Thursday, November 13, 2008

Canada fights carpools, TX economy and housing holds up, smart grid, and more

Some smaller misc items:
  • This is the kind of government regulation run amok that drives me nuts, as Canada beats up on a web site that helps people carpool! I've always liked Canada as a country and enjoyed vacations there, although I've heard they're over-regulated and over-taxed. This example drives that home.
  • This recent PMI report says Houston is one of the lowest-risk residential markets in the nation, along with Dallas and Fort Worth. CA, FL, AZ, and Nevada top the list of high-risk areas. Hat tip to Mark at PMI, which is holding a HOPE NOW foreclosure workshop for at-risk homeowners this Saturday at Lakewood Church (8am to 2pm, prep here).
  • New American City interviews Randal O'Toole, The Antiplanner, which I discovered because it actually links back to me. Quoting Randal:
"So, I’m a pragmatist. I don’t a vision of what a city should look like, I have a vision of a process that allows people to live in the kind of city they want to live in. There’s a significant amount of people that want to live in a city like Manhattan or San Francisco. And there’s a significant amount of people who want to live in a city like Houston. And what I want is a process that allows people to live in whatever kind of city they do want to live in. I think that if a process were implemented that basically allows property owners to do what they want with their property as long as they’re not directly harming other people, and basically allows people to decide how they’re going to get around based on the real cost of transportation – making sure that auto drivers pay the full cost of their travel and making sure that people who ride transit pay the cost of they’re transit, with, perhaps, subsidies for low-income people who need help – if they have that kind of system I think most American cities would look a little more like Houston and Omaha then San Francisco or New York. But we’d still have dense areas – we’d still have Manhattan, we’d still have downtown San Francisco, for the people who want to live in places like that. [for O’Toole’s thoughts on Houston, go here]"

Check out the whole thing, were he discusses the fundamental impracticalities, meager benefits, and tremendous waste of addressing the "evils" of cars with forced density and rail transit.
CenterPoint estimates:
  • Overhead power lines with wood poles - $105,600 per mile
  • Overhead power lines with steel or concrete poles - $264,000 per mile
  • Underground power lines - $2.64 million to $3.7 million per mile
Ouch. I think that pretty much settles the "bury the lines" argument. The "smart grid" option sounds much more cost effective.
Sorry for the irregular posting schedule the last couple weeks. I hope to get back on track next week. Have a great weekend.

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4 Comments:

At 6:58 PM, November 13, 2008, Anonymous Abram said...

Hmmm... so 20 miles of underground power line = 2 miles of streetcar = 1 mile of LRT?

Interesting.

 
At 4:33 PM, November 14, 2008, Blogger Michael said...

>>This is the kind of government regulation run amok that drives me nuts, as Canada beats up on a web site that helps people carpool! I've always liked Canada as a country and enjoyed vacations there, although I've heard they're over-regulated and over-taxed. This example drives that home.

As opposed to Houston where the taxi cab business has prevented shuttles from running to IAH / Hobby until recently? Or where Southwest Airlines killed the idea of more rail connecting Texas cities? Seems like those with vested interests are going to try to preserve themselves regardless of the system of government.

Ultimately, government must be responsive to its people. Capitalists are ideally also responsive to people as well, but perhaps more responsive to their biggest shareholders and best patrons - and the rest of the citizenry be damned. Pick your poison.

 
At 6:21 PM, November 14, 2008, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Total agreement on the taxi problem. SWA just wanted a level playing field, not a subsidized competitor, which is fair.

Capitalists have to be responsive to their customers or they go out of business. Govt, on the other hand, never goes out of business, and most employees have semi-permanent job security (other than a handful of elected officials). To imagine how unresponsive govt is vs. the free market, imagine if we voted every four years for the single national car provider, or the single national coffee provider, or the single provider of anything. Voting is a very blunt instrument vs. free choices by individuals every day.

 
At 10:40 AM, November 15, 2008, Blogger Michael said...

>>Capitalists have to be responsive to their customers or they go out of business. Govt, on the other hand, never goes out of business, and most employees have semi-permanent job security (other than a handful of elected officials). To imagine how unresponsive govt is vs. the free market, imagine if we voted every four years for the single national car provider, or the single national coffee provider, or the single provider of anything. Voting is a very blunt instrument vs. free choices by individuals every day.

Government does face the prospect of going out of business - every time we vote - which is every year not every 4. This year marks the going out of business sale - and total liquidation - of Reaganomics and far-right government, and the introduction of a new pragmatic, intellectual leadership.

As for "semi-permanent" jobs etc., I'll take a government worker making a modest salary over a team of corporate execs granting themselves stock options and making 100x (or 1000x?) what their entry level employees make, shipping jobs off to China and India, producing products made with hazardous materials - and then jetting off to the Turks when their business implodes and their customers are left in the dark. And corporate boards that meet once a year to pat each other on the back. I suppose robbing money from shareholders and jobs from Americans is an effective form of seeking economic security for an MBA-type - and perhaps easier than running an effective business.

Of course I recognize the need for "free market enterprise" but I don't think this country has produced a transparent, accountable "free market" yet, and the idea that what we currently have always trumps government at solving problems or is more responsive than government is a joke to me.

 

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