Battery tech, baby boom 2, rail vs. ridership (and stadium), energy trading, and Texas job growthAn assortment of smaller items today:
- Stanford researchers claim they can get a 10x improvement in lithium ion batteries. If the improvement can be manufactured affordably and reliably, it would certainly be a great improvement for laptops and cell phones, but the larger potential is plug-in hybrid cars that get through a typical commute-day using no gasoline at all. Toyota and GM are already announcing plug-in hybrids using existing battery technology for 2010 or so. This can only help their cost, weight, and performance. Good news for the environment, but another sign that Houston's oil & gas industry needs to be diversifying into a broader array of energy sources over the long-term...
- Story out this week that the U.S. is having a mini-baby boom, with fertility rates far higher than most of the developed world (Europe, Japan). We're back up to 2.1 children per woman, which is the break-even replacement rate. They speculate on several reasons, but as I've noted before, when people become more affluent, they want more private space. If they can't afford more space (as is common in Europe and Japan), they compensate by having fewer children to keep household size down. The U.S. has just been through a seven-year housing boom with low rates and easy credit allowing people to move from rental apartments to home ownership, or upgrade to a larger home. The average house size in America keeps growing. It's only natural for a baby boomlet to follow.
- Tom comments on an inauspicious op-ed in the LA Times pointing out that LA transit ridership dropped precipitously as they shifted money from affordable, extensive bus service to a rail network, and has only started to bounce back since the courts forced them to put money back into bus service:
"Taking all this into consideration and adjusting for inflation, the MTA has spent more than $11 billion since 1986 to build its rail network, and the effect has been to reduce total transit ridership on the system by more than 3 billion boardings. That's a bizarre result."
Metro's overall ridership has also dropped after the opening of the Main St. line, and this doesn't bode well for the larger network now being built. It's not just that the new lines will lead to more transfers and longer trip times (as they will), but they also use money that could have been used for more frequent bus service subsidized at lower prices to attract more riders. I do think the new network will help attract more people to the HOV express commuter buses (since they can easily get around town during the day without a car), but unfortunately I doubt that will be enough to compensate for the other ridership losses.
- Speaking of rail, Christof notes that the proposed new eastside soccer stadium for the Dynamo also would block the eastside rail line, as well as almost all continuous east-west streets to downtown. It might still be able to get down Texas, but then we're talking about one of the only through east-west streets losing lanes for rail, creating a constricting bottleneck. Doesn't seem like a good move. Couldn't the stadium be shifted a couple blocks north or south to keep some through streets?
- In case you missed them, a couple good articles from the Chronicle. The first is on the resurgence of the financial and physical energy trading industry in Houston since the Enron collapse. Most top-tier world cities have a major financial industry business base of some kind (including commodities trading in Chicago). That's the industry where the big money is: revenues, profits, salaries, and bonuses (just ask NYC and London). It's good that Houston is developing that leg of our economy to go along with oil and gas, the medical center, aerospace, and the port.
- Here's the second item of note:
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend. It's supposed to be a bit chilly, but I guarantee it'll be a lot warmer than Green Bay or Foxborough...
Forbes touts Texas as haven for jobs
Texas is a hot spot for jobs in 2008, according to Forbes.com.
The publication released its third annual list of the 100 best cities for jobs. Austin was No. 3; Fort Worth, No. 5; Houston, No. 7; San Antonio, No. 11; McAllen, No. 33; and El Paso, No. 49. (where's Dallas? Ah, just found it at #18)
"It seems like the Lone Star State is the place to go if you're looking to start a career or continue the one you've got," said Matthew Kirdahy, a reporter with Forbes.com, who wrote the article.
Forbes compiled the list from Moody's Economy.com data, including unemployment rate, job growth, income growth, median household income and cost of living, Kirdahy said. Salt Lake City was No. 1 and Wichita, Kan., was No. 2.