CAL-UAL HQ, planning debate, subsidies, rankings, airport rail, and moreYet again, I've let the smaller items pile up:
- There will be a dialogue/debate on Houston land-use regulation at the George R. Brown this Tuesday evening Feb 26. David Crossley, Arthur Nelson, Wendell Cox, and Mayor Bob Lanier are participating, and yours truly will be giving the introduction. More info and RSVP here. Hope to see you there.
- NYT on the slowdown in exurb homebuilding in Texas, with a focus on a small town outside Dallas. The state is still booming overall, but the mortgage credit crunch, especially at the low end, is hitting builders on the fringes hard.
- An interesting stat on airport rail from a recent comment by DavidH:
"Regarding recent proposal that Houston needs rail to the airports "because all world-class cities have one", it should be noted according to a study done some time ago that the most heavily used airport rail in the country was Reagan National (Wash DC) where 11% of departures/arrivals used rail. All other cities were under 5%. Nobody except maybe visitors to downtown want to schlep their bags on a 15 mph rail ride to the airports."
I agree, and I've said before that the market here is a niche one plenty well served by buses: young singles who can't get a ride to the airport. Business travelers will almost always rent a car or take a taxi. Families won't schlep their luggage on transit. Most others will have friends or family pick them up or drop them off. And our off-site airport parking is dirt cheap. The ridership drivers just aren't there.
- Houston has been ranked as the #3 most underrated city in the country, behind Baltimore and Ft. Lauderdale. Hat tip to HAIF.
- We've also been ranked by Forbes #7 on their "Best Cities for Jobs" 2008 list, along with Austin, Ft. Worth, McAllen, and San Antonio. Texas is definitely hot. Hat tip to Joel.
- A great picture of dynamic Houston development from HAIF.
- Some stats on the subsidies for roads vs. transit, which is a constant point of debate in the comments here and elsewhere. An excerpt:
"He believes there are “enormous government subsidies” for driving. In fact, in 2005, the subsidies to the 4.4 trillion passenger miles of driving were $17.9 billion, or less than 0.4 cents per passenger mile. By comparison, the subsidies to the 47 billion passenger miles of transit were $29.4 billion, or 62 cents per passenger mile.
Subsidies to transit have outpaced subsidies to driving for decades, yet transit still makes up only about 1 percent of passenger travel. Somehow, I suspect that if 0.4-cent-per-passenger-mile subsidies had as much influence on American travel habits as Nozzi presumes, then 62-cent-per-passenger-mile subsidies would be even more significant. But they haven’t been."
- If you haven't already gotten this in the emails going around town:
"Please go to this web site and vote for Houston (Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital) to get a new hospital playroom from Colgate. It is an easy process and would benefit so many of our children who spend their time at the hospital. Send it on to all you know and see if we can't win this for the kids. Thank you so much for your help with this."I may have mentioned before on this blog that I'm somewhat of an amateur follower of the airline industry. In that vein, I thought I'd throw in some material about the rumored Continental-United merger that is expected to follow a Delta-NWA merger announcement. Some of you may even remember an op-ed I wrote in the Chronicle five years ago calling for exactly this merger when United declared bankruptcy. It's been well covered in the Chronicle, including this story on the headquarters issue: Houston or Chicago? The Airliners.net forums have discussions on the issue here, here, and here.
When I last checked, we were barely in first place, with Detroit coming on strong. You can vote every day, so just keep it open in a browser tab.
Most of the sentiment seems to be that Houston will probably win out - not only because of a friendlier and more affordable business climate, but also because Continental's management team is widely considered the stronger of the two (especially by Wall Street): it's easier to cherry-pick the UAL management stars and move them to Houston than try to mass-move CAL management to Chicago. And it probably doesn't hurt that UAL CEO Glenn Tilton has a history in the oil biz.
There's also someone claiming to have inside information that both the Continental brand and Houston headquarters will stay. I know you have to take what you read on the internet with a grain (or a shaker) of salt, but he sounds credible.
I'd like to end with a nice quote from former Continental CEO Gordon Bethune in the Chronicle interview:
Q: So what do you think about a combination of Continental and United?
A: If this were a chess game, then ... Continental taking over United would be called checkmate, end of game, home run, it is all over. When you put these two companies together with their route networks, you've got the Pacific, you've got the West Coast, you've got the Midwest, you've got the Southwest, you've got the East Coast, New York, Europe and Latin America. You are all around the world. You are a really good company. You can compete with Lufthansa, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, it doesn't matter. You are a powerhouse. That is what this country needs, is a couple of those. If you are going to compete globally, and Open Skies is going to make it a global marketplace, you better have global reach.
What would be so wrong to have the biggest airline in the world right here?