Whose "quality of place"?, transportation history, and Houston mixed-useThree miscellaneous pass-alongs today:
- A blog post comparing creative class rankings with domestic migration census data, finding an inverse relationship: a higher CC ranking tends to have lower, or reverse, migration. By far the most migration is to outer counties in any case - not central cores, with Portland being a prime example (80% outside the urban growth boundary). Conclusion:
"...the data shows that the overwhelming majority of movement within US metropolitan areas is away from locations architects and planners consider to have “quality of place.” For most people, it seems clear that “quality of place” means something quite different than what passes for the conventional wisdom."
The implication, IMHO, is that "quality of place" has to be combined with cost-of-living to get to real net value, and attract migrants and growth. To use a car analogy, the "sweet spot" for most buyers is neither high-end Mercedes nor low-end Yugo, but mid-level, high-value Toyota Camry or Honda Accord (or, in Texas' case, a Toyota Tundra truck). A lot of the Sunbelt cities fall in this category. Not just Houston, but DFW, Austin, Atlanta, Phoenix, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham. (See update/clarification below)
- Neal has a very interesting post on the history of transportation costs and their steady decline, even in the 1700's. Even back then, the upper classes complained about the lower classes using more affordable transportation to join them in the country. His conclusion:
"300 years later, some people are still complaining that mankind's vastly increased mobility has resulted in the same urban ills. It seems that for some people, the more things change the more things stay the same. At the same time, one really does need to remember that one of the primary reasons why we build the cities we do today is because we can - due to the staggering drops of transportation costs in real terms. Otherwise we would still be living in huddled and cramped conditions."
- A Chronicle article asks: Can Houston support all of the mixed-use projects under construction? Hard to say, but one thing is clear from this article: "mixed-use" does not mean "mixed-income." They're all aimed at the high end of the market. I don't blame them - that's the economics of new development and mixed-use - but let's not kid ourselves about the transit ridership from these places with this customer base. As a matter of fact, only one of them on the map is anywhere close to a planned GRT line - BLVD Place on Post Oak - and the anchor tenant for that one is a flagship Whole Foods, which is not exactly the ideal shopping trip for transit (how many grocery sacks can you carry on a train?). If we want future inner loop growth to make fewer car trips, let's hope the next round of developments are more transit-oriented and aimed at a more modest demographic.
"The discussion of changes in "domestic migration" is interesting, but seems to fall short of the total picture. Hopefully readers will understand that the core counties in the various CMSAs (the Census term for metropolitan regions) cited are not necessarily losing total population. Many, like Harris and Travis counties in Texas, have and are growing substantially due to natural increase (births minus deaths in the resident population) and positive net migration (from persons previously resident to the US (in the last census) and new immigrants from other countries. Nor does the analysis look at total growth in the various metropolitan areas, which is also strongly positive.
It would be wrong if the reader were to conclude that improvements in "quality of life" has reduced the economic vitality of either the heart of metropolitan areas (which is not supported by Census data) or that the growth in major metropolitan areas (whether in the central county or adjacent ones) is unrelated to improvements in "quality of life"."
I absolutely agree on the importance of quality of life. But affordability cannot be ignored. And I believe that some well-known cities that have focused exclusively on QoL and ignored affordability are experiencing reduced economic vitality and growth compared to more balanced cities (such as in the Sunbelt).