Media love for Houston, rail, Chicago, city vs. suburbs, and more
Another stack of smaller misc items, including a lot of love for Houston from the media:
"Texas powers past the tough times on the strength of its economy — top-ranked in our "Economy" category four years in a row. The Texas economy is the 15th largest in the world, according to government figures; larger, for example, than that of all the Scandinavian nations combined. The Lone Star State is home to 64 Fortune 500 companies, more than any other state, in a wide variety of industries. So while the state's last win in 2008 came with oil at a record $145 a barrel — a natural tailwind for the largest industry in Texas — the state managed to do even better this year despite the fact that oil is trading at roughly half that price.
Texas has also managed to avoid the worst of the real estate crisis, according to reporter Ashanti Blaize of KXAS-TV."
As Wikipedia points out
, when planned in 2000, Charlotte’s light-rail line was supposed to cost $225 million. The final cost turned out to be $467 million. Even after adjusting for inflation, that’s close to a 100 percent cost overrun. (Actually, considering inflation from 2000 to 2007, that’s about a 75 percent cost overrun.)
In 2008, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) reported less than 12,000 average weekday trips on its light-rail line. The Houston and Hudson-Bergen light-rail lines, both about the same length, each carried more than 40,000 weekday riders (and can hardly be considered successes) (Tory: I disagree on the Houston Main St line not being a success).
Given the high capital costs plus nearly $10 million in annual operating costs, the annualized cost of Charlotte’s light-rail works out to more than $3.60 per passenger mile (compared with less than $1 for a typical bus and less than $0.25 for driving, including highway subsidies which, in North Carolina, average less than half a penny per passenger mile). Of course, most of that $3.60 is subsidized; transit users paid an average of just $0.12 per passenger mile to ride it, leaving a subsidy of nearly $3.50 per passenger mile. That also works out to a subsidy of more than $20 per ride (!!), making Charlotte more expensive than almost any light-rail system outside of Buffalo and San Jose.
- And I might remind readers of the unfolding rail disaster in Austin too.
- An interesting essay on Chicago as an economically diverse but weaker global city. Houston is mentioned as a competitor that is more focused (energy), and he lists other major U.S. cities along with their focus industries. As long as we stay on top of the newest energy technologies (and not just oil and gas), I think we're in good shape long-term.
- A neat map of Houston showing the locations of tourist vs. local pictures. Mouse over for neighborhoods and click to zoom to larger sizes. More on the overall project and other cities here.
- Amazing set of pro-Houston rankings, stats, and pics. Just scroll down, you can't miss it.
- Joel Kotkin on The Myth of the Back-to-the-City Migration - WSJ.com (alternate link to New Geography version)
- NYT on the costs of city vs. suburban living. It actually does a pretty good job articulating the pros and cons of each. Most young couples try to stay in the city, but are eventually pulled to the suburbs by the attractions of home space, nature, and, most importantly, schools. It really seems to come down to this: without kids, what's outside your door matters most; with kids, it's your private space - both inside and outside - that matters most - plus the quality of the public schools. Houston's core already does one of those things right, allowing relatively easy redevelopment to spacious townhomes or McMansions. But the other area that needs improvement is schooling. The magnets are helpful, but more charters or vouchers would go a long way towards improving the affordable, quality education options in the core.
Labels: affordability, economy, home affordability, identity, Metro, quality of place, rail, rankings, tourism, world city, zoning