Houston's vulnerability, top rankings, and more
- A newsletter I read, "Musings from the Oil Patch", takes issue with the Dallas Fed's characterization of Houston's energy vulnerability:
"Houston’s energy industry does have a vulnerability, but it’s not $40 a barrel oil and $4 a Mcf natural gas. It is plug-in automobiles that can run for hundreds of miles on one charge, powered by low-cost, long-lived batteries. That’s when you are talking about change that will alter Houston’s energy franchise. But just as New Bedford, Massachusetts, the capital of the U.S. whaling industry, didn’t die immediately after kerosene and rock oil were introduced into the illumination fuel mix, neither will the oil and gas business die overnight with the introduction of battery-powered automobiles, either. However, the question oil industry executives should be pondering is whether there are, or will be, opportunities for them in the energy business of the last half of this decade. Houston has always been populated by risk-oriented entrepreneurs so we remain confident about the long-term health of this city. But energy as a “definite liability” seems a bit too harsh a characterization of Houston in 2009."
- Lisa Gray has a Chronicle column on Bob Bruegmann's visit to Houston. Bob is probably the most famous defender of sprawl with his book, "Sprawl: A Compact History". I got to have dinner with him while he was here, and it was a very engaging conversation on the nature of Houston. He was clearly curious to see and learn everything he could about how we developed.
- Houston's fascinating public art on guidespot. Hat tip to Jack.
- The Austin Contrarian digs into a little data to analyze minimum parking requirements, albeit with high-density downtown Austin projects. Not sure of the applicability to Houston. Still hoping somebody with access to the data will do an analysis for here.
- The Houston region was named the #1 metro area in the nation for corporate location and expansion activity according to Site Selection magazine, ahead of Dallas and Chicago. Texas as a state came in #2 behind Ohio (?!). Excerpts:
Several factors contributed to Houston's sudden surge to the top of the chart, explains Moseley. "The quality of a place is tied to the affordability of a community," he says. "According to a recent study by the Center for an Urban Future, it takes fewer dollars to be middle class in Houston than it does in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta or Charlotte. It takes just $50,000 in annual income to be middle class in Houston."
By comparison, noted Moseley, it takes $123,000 to be middle class in New York, $80,000 in Los Angeles, and $63,000 in Chicago.
"Even though we are the number four city in America in population, the cost of living and the cost of doing business is so much of an extreme bargain here," Moseley says. "Plus, we have a delightful climate, we are in the Central Time Zone, and we are the gateway for trade into Central and South America."
Moseley says deals like this are the byproduct of a stable market. "A lot of things are organically happening here," he notes. "We did not have a run-up in residential construction and pricing. We don't have zoning, which causes artificial values to be placed on real estate. As a result, there is confidence in the local economy, and we don't have the huge numbers of foreclosures.
"The reality is that your dollar goes so much farther here," he adds. "That allows us to be more proactive in going after jobs."
Read the whole thing for some detailed examples of the expansions happening here. Hat tip to Christiana at the Partnership.
- On the downside, Houston has been ranked with the #6 worst congestion in the country. Still, we're down 16% from 2007. Another interesting fact: our worst congestion is in the fall, and best is in the summer. Check out the national map here with red blobs for congestion. CA and the northeast corridor are pretty scary. Some commentary and analysis from The Mighty Wizard:
"So, what about Houston? Well, Houston's scorecard can be viewed here. What I find interesting are two things. First, Houston's overall congestion is measured at only 34 percent of that found in Los Angeles, the most congested metropolitan area in the United States. That is because LA has the fewest miles per capita of freeways of any major metropolitan area in America. Second, the data confirms what is probably intuitively obvious to many Houstonians. The overall worst traffic bottlenecks in the Houston area are to be found in the Galleria area. Six out of the top eleven worst bottlenecks are found along IH 610 Loop (southbound and northbound) and various entry or exits to the Galleria, including Westheimer, San Felipe, and Post Oak Boulevard. The exit at 610 Loop and Richmond Avenue comes in at number 22 on the bottleneck list.
The good news is that none of Houston's interchanges make the top 100 list of Inrix's worst segments or interchanges for traffic bottlenecks. The bad news, comparatively, is that every single one of Houston's 25 worst bottlenecks climbed up the overall rankings for bottleneck severity when comparing the 2008 data to the 2007 data, but that almost certainly reveals that the downturn in 2008 has affected Houston less than it has other areas of the country, an observation confirmed by the fact that Houston's travel time index declined only slightly in 2008 verses 2007."
Here's a map of Houston's congested intersections from NeoHouston.OK, that's more than enough crammed into one post.