Rail Anti-Christ, HOV->HOT, rankings, HSR, popular cities, and moreAfter the PBS town hall a couple weeks ago, first one and then another person commented or emailed me referring to the "Rail Anti-Christ". I didn't understand what they were referring to, but figured it couldn't be a coincidence. After inquiring, they explained it to me. The videos of the town hall are online here. If you go to the 16:52 point in the first video, you can see my comments on the difficulties of rail in Houston. I will admit I made a mistake not differentiating commuter rail from our current inner city rail plan (although they both have their own issues). Then, if you go to the 15:25 point in the second video, you'll see Frank Wilson, CEO of Metro, refer to me as the "Rail Anti-Christ". It completely went by me while I was there. It seems a little harsh given the mildness of my original rail comment, which I only made because the facilitator asked for a negative view on rail, nobody else jumped in, and I felt the devil's advocate (;-) point-of-view needed to be put on the table. On the one hand it stings a little, but on the other it means I must be having an impact on the debate. People tend to ignore non-threats but lash out at perceived real threats.
Moving on to the rapidly growing list of smaller misc items:
- Thomas Friedman of the NY Times backs my solution to the housing crisis, as does the widely-read economics blog Marginal Revolution. Maybe it'll get some traction in DC now that the big guns are backing it. Hat tip to Brian.
- Houston has the world's 8th tallest skyline, according to Forbes, and only NYC and Chicago are ahead of us in America. Hat tip to HAIF.
- If you've ever wondered how Houston ranks in office space, lockmat has put together a nice set of lists on HAIF here.
- Pew Research released a list of cities where people want to live, with Denver on top. Houston was middle of the pack along with NYC, Chicago, and Dallas, which is not bad given our climate and topography disadvantages. San Antonio was surprisingly strong, which I think exposes the tourism-bias of the list ("Oh yeah, I went to the Riverwalk once and it was nice - probably a good city to live in."). Here's the NY Times version of the story if you want more.
- NeoHouston has an interesting concept for a West Gray streetcar, including maps and nice graphics. The problem, I think, would be giving up rail right-of-way on two more north-south streets downtown, especially those streets that carry a ton of traffic to and from the 59 Spur - not to mention the east-west crossing problems it would add along with the Main St. LRT.
- The Austin Contrarian critically dissects the new Texas T-bone high speed rail proposal, and concludes it doesn't make any sense. I tend to agree, with my own thoughts here.
- My quotes in the Chronicle supporting the conversion of HOV lanes to HOT. This is an area where Metro is on the right track by not involving actual tracks. Since Chronicle articles don't stay online long (ugh!), here's the relevant excerpt for posterity:
"Tolling Infrastructure Anti-Christ", anyone? ;-)
In its brochure Metro said it could use $70 million to convert 83 miles of under-used HOV lanes on the Northwest, North, Southwest, Eastex and Gulf freeways to toll lanes.
Carpoolers would still get to ride for free while single drivers could pay to use the lanes. The toll fees would be used for patrols, maintenance and repairs.
Why not just eliminate the HOV lanes altogether? Wouldn’t an extra, unrestricted lane help with congestion? And couldn’t the money then be put somewhere else?
Tory Gattis, Houston Strategies blogger, considers the HOV-lane conversion a long overdue idea. He’s also a proponent of fares that can be adjusted “on the fly” during traffic surges.
Fixed-price lanes, he said, can get clogged when weather is bad or after accidents.
The Harris County Toll Road Authority would be the best fit to manage those lanes, given that they already have the technology in place, Gattis said.
“There’s no reason to duplicate all the infrastructure HCTRA has at Metro,” he said.
The managed or HOV toll lanes also are a good idea in Gattis’ book because “HOV lanes often find themselves stuck between the two-person and three-person rule.”
The two-person rule for HOV lanes creates too much demand on the system, while three drops demand off too much because it eliminates couples from sharing rides, he added.
Hope you enjoy your Friday-the-13th+Valentines+Presidents Day weekend. (how's that for a strange combination?)