More raves for Houston, Jane Jacobs re-think, buses vs. rail, and more
- Interesting transit concept from China: tall buses (trains?) that allow cars to travel underneath them. Creative concept for very tight rights-of-way, but I think the number of accidents would be astronomical as cars accidentally merge into or collide with the moving supports - esp. at cross streets or exits, or anytime the road is wider than 2 lanes. It seems like you might as well just put an elevated bus/railway over the road. Hat tip to Chris.
- Kiplinger says Houston is one of 10 great cities for young adults. Of course Austin is on it too, but for those of you keeping score on in-state rivalries: no Dallas (but to even things out, Forbes says their football team is worth more). Somebody pointed out on HAIF that it's amusing that Austin has reasonable commutes at 23 minutes, but Houston has bad traffic and commutes at 26 minutes. 3 minutes makes all the difference. Here's their blurb on Houston:
Metro population: 5,867,489
Cost-of-living index: 91
Median monthly rent: $775 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $41,074
Unemployment rate: 8.3%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 23.9%
Top employers: Wal-Mart Stores, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, Administaff, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Continental Airlines, Kroger, Exxon Mobil
Like its rival Austin, Houston offers great job prospects and exciting big-city amenities at a price so low, even struggling grads can afford it. Diversity is one of its unsung strengths. More than a million of Houston's inhabitants were born outside of the U.S. H-Town's economy is varied as well: The city has strong energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, transportation and healthcare sectors, and 25 Fortune 500 companies have headquarters here.
PROS: A small-town cost of living in the country's fourth-largest city, rents well below the national average, one of the country's best restaurant scenes, vibrant nightlife, an hour from Gulf Coast beaches
CONS: Oppressive heat and humidity, infamous bumper-to-bumper traffic (the average commute will last 26 minutes), heavy air pollution, a crime rate well above the national average
- Scroll down to the "Houston we have a problem" section to read some very nice things about our city in this essay comparing our housing market very favorably with regulation-constricted New Zealand. Hat tips to Hugh and Jessie.
- A WSJ op-ed calling for a re-thinking of planning/anti-planning goddess Jane Jacobs (original link for subscribers). An excerpt that I think makes a particularly good point:
"...the Greenwich Village she held out as a model for city life has become some of the highest-priced real estate in New York City—it's no longer the diverse, yeasty enclave she treasured. Ultimately, many of the policies she advocated blocked real-estate development—causing prices of existing housing stock to rise and pricing out all but the wealthiest residents."
- How Texas avoided the Great Recession
- The Urbanophile on the huge opportunity to improve transit through better buses rather than unaffordable rail. An excerpt:
"Too many American transit enthusiasts, especially outside our largest cities, harbor a deep hostility to buses for some reasons. There’s been an interesting alliance for light rail between transit advocates who pooh-pooh buses and the traditional rent seeking interests that brought us things like many local stadium boondoggles. Especially for smaller cities, light rail is, like pro sports teams, just another accoutrement of the “big league city” that they need to have in order prove they are one."Can I get a "Hallelujah!"?...
In that context, I'll repeat the FTA administrator's quote from last week's post:
“One [simple truth] is this—paint is cheap, rail systems are extremely expensive. Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a ‘special’ bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.” In addition, once you have the special buses, consider busways: “Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system. Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.”