A slogan for Houston, freeways, energy, rail, AC, subsidies, and more
Continuing the smaller misc items from earlier this week:
- If you're curious about the status of any recent, present, or near-future freeway project in Houston - as well as broader issues around transportation politics and events - all the updates are on this page, a 5th anniversary update of the excellent Houston Freeways book. Hat tip and congrats to Erik. The bottom line is that we've had a recent golden era of freeway construction that is headed into an unfortunate lull over the next few years due mainly to funding constraints combined with skyrocketing construction costs - just as the energy boom is driving up growth and demand. Let's hope the legislature and TXDoT can get their act together on both public and private funding for a new transportation plan for fast-growing Texas and Houston in the next session in early 2009.
- A reader of the blog, Michael, has mashed together FBI Uniform Crime Report with Google Maps, if you'd like to take a look.
- Houston is the new Miami, according the the NY Times. Hat tip to Jeff.
- Reason makes a strong case on the coming abundance of cheap energy. Hat tip to Barry.
- The Antiplanner has run a series of blog posts concluding with 12 reasons high-speed rail just doesn't pass the cost-benefit test.
- The invisible force that shapes Houston's "flavor", according to Discover magazine: air conditioning. A point driven home by our lack of it in recent weeks. And it has definitely shaped our urban landscape against walking and for cars. We are working on better walking experiences in a few niche areas of town, but I think it will be pretty limited until somebody invents a personal-sized A/C you can walk around with (we already have personal-sized heaters - they're called "coats").
- I'm all for this plan to reform how the federal government funds transportation. Bottom line: local block grants based on cost-benefit analysis. Hat tip to Jason.
- The Austin Contrarian makes a good argument that we need to allow more experimentation with urban, high-density big-box stores.
- Check out this new site of investigative journalism, Texas Watchdog. More transparency is always a good thing.
- Randal O'Toole debunks some absurdly high claims of car and highway subsidies, and makes a good argument that no transportation mode should be subsidized by taxpayers, and if we wish to subsidize transportation for the poor, that be done through direct grants and then let them choose their preferred mode.
- Gus van Horn comments on my post about the subtle messages different cities send you about ambition.
The comparison also reminds me of a parallel I noticed when honeymooning in Australia, when my wife and I visited its two rival cities, Sydney and Melbourne.
Sydney is like the Dallas of Australia: Glitzier and a little too obsessed with getting attention for my tastes. Melbourne is more like Houston: More down-to-earth and content in its superiority to the point of not being excessively concerned that the easily-distracted might sometimes miss it.
May Houston remain contentedly superior, but never complaisant! A big part of its secret has been that it is freer than most cities, including its government not dictating to land owners what to do with their property. That freedom is being threatened once again, and we'll need to fight back....
Hmmm! Awhile back, I saw a bumper sticker saying something like, "Keep Austin Weird". Perhaps as the zoning fight heats up, supporters of freedom in land use could similarly display our sentiments: "Keep Houston Free". I like that.
I love that! Sign me up to buy the first one...
Labels: energy, identity, mobility strategies, perspectives, rail, transportation plan