Sharring experiences in urban infrastructure delivery.

Archive for the ‘Sidewalk Features’

Tree “Staples” in lieu of stakes and wires

February 17, 2010 By: Tom Davis Category: Sidewalk Features

TreeStaplesWalker ExposedCloseup.jpgIn downtown Houston in the past ten years we have planted hundreds of trees in new tree wells. Along with the streets being lined now with leafy plumes we have, in most cases, the three tall stakes with twisted wires through hoses around the trunk of each young tree. The support is absolutely necessary with the occasional strong winds in Houston–particularly when the wind is channeled through the buildings and the streets become wind tunnels. But, the stakes-wires-hoses are unattractive, interfere with opening car doors and pedestrians on crowded sidewalks must dodge them. An alternative is the Tree Staple. (more…)


Changing to Pay-&-Display parking meters-Appearance Issues

February 05, 2010 By: Tom Davis Category: Parking, Sidewalk Features

Solar powered pay-and-display parking meter.Many issues were considered when the City of Houston wanted to change parking meters. The change was to be from a mixture of single/dual space meters on a single post along with modern multi-space meters–recently added in the Cotswold area of downtown–to the more sophisticated solar-powered, micro-processor controlled, wifi networked, parking meter. This first post about our conversion relates how we mitigated the issue of the meter’s high-tech appearance in front of a historic structure.  I will offer other posts about the transition as you may be surprised how many hot points can be touched by a parking meter debate. (more…)

Paver Inserts–New Life for Concrete Sidewalks

January 09, 2010 By: Tom Davis Category: Sidewalk Features

Concrete sidewalks can become an addition to the streetscape rather than just a gray strip that contributes nothing to the experience.Paver panels added to existing sidewalk by sawing in tool joint. Final product appears as if built at same time. Replacing the entire sidewalk is usually not feasible. We tried something new that uses the existing sidewalk as the framework and only replaces a uniform area that can be easily removed and filled to create a classy, customized feature. (more…)

Historic Markers on Texas Avenue

January 01, 2010 By: Tom Davis Category: Placemaking, Sidewalk Features

HistoricMarkerTxAtSanJac.jpgToday is January 1, 2010 and I thought it appropriate to spot-light a history-related amenity on the streets in downtown Houston. The Historic Markers, as they are called, are on Texas Avenue between Smith and Avenida de las Americas (map). Each one is a very heavy cast iron structure made up of several components stacked on top of each other around a street light pole with historical information panels at eye level.

The design of the castings is, at least for me, reminiscent of the train industry. That is appropriate as the center of Texas Avenue hosted a freight rail track in the early days of Houston. In fact the track is still there as we tried to install a water line under it but found the 2-foot think concrete base still held there–with the rails. It was far too much trouble and expense to remove.


Another Innovative Access Solution & Street Reconstruction Challenges

December 28, 2009 By: Tom Davis Category: Sidewalk Features

Preface – This is a follow-up to an earlier post about unusual solutions to provide accessible pedestrian pathways to crosswalks at intersections. What creates the need for these solutions is the difference in the existing grades of the adjacent buildings and the street–even if the street is being completely rebuilt.

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At Bell and San Jacinto Streets is an innovative solution to provide access from each approaching sidewalk to the crosswalks and around the corner while not exposing the building’s foundation.SanJac at Bell2.jpg The handrails make the sidewalk appear cluttered but are necessary from a practical perspective and to comply with TDLR–the State of Texas agency with accessibility requirements that are more demanding than ADA. (more…)

Planter Beds–Seperating Pedestrians from Parking Lots

December 27, 2009 By: Tom Davis Category: Sidewalk Features

Downtown Houston has a lot of room to grow into the parking lots–even in the “high-rise” district. CIMG8562.JPGThe condition of the lots is almost totally at the discretion of the parking lot owners and their operating company if they have one. Most are kept ok but the drawback is the bleak, barren space that blends too easily with the public/pedestrian area; i.e. the sidewalk. At night the darker lots with cars next to the sidewalk worry some walkers that someone could be hiding in the shadows of the cars. Even though downtown Houston has the lowest crime rate in the City that is not much comfort for the pedestrian at night. (more…)