Items of interest from the 2007 Houston Area Survey
Last week I was able to attend Dr. Stephen Klineberg's GHP
luncheon presentation on new findings from the 2007 Houston Area Survey
. Both the presentation
and a central findings document
are available on his site if you want the full story, but here are some broad takeaways:
- People feel great about the job opportunities here, but have concerns about health care, poverty, and inequality
- People are willing to pay more for environmental improvements (although how much more for how much improvement is not clear)
- Crime is a bigger issue than traffic or the economy
- Unfortunately, tensions between racial groups have been on the rise since 2005, when Katrina and immigration became regular news items
Here are some stats that caught my eye:
- 83% of residents said Houston is a "much better" or "slightly better" place to live than other U.S. metros (up from 78% in 2005). That's some pretty impressive pride and happiness in our city.
- I like Dr. Klineberg's point that Houston has the most demographic balance between the four major ethnic groups (Anglo, Black, Hispanic, Asian) of any major U.S. city, and that we are 30-40 years ahead of the demographic trends in the rest of the country as a whole (i.e. it'll take that long until the U.S. demographics match what Houston has today).
But there are a couple of questions where I think the value of the survey breaks down:
- The support for transit over roads as a solution to congestion, which has three problems:
- When asked the question, people visualize the perfect transit solution magically appearing for them, one that goes from right near their house right to their job zipping past all the traffic. Not realistic. Since most real transit routes tend to end up slower than driving, they don't actually get chosen much when it comes to real-life personal decisions.
- They visualize everybody else taking transit to free up the roads for them, like The Onion headline classic "98% of commuters support transit for others". We've just escalated from "not realistic" to "pure fantasy."
- They don't understand the cost-benefit tradeoffs involved, which usually favors roads when it comes to really moving the most people at the least cost. If you asked them instead, "Should public transportation dollars be spent in the most cost-effective way to move the most people for the least money?", then you'd get a pretty overwhelming consensus.
- This question seems to have biased wording to me: "Need better land-use planning to guide development, or leave people free to build wherever they want?" Clearly designed to get people to choose the first one, with loaded words like "better" and "guide" - and the second one almost whispers "chaos" into your ear. Wanna bet we'd get a polar opposite response if we phrased the question, "Should you or the government control the development of your land?" Here's a more neutral wording replacement I would suggest: "Should land-use decisions be made by the free market or government planning?"
Still, overall a great source of information, trends, and history of attitudes in Houston. I highly recommend reading it in more detail
if you get a chance.
Labels: identity, land-use regulation, perspectives, transit, transportation plan