Houston resilience, transportation stimulus, and energy conservationFor those of you who didn't catch the PBS town hall forum last week, here's the video online. I think I did ok, making points about the difficulties of commuter rail in a city like ours, some deceptive transportation cost stats, and the win-win benefits of water retention parks. I'm still not sure I'm much of a fan of the TV format. There's not enough time for nuanced views - it really favors simplistic sound bites - and then there's the whole realtime problem where you can't edit out your screw-ups like you can in a blog... ;-)
The backlog of smaller misc items has been building up, so I'm going to pass along a few of them tonight:
- A good approach to energy conservation we should adopt in Houston by tapping peoples' natural competitive instincts to at least keep up with - and maybe surpass - their neighbors. Are you listening, Centerpoint?
- A nice pass-along from a NYTimes blog of businesses that are actually doing well in this economy. Hat tip to Brian. His comment:
"It is a list of around 30 types of business that are actually doing well. When you think about what kinds of businesses are common in Texas and especially Houston it is little wonder why we are fairing better. This is not just oil. From the medical center, to NASA, Waste Management, to all the ugly industries that Houston has a large footprint in, but most people ignore."
- Another good pass-along, this time from Reason:
Transit Trips Take Longer Than Car Trips in 272 of 276 Metro Areas
Reason Foundation's Director of Urban Growth Sam Staley testified before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on Tuesday. Staley urged Congress to prioritize transportation solutions that increase our mobility and decrease traffic congestion. Staley suggested that Congress keep transit's role "in context" in the stimulus bill and upcoming transportation reauthorization bill. Staley finds: "Despite recent gains in ridership, public transit remains a relatively small part of the overall travel equation in most major urbanized areas in the U.S. Notably, higher gas prices contributed to a reduction in road travel by 100 billion vehicle miles traveled in 2008, according to the Federal Highway Administration, a fall of about 4 percent. Public transit experienced an increase of about 5 percent. Yet, because transit carries a very small portion of travel, transit was able to capture just 3 percent of the overall decline in road travel. In addition, the kinds of policies that will be necessary to fundamentally change land use to boost transit ridership significantly would require a dramatic and largely involuntary relocation of people and families into housing they do not want. The single-family, detached house would be an option only for the wealthier income brackets in our major urban areas, effectively inverting the existing distribution of home options and choices. A policy that focuses largely on shifting travelers out of cars and into transit will reduce mobility. An examination of work trip travel times in 276 metropolitan areas found that the length of public transit trips exceeded those for private automobiles in 272 of those areas. On average, public transit riders spend about 36 minutes traveling to work while private automobile travelers commute about 21 minutes."