Articles

HISD Department of Transportation Honored for Use of "Green" School Buses

The Houston Independent School District Department of Transportation has been honored with the inaugural Leadership with Propane Autogas Award by the Propane Education and Research Council.

HISD is the only school district in Texas, and one of three in the country, to be recognized by the council for creating a cleaner environment for student bus riders by using propane school buses. The award recipients were announced last week in Reno, Nev. at the Green Bus Summit.

“I’m incredibly proud of our transportation department for receiving this prestigious award,” said HISD Board President Manuel Rodríguez. “It is important that we do our part to protect Houston’s air quality while also being good stewards of tax dollars.”

The district was offered more than $2 million by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Railroad Commission of Texas in 2011 to fund 70 percent of the cost of green buses. That same year, HISD unveiled 25 propane buses and over the past six years has added more than 100 alternatively fueled buses to its fleet. There are plans to increase the number of green buses to 250 in the next few years.

“I’m honored that we were one of three districts in the nation to receive this award,” said HISD General Manager of Transportation Nathan Graf. “It speaks highly of our mechanics and our team that we took steps to green our fleet.”

Propane buses emit fewer emissions and toxins into the air, deliver better fuel economy, reduce engine noise, and require less maintenance. The use of green buses also helps lower the district’s operating costs while providing cleaner air for Houston students.

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Houston's Harvest Green Adds Homes

Author: Les Shaver

With nearly 65% of its Phase One home sites already sold in less than a year, Houston area "farm-centric" community Harvest Green is adding another 262 available properties in three neighborhoods.

Open now, the three new neighborhoods feature 50-, 55- and 60-foot home sites. Current builders will continue their existing programs within the new enclaves.

Harvest Green's builders include D.R. Horton, Darling Homes, David Weekley HomesHighland Homes, Lennar, Meritage Homes, Newmark Homes, Perry Homes, Plantation Homes, Trendmaker Homes and Westin Homes. Homes are prices from the $240,000s.

“The response from prospective buyers has been phenomenal,” said Shay Shafie, general manager of Harvest Green in a press release. “Builders sold 85 homes within three months of beginning pre-sales last fall, so we knew we’d have to be ready with new home sites soon.”

Residents enjoy access to two on-site farms — both yielding produce — as well as a range of community events, many of which revolve around food and sustainability. Home owners have the option for backyard gardens and later this year will be able to farm individual plots in the community’s Village Farm. A farm-share program also is in the works, which will allow residents to purchase weekly supplies of fresh produce.

A recreation center, called The Promenade, featuring a pool, fitness center, splash pad, event lawn, playground, and lakeside amphitheater is under construction. Fort Bend Independent School District expects to break ground soon on an elementary school in Harvest Green, which will join Bowie Middle School and Travis High School, both located on-site.

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Community Design: How a New Pocket Park Came to the Near Northside

Not all vacant lots are the same. Some are nestled between residential lots and looked after by neighbors; some are littered and adjacent to highways; still others have a nascent appeal that can benefit from the right intervention.

One such lot is located along Fulton Street between Panama Street and Hammock Street in the Near Northside. The property consists of two vacant lots owned by the City of Houston’s Parks and Recreation Department. A crosswalk connects the property to a light rail stop. There are commercial properties along Fulton to the north, south, and west; to the east is a residential area. Currently, there is one tree in the middle of the site, overgrown brambles and a row of trees along the fence on the eastern side of the property, and a utility right-of-way with power lines that bisect the lot.

Community members have long wanted to create a pocket park here. Recently, they worked with the Greater Northside Management District(GNMD) to realize that vision.

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Houston's Development Boom and Reduction of Wetlands Leave Region Flood Prone

PATTISON — Coffee brown water flows through ditches in rural Waller County, the remnant of storms that drenched the Katy Prairie during Houston's Tax Day flood.

Weeks after that epic rainfall, the prairie is awash in daisies and blue and purple horesemint flowers. Beavers take advantage of ponds brimming with water, and nearby dirt roads show little evidence of being recently inundated.

"This is how the land is supposed to act," said Mary Anne Piacentini, executive director of the Katy Prairie Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust. "It's supposed to absorb water and filter out pollutants. It's not supposed to send it roaring into the rivers and bayous and homes."

In the greater Houston area, though, the staggering increase of impervious surfaces — roads, sidewalks, parking lots, anything covered with asphalt and concrete — has exacerbated the effects of flooding as development in the region has exploded. When land is covered by these surfaces, it loses ability to act like a sponge and soak up water. Things are further complicated in flat-as-a-pancake Houston, where much of the soil is heavily compacted and acts like pavement anyway, sending sheets of storm water to the nearest low-lying area. 

A recent analysis of federal satellite data by the Houston Advanced Research Center for the Houston Chronicle shows that 337,000 acres of 1.1 million acres in Harris County were covered by impervious surfaces in 2011, the most recent year of data. That dwarfs surrounding counties, but the analysis shows many are catching up as the onslaught of development continues pushing from the city farther into the suburbs.

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