HSR, TX growth, help bring a Space Shuttle to Houston, and moreAnother week to clear out some smaller items:
- High-Speed-Rail Costs Irk States - WSJ.com (good map here too, including the absurd exclusion of the Texas Triangle). This cracks me up. The Federal govt offers free money for high-speed rail, and they get a $108 billion in applications. All of a sudden they ask states to chip in 20%, and the requests drop to $8.5 billion. What, put our own money into boondoggles? That's for the federal government. We have real priorities we need to spend money on. This brings up a good approach for increasing the efficiency of government funding, though. When Congress creates pools of money like this, it should be prioritized by the amount the state matches: the higher the percentage of state match, the more likely it's a good project that's really worth the money, and the higher priority that project should get for funding.
- Continuing the HSR theme: a feature article in The Economist: "American railways - High-speed railroading - America’s system of rail freight is the world’s best. High-speed passenger trains could ruin it". Lots of good statistics. Reason has more on this problem in the fourth story here: The Emerging Conflict Between Freight and High(er) Speed Rail.
- Houston ranked No. 1 in the nation in job growth over past 5 years, just ahead of Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places respectively. Texas is definitely faring better than the rest of the country (although by no means fully healthy or booming - just suffering less).
- Tyler Cowan at the NY Times on the cost of providing free parking. I think dynamic market pricing for street parking makes a lot of sense, but it's less practical and applicable to other parking spaces for the same reasons we don't toll all roads: the expense and hassle factor. And then there's the free rider problem as people use nearby free spaces (commercial or residential) to avoid paying for parking. Hat tip to Brian.
- Caterpillar to Build Excavator Plant in Texas - WSJ.com. A big win for Houston (well, technically Victoria). 500 new good paying manufacturing jobs. Too bad they didn't pick Sealy, since that military vehicle factory is about to lay off hundreds as the contract moves to Wisconsin.
"Based on our comprehensive review of possible locations, Victoria's proximity to our supply base, access to ports and other transportation, as well as the positive business climate in Texas, made this the ideal site for this project," Gary Stampanato, Caterpillar vice president for excavators, said in a statement.
The Victoria plant is Caterpillar's second major recent investment in Texas. The company moved its engine-manufacturing operations to a new plant near San Antonio early this year from Illinois.
- On the lighter side, an example of government regulation running amok as a Portland health inspector tries to shut down a 7-year-old girl's lemonade stand for not having a restaurant license. Glad to see that public outrage is pushing back hard. Common sense, folks.
Finally, a plea to help support Houston, and it'll only take a minute of your time:
Help Bring a Space Shuttle to Houston!
When NASA retires the Space Shuttles next year the three orbiters will be decommissioned and placed on permanent display at selected museums or science centers across the United States. The competition is stiff. We know that one will go to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar Hazy Center thereby leaving only two vehicles for the more than 15 locations, including Space Center Houston, that are vying for an Orbiter. Time is of the essence; your help influencing key decision makers is immediately needed. You can support Space Center Houston’s acquisition initiative by visiting www.bringtheshuttlehome.com . Here, you can send a letter to your congressmen, senators and President Barack Obama urging them to select Space Center Houston to receive a retired Space Shuttle. Let them know, the right home for one of these orbiters is the very epicenter of human spaceflight – Houston, Texas. Let all of your friends and family know about Space Center Houston's effort. Letters from outside of Houston are very important too. It shows that there is broad support for the effort. We expect the decision to be made very soon so please send your letters today.