversity. A third would be the hometown spirit that emerged when The Woodlands was so far separated from the big city. That spirit lives on but most evident in the eastern villages. A fourth value would be the amenities, which we all share and enjoy. Another value is the school system quality that emerged as the result of considerable resident participation and parental care over the years. I have also come to really appreciate the availability of commercial goods and services within easy reach of residents, but not infringing on the home lifestyle of residents.

This brings us to a few mobility strategies within The Woodlands that need to be driven by our values. Perhaps the very core of human value on this planet and human existence is embedded in the concept of quality and safe living in harmony with nature. That may be our very basic frame of vision. Biblically and logically, we are the caretakers of lower forms of life on this planet. We do not live in a concrete jungle and don’t want to either. Otherwise, this community would not even exist.

Here in The Woodlands, we have some very important core values which lead us to strategize the future for our community. Among those strategies, by necessity, is one of mobility and transportation. Certainly we recognize that we are a part of the whole and must play a larger community role that benefits those following us here. However, we can and must shape our own destiny and define our role among the communities in our region. That is why we chose to be ourselves and not be part of Houston or Conroe. We want to retain our own identity.

Are we threatened by the growth to our west? Certainly! Many of us are looking forward to a reduction of traffic on our thoroughfares, as The Woodlands is finally built out. Personally, I do not want our roads to serve as regional conduits for 18-wheelers moving cut trees and building materials to and from locations to our west. Neither do I wish to see service vehicles conveniently using our roads to pass through and provide services in other communities. Noise, pollution and congestion do not belong here, as well as imminent danger to our residents by easy access to our community by outside interests.

Lets not think that we must coexist with highways cutting through our community. Let's think of ourselves as a neighborhood with children playing, pedestrians walking, all enjoying a master planned community, supporting everyone in an equal visionary value system.