Debunking 'GM killed trolleys', weak office mkt, I69, MetroRail
Sorry about the erratic posting recently - Internet access problems. Just have time today to pass along a few small items:
- One of the common stories you'll hear is that GM killed off the trolleys in the first half of the 20th century to increase the purchases of cars. The Debunker over at BNET has looked into it and, well, debunked that myth.
"The main point of “General Motors and the Demise of Streetcars” and other critics of the conspiracy theory is that trolley systems were replaced by bus systems for economic reasons, not because of a plot. Bus lines were less expensive to operate than trolleys, and far less costly to build because there were no rails. Extending service to rapidly growing suburbs could be accomplished quickly, by simply building a few bus stops, rather than taking years to construct rail lines. So, buses replaced streetcars.
For similar reasons, with the added one of personal preference for individual transportation, private cars also played an important role in the demise of streetcars. People understandably liked driving their own cars directly to their destinations more than crowding onto trolleys that dropped them blocks from where they were going."
"For Houston landlords, the depth of this downturn is a far cry from the devastation of the 1980s, when a construction boom left the city with vacancy rates higher than 30%. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that the city had more empty space than Philadelphia had occupied space.
This time around, new supply is more limited, and the booming oil-and-gas industry has helped keep the region's economy afloat. Houston's unemployment rate hit 8.3% in July, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, more than a point below the national rate of 9.5%. The 36 million square feet of office space in the central business district is 12.9% vacant, nearly three percentage points below the national average for downtowns, according to brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Inc. The nearly 130 million square feet of suburban office space is 17.1% vacant, almost two points below the national rate for suburban space.
But the events of the last six months have injected a new degree of uncertainty into Houston's economy—and, by extension, the office market. "The wonderful rebound spurt in the Houston economy has slowed down significantly," says Barton Smith, a University of Houston economist. Mr. Smith says the slowdown appears to have happened independent of recent events like the Continental merger and the government moratorium on deepwater drilling. That followed the explosion of the rig leased by BP PLC in the Gulf, the consequences of which are still hard to measure."
- Book review: Interstate 69 - WSJ.com This proposed NAFTA superhighway from Mexico to Canada would run roughly along 59 in Texas, but is facing a lot of local opposition along other parts of the route.
"Texas may have found a more promising route. On the same day that Indiana broke ground for I-69 outside Indianapolis in 2008, the Texas Department of Transportation "announced that its I-69 segments would follow existing roads as much as possible," Mr. Dellinger says. If that plan for I-69 were followed elsewhere, many opponents might drop their objections. Such a move might also help address I-69's biggest pothole: a shortage of federal dollars."
Labels: economy, Metro, rail, transit