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.

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