Dear Houston, “Where’s the commuter train station?”

On March 25, 2014, I wrote the City Council of Houston a three part letter that included my thoughts on improving the city’s transportation, health, and economics. This is part one of that letter.

 

Dear Houston City Council,

I recently read the article in Culture Map about the new Sunday Streets program and would like to share my thoughts on reducing obesity, increasing health, and making Houston a more attractive place to live.

 

For context, I’d like to share a little about me. I’m a young professional in my early 30’s. I moved to Houston two years ago for work, living first in Tomball/Willowbrook and now in the loop. Originally from Michigan, I frequented Chicago quite often. I am in very good health and work out six days per week on average. While the below comments are constructive, I’d like to emphasize that overall I absolutely love my adopted city of Houston and these are provided as suggestions of making the city even better.

 

“Where’s the commuter train station?”

One of my first questions when I moved to the Tomball/Willowbrook area was “Where’s the commuter train station?” which lead to some puzzled looks but mostly polite laughs of my ignorance. Having only visited Houston once before moving here, I hadn’t caught on to the fact that transportation isn’t like Chicago, there is no commuter train and you need a car to go practically anywhere.

 

The City of Houston has made great strides in the past few years to incorporate public transportation into the city, but a lot of work still needs to be done. Adding more lanes, or another tollway, isn’t a long-term solution. As painful as it is, we need to invest in serious commuter rail. That is the only significant way to reduce the congestion.

 

Not only will it reduce the congestion, but it will also improve the quality of life for many of us. For a while, I was spending an average of 2 1/2 hours per day commuting. Imagine what else I could have been doing with that time.

 

Unfortunately, however, the project couldn’t end there. The problem still exists when you do arrive in the city. I was shocked at the lack of taxi options and public transportation options within the city.  The trains you’ve built have helped, but there still needs to be more transportation options in the city.

 

Put down the camera and enjoy the moment

A male pointing his camera at an object that we can't see
From flickr ginnerobot

Not too long ago, I read an article by Clifford Pugh on Culture Map titled, How Instagram is ruining New York fashion week: Shows are meant to be savored, not shot and it got me thinking. I like fashion, but what intrigued me more was what he had to say about how our incessant need to photograph every little thing and how doing so was robbing us of those moments that we should be enjoying.

This may not be true for everyone, but it is for me: The more photography, videography and visual imagery becomes part of my job, the more obsessed I’ve become with obtaining the “perfect shot.” I will wander around looking for the perfect lighting, the perfect person to represent what I need, etc. and then take hundreds of photos in a single hour. Obviously, if it’s for my work, that’s what I do, but this obsession has crept into my personal life as well.

So, last week, while I was on vacation, I tried to put down the camera. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t. And, admittedly, my obsession and her talent led one of my friends to take one of the best portrait shots I’ve seen in a very long time. But, there were a few times during the week that I was able to stop myself, put down the camera, and just soak the image in.

Reading Clifford’s article reminded me that sometimes the true beauty of something cannot be captured in a photograph, it can only be captured in a memory.