Austin vs. #1 Houston, transit, migration, CoL, and more
Some smaller items this week:
- Everybody knows Austin is the darling city of Texas, and maybe even the whole country. Not so fast, argues this essay by someone who's lived there and here: "Austin: The Best City in Texas? Think Again!". Houston may not photograph as well or have that hip image, but it's friendlier, more open, more diverse, easier to do business and build a career in, has more cultural and entertainment options, pays better, and is more affordable. (Thanks for the heads up, Karen.)
- In fact, Houston was just named best city for young professionals by Forbes magazine (over Austin! Houston Tomorrow and Business Journal stories). Excerpt:
The Lone Star Shines
There are good prospects for ambitious young professionals across the country, but Texas dominates our list, boasting three of the top 10 spots. Because of its business-friendly environment and abundance of oil money, 14 of the country's largest companies (as measured by market capitalization) are based in our No. 1 city, Houston. Only New York, N.Y., which ranks No. 4 on our list, boasts more big employers. Houston also shines thanks to high average incomes and a concentration of grads from elite colleges--and not just from local Rice University, but from across the country.
- Here's a fun interactive map at Forbes showing domestic migration. Pick any county and see where people are coming in from (black lines) and going out to (red lines). Harris County is doing quite well with mostly black lines, although there a few red ones to New Orleans (returning Katrina refugees) as well as a little weather, geography, or tech-driven migration (I assume) to Austin, CO, and WA. As you might expect, Austin/Travis County looks like a black hole: people come in, but they don't go out. Check out the exodus from Chicago and Detroit. Ouch. Hat tip to David. Here's some of the debate on why people are moving to Texas, and here are some more of the maps for browsing (hat tip to kjb).
- A little (dark) humor: a New Yorker on "Reasons I Hate Public Transportation". NYC is not the transit/transportation paradise it is often made out to be.
- The power of private commuter transit in NYC: Private Bus Line Seeks to Profit on MTA Cuts - WSJ.com . This is something I've advocated for a long time. An excerpt on the cost disparity:
"He sees opportunity because he says he isn't burdened with the MTA's expensive union rules, debt payments and legal mandates, such as providing transportation for the disabled. For example, the $5.50 fare for the X90, which Mr. Azumah will keep the same, covered just over one-quarter of the MTA's estimated $19.04 cost per rider on the route."
Although I doubt Metro has anywhere near the same cost burdens as MTA, could you imagine the huge numbers of new express commuter bus routes that could open up in Houston with that kind of cost savings?
- Continuing with the NYC theme: New York's envy: What will half a million dollars buy you in Houston? - 2010-Jun-17 - CultureMap Houston. Hat tip to Hugh.
- Cost of living excerpt below from the GHP. Note the benefits of no-zoning on housing and grocery competition, although I'm surprised it didn't help more on misc goods and services. Also note that our transportation costs are not out of line, despite claims from the anti-sprawl crowd. I'm actually impressed our utilities are in-line with the national average given the high A/C requirements here in the summer. Maybe electricity competition is actually working?
Houston Maintains Low Cost of Living — In Q1/10, the cost of living in Houston was 18 percent below the average for 27 metropolitan areas over 2 million population and 9 percent below the average for all 308 reporting places, according to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index. The index, produced by the Council for Community and Economic Research, measures differences in the relative cost of consumer goods and services appropriate for a professional or managerial household.
Bargain housing costs help maintain Houston’s low cost of living. In Q1/10, housing costs in Houston were 39 percent below the major metro average and 22 percent below the average of all 308 reporting places. According to the ACCRAsurvey, the same new house that cost $209,000 in Houston in January cost $348,744 in Miami, $420,600 in Boston and $607,391 in Washington, D.C.
The cost of grocery items in Houston was also the lowest among the major metro areas, 17 percent below the major metro average and 13 percent below the national average. Houston did not differ significantly from the nationwide average on the other components: utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services.
Labels: affordability, growth, home affordability, identity, Metro, mobility strategies, quality of place, rankings