Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tech jobs, Kotkin NS, uncool NYC, wi-fi hitches, CVB award, Emirates IAH, commutes and sprawl

It's time again to clean out my "miscellaneous small items" queue, which has exploded in the last week or so. Should provide plenty of linked reading material for your weekend.
  • Texas has been ranked #2 in high-tech jobs, behind CA
  • Joel Kotkin explains the New Suburbanism concept (or, if you prefer, an audio podcast version). He mentions The Woodlands as an example, and has this to say about Houston:
A less extreme but still flawed notion contends that metropolitan areas dominated by auto-centered suburbs somehow lack the intrinsic community values that informed traditional cities. Andres Duany, for example, has written that in sprawling, multi-polar cities like Phoenix and Houston "civic life has almost ceased to exist" and that many people in these areas complain about their quality of life.

Yet one would be hard-pressed to say a Phoenix or a Houston has a less vibrant civic culture -- witness the remarkable grassroots response of Houston to the Katrina disaster. Nor can one say that there has been more widespread disenchantment there than in more traditional transit-oriented cities like Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. After all, these cities have been losing population and jobs while the sprawling ones have been growing. Places like Houston and Phoenix are also developing many of the elements of civic culture, such as great hospitals, museums, and cultural centers, that tend to arise in vibrant, commercially vital cities.
...
As jobs move to the suburban periphery, the commutes for residents there, as Harvard's Ed Glaeser has demonstrated, tend to be shorter than those who live in denser, more transit-oriented places. Far-flung Houstonians, for example, suffer much shorter commutes on average than New Yorkers or Chicagoans.
  • A column on how Manhattan is becoming uncool, as high costs drive out young people, artists, and independent retail.
  • Problems pioneer cities are having with rolling out wireless internet - and hopefully Houston can avoid.
  • Houston awarded Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Year. Quote: "Houston is certainly one of the more aggressive cities we work with. Everything is always well-coordinated and well-executed. Things just go right when we work with Houston."
  • Emirates is still looking at adding nonstop Houston-Dubai service soon, which would be nice gem in our international service portfolio:

Americans who haven't heard of Emirates soon may get the chance to fly with them. For now, Emirates operates just two daily flights to New York, but Sheik Ahmed said the carrier will add a third flight this year.

As Emirates' order of 60 long-range Boeing 777s starts arriving, West Coast and Midwest terminals might soon see the carrier's trademark Arabic calligraphy tail logo.

"With the introduction of the 777-LR, we can talk about Houston and Chicago," Sheik Ahmed said. "Over the next six years, we'll be receiving one or two aircraft per month."

Studies show 7.6 percent of U.S. commuters traveled more than an hour to work in 2004, the most recent data available, up from 6 percent in 1990. The average one-way commute grew by 13 percent to 25.5 minutes between 1990 and 2000.

In 1990, only in New York state did more than 10 percent of workers spend more than an hour to get to work, Pisarski said. Now that situation can be found in New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and California as well, he said.

...

Longer commutes frequently involve people who live in one suburb and work in another, said Alan Pisarski, author of "Commuting in America."

Such a pattern tends to begin with companies moving out of a city to a suburb, enticing workers to move to less-expensive outer suburbs, he told Reuters. "People see this as an opportunity to go farther away," he said.

Such a move may provide more affordable housing or better schools. Even high fuel costs -- Givens spends about $185 a week on gasoline -- can pay off in a better quality of life, Pisarski said.

I've been making this point for a while: the paradox that not making mobility investments - especially freeways - actually encourages sprawl rather than reducing it, because employers move to the suburbs, and then their employees can move even farther out and still have a reasonable commute. Houston has actually done a pretty good job investing in freeway/HOV expansions and kept jobs in the core, thus actually somewhat containing sprawl - especially when compared to cities like DFW and Atlanta. Still, we can only do so much, and, just as NASA in Clear Lake enables commuters from Galveston, I expect growing job centers in The Woodlands and Sugar Land will push people even deeper into Montgomery and Ft. Bend counties.

We do have one helpful countervailing force though: the strength of the energy industry cluster. People who expect to move among different energy companies through their career might choose more central living to enable more employers to be within commuting range without moving. If, for example, you work for Anadarko in The Woodlands and choose to live north of Conroe, you've just created a major barrier to switching employers to one of the more centrally-located energy companies. Cities like DFW and Atlanta have more diversified economies, which makes employer switching a bit less likely and extreme sprawl a bit more likely. If you work for Home Depot in Atlanta, are you very likely to jump to Coke or UPS? If you work for TI in Dallas, are you going to jump to JC Penny or Exxon? Possible, but not as likely as a switch within the same industry. And if you think you're likely to switch, you might give careful consideration to a home location that maximizes your options.

5 Comments:

At 2:50 AM, April 28, 2006, Anonymous Thomas said...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let Emirates begin direct IAH-DXB service ASAP.

I had to travel to Dubai last January. The least-cost option was KLM via Amsterdam. No real complaints - KLM got me from Bush Intercontinental to Amsterdam Schiphol and then from Schiphol to Dubai in their usual, Dutch businesslike manner. But the eight-hour layover in Amsterdam was kind of a bummer. Furthermore, I was struck by the fact that I was one of dozens of people making the same IAH-AMS-DXB journey.

Same thing on the way back. I was amazed by all the people who got on the KLM plane with me in Dubai who ended up in customs with me at Bush IAH many long hours later.

For whatever reason, there seems to be a significant movement of people between Houston and Dubai on a daily basis. The sooner airlines like Emirates (or, for that matter, Continental) capitalize on this pattern, the better.

 
At 6:43 AM, April 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you say that not investing in freeways promotes sprawl, but yet the cities that are the poster children for sprawl are the ones that are heavily freeway-ed!

 
At 9:57 AM, April 28, 2006, Blogger David said...

Kotkin has got to be one of the most clever thieves in the planning world. In this column you refer to he almost specifically takes all the tenets of New Urbanism and rebrands them with his term New Suburbanism and then rakes New Urbanists over the coals. The fact the the name "New Urbanism" is only about 15 years old doesn't mean that the concepts of Old Urbanism, which are the same as New, weren't at work in many places, Reston and the others among them. The point is to build communities that are as self-sufficient as possible in a network of self-sufficient communities. Renaming "growth management" to "smart growth" was a very clever move, too, the difference being it was a large group of people renaming their own concept, not stealing somebody else's after spending a long time criticizing it.

 
At 4:03 PM, April 28, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

To be honest, all cities sprawl, inc. the NYC metro area. The question is whether jobs stay in the core or move to the periphery and thus spread the sprawl even farther - and that's determined by the mobility to the core - inc. freeways. SoCal is the epitome of inadequate freeway sprawl, with almost no Fortune 500 HQs in the city of LA, but plenty spread all over the greater metro.

 
At 10:43 AM, April 29, 2006, Anonymous Brian S. said...

I think that taking even a cursory look at freeway layout can quickly determine a city's downtown density and health. Looking at LA and Dallas their transportation systems are a lattice that leaves many place equally attractive for commute times. Houston has a wheel and spoke system that helps downtown, but also leaves room for the Galleria and Westchase. Chicago is spoke only and their downtown is extremely dense with few other high-rise office complexes away from Lake Michigan.

 

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