MetroRail cost disputes, TX growth, rankings, and moreOK, my queue of smaller misc items has been spiraling out of control, so here are some of them:
- A Dallas Morning News editorial by columnist William McKenzie discussing my post on Texas and America's four great growth waves can be found here. Hat tip to David Winans. A recent Bloomberg article also has some supportive things to say:
One thing hasn’t changed in this recession: Those who are mobile will continue to move where jobs are relatively plentiful and housing is cheaper.
The winners continue to be southeastern states and Texas. Some 67,000 single- and multifamily building permits were issued in the southern region in the first three months of this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Texas alone accounted for more than 20,000 authorizations. Hot spots are still Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin.
Considering that almost 120,000 permits in the entire country were issued during that period, it shows that more than half of all new construction is in the South, where the cost of housing and living is significantly lower than in the Northeast, Midwest and on the West Coast. In contrast, just 5,571 units were approved in New York and New Jersey combined.
- A cool new service that lets you build videos with XML text editing just launched, and to show off their service, they auto-generated 1,000 videos from Wikipedia content, including Houston. Not bad, although they should have included some sort of audio or music track.
- Some national maps of the best cities for job growth. The devastation in CA, FL, and the automotive Midwest is pretty apparent. Hat tip to Joel.
- Business Week ranks Houston as world's 10th most inventive city. Not bad. Hat tip to neoHouston.
- Austin and Houston Hobby rank in North America's top 5 airports. Usually I drive to Austin, but I did get to fly through there a few months ago, and it is really nice. They did a great job with the Bergstrom conversion from an Air Force base. I never saw the old Austin airport. And of course they've done a great job with the Hobby renovations.
- Houston was recently ranked as the #6 best city to live in, based mainly on economic and housing stability. Hat tips to Jessie and the houstonist.
- Five of the top 10 selling master-planned communities in the country are in Houston. If you guessed The Woodlands was our #1, you'd be incorrect this year: Cinco Ranch edged it out, and they were followed by Telfair, Sienna Plantation, and Eagle Springs (by IAH). Another hat tip to Jessie.
- A Brookings report finds that jobs continue to disperse and decentralize outside of city centers, just as they long have in Houston, raising another red flag that commuter rail transit to downtown (less than 7% of jobs) is not the answer, but this is.
Using the $1.46 billion contract as the basis for calculations, the average cost of the four corridors will be $68 million per mile. The average based on the (FTA) letters of no prejudice amounts for the North and Southeast corridors would increase the cost to $159.4 million per mile.$4.7 billion is a truly staggering amount of money if that turns out to be the true cost - way, way beyond the $640 million bond issue voters approved in 2003. Metro needs to show some transparency and clarity on this soon, ideally with a full reconciliation of all the numbers on their web site - including the revenue projections and expected Fed dollars to pay for it.
It would also increase the cost of the East End Corridor to $527.7 million and more than double the price of the Uptown Corridor to $688.8 million.
That would bring the estimated cost of the four lines to more than $3 billion.
Separately, the 11 miles of the University Corridor not included in the contract would be more than than $1.7 billion.
I'd also like to start hearing the Mayoral candidates weigh-in on this topic, since one of them will control most of the Metro board come January.
Update: The Chronicle story, which does dissect some of the numbers, but not the ones in the FTA letters.