Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Why Houston grows faster, rail vs. $, faith-based planning, and more

Continuing last week's list of smaller items:
  • You probably saw this article in the Chronicle on how Fed funding for the Metro North and SE lines is at risk, as I predicted.  If the funding does disappear, I hope Metro has the guts to go in a new direction: replace N and SE lines with much cheaper signature bus and focus on the much more important University line (with or without Fed funds).
  • Just a pass along: America 2050 has released a new report on high-speed rail in America (full report, Texas section).  It specifically recommends focusing on the DFW-Austin-SA corridor while connecting Houston with a leg to the mid-point (i.e. the Texas T-bone plan, not the Texas Triangle), which would of course add a lot of time and distance to most trips from Houston.  While there is some interesting analysis here, with the House on a cut-spending warpath, I wouldn't expect to see any progress on infrastructure investments of such marginal utility.  Hat tip to Kuff.
  • Aaron Renn, the respected Urbanophile blogger, makes a good case for more roads vs. the current transit/walking/biking fads.
  • "Faith Based City Planning - Exorcising the Suburban Dream"  Great stuff - bitingly funny.  An excerpt:
"Over the past two decades, our city planning has become faith based. A new preacher has evolved in the form of the Architect or Planner who evangelizes to the congregation that they can all live in serenity if they have faith in the teachings. Their sermons of architectural commandments introduce dimensional ratios that can deliver a utopian existence, promising a wonderland for families.
To enforce faith, you of course need an evil entity to oppose. The evil entity in the faith of land planning is The Suburbs. Those that believe in the suburbs are inherently evil and must be converted or they may spend eternity dammed to a cul-de-sac. The automobile is sacrificed on this altar, with the chant "Space – Space – Space".
Converts to this faith include many if not most, politicians (not just liberals), architects, planners, environmentalists, movie stars, and many in the press. Those that have not converted yet include land developers, builders, city council and planning commission members, and the majority of the home buying market."
He goes on to dismantle the 'religion' tenet by tenet.  Of course, I think some interesting and very nice communities are being built with these principles - it's when it shifts from a market choice to good vs. evil religion that things get out of hand.
"A rich body of research shows that regulation, which is intense in the Northeast and California but lax in the Sun Belt, explains why housing is supplied so readily down South. The future shape of America is being driven not by quality of life or economic success but by the obscure rules regulating local land use."

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