Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Next great global health hub, TX vs. Midwest, luxury buses vs. trains, and more

Another stack of smaller misc items this week:
  • Very unfortunately, Metro's future is almost certainly going to be the same as Denver and most other transit agencies in America: Build Trains = Raise Fares + Cut Bus Service.  It's the clearest case of "the emperor has no clothes" that I've ever seen.  Everybody can clearly see the long-term financial train wreck Metro is embarking on, but they all just shrug their shoulders and nobody tries to stop it.  So frustrating and sad.  So many better things could be done for the city with that money.  Any brave officials out there to rally the cause of Houston's long-term transportation future?
UPDATE 8/25: Bill King's excellent Chronicle op-ed today - "Metro federal rail funding is resting on shaky ground" and BlogHouston recap.
Nope. Those places are major global health hubs for sure. But the emerging story is further south. In Houston, Texas to be precise. 
Houston is well-known for the Texas Medical Center (TMC), which is comprised of 49 institutions and describes itself as the largest medical center in the world. The Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative is highly regarded for its leading role in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Beyond HIV/AIDS however, Houston hasn’t really featured prominently on the global health community’s radar. 
That is about to change.
  • Joel Kotkin defends Texas against the detractors that have come out of the woodwork since Rick Perry announced for President.  He's not as big a fan of Rick, but he makes a strong case for the state's very successful model.
  • The Wall Street Journal also has an interesting op-ed on how the Texas model beat the Midwest model:

    To understand the political economy of the Midwest, it helps to put it in historic perspective. Originally the Midwest's economy was built on its farms, then later on its factories. The long farm-to-factory migration lasted from roughly 1890 to 1970. At the end of that period, when I was working on the first edition of "The Almanac of American Politics," it seemed there were two models for the U.S. future. One was the Michigan model, which prevailed in the industrial Midwest and the factory towns of the Great Plains. The other was the Texas model, which prevailed in most of the South and Southwest.

    The Michigan model was based on the Progressive/New Deal assumption that, after the transition from farm to factory, the best way to secure growth was through big companies and big labor unions.
    The idea that the wave of the future is an ever-larger public sector financed by a more or less stagnant private sector looks increasingly absurd. The Midwest's public sector has, as Margaret Thatcher put it, run on "other people's money." Meanwhile, Mr. Obama's trip to the Midwest has been preceded by Texas Gov. Rick Perry's foray into Waterloo, Iowa. Mr. Perry points out that his state, with low taxes and light regulation, has been producing nearly half of America's new jobs. The Texas model may be sweeping the Midwest, not vice versa.

  • HGAC has put together a video on the regionally coordinated transportation plan here.  It's the most exciting, amazing video you will ever watch.  Or maybe not.  In fact, quite possibly the opposite. But they do deserve kudos for reaching out beyond the typical public information meeting.
  • Reason's Surface Transportation Innovations newsletter surveys some strong data on how inter-city buses continue to challenge Amtrak - and make high-speed rail plans expensive boondoggles.  What I can't figure out is why none of them have set up in the Texas Triangle yet?
  • The Urbanophile also touts how awesome the Megabus inter-city model is, and why the arguments against it are bogus.  Did I mention I can't wait for the Texas Triangle to get it?...
Finally, a gorgeous video of the lights of LA.  Watch it full size if you can.  Somebody should definitely do something similar for Houston.  Any ambitious aspiring videographers out there?...

LA Light from Colin Rich on Vimeo.

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