Metro's rail budget boomerang, third coast's rise, F500, architecture, and more
Some misc items this week. I'm in CA next week, and may or may not get in a post before leaving. If not, see ya after Memorial Day.
- "Metro is shrinking, could get worse". I don't want to be obnoxious about it, but it's time for a giant "I told you so". What, a transit agency over-promised and under-delivered on budget projections for rail, and is now up against a wall and demanding more money? That's a first (insert eye roll here).
The Mayor, county, and small cities negotiating with Metro board on giving them back part of the general mobility funds, which is kind of funny when you think about it, because the Mayor *controls* the Metro board (she can re-appoint a majority of members at any time), so she's sort of negotiating with herself. The standard politician response would be to hold on to the money for the rest of her administration, but agree to turn it over to Metro after that, leaving a giant hole in the budget of her successor. But I think she cares about Houston's long-term future more than that - let's hope that's not the legacy she leaves.
- McKinsey has a report on U.S. cities with a lot of interesting data. If you download the main report pdf and search on Houston you can find our data points pretty easily. We show strong population growth (esp. given our large size), but relatively weak GDP growth per capita. I see two reasons for that. First, they measure from 1978, near the peak of the previous oil boom before the crash. Second, over the last few decades, most cities have ramped up land use regulation and constricted housing supply, increasing prices (often dramatically) and driving less affluent populations away (or at least not attracting them). That naturally increases GDP/capita, although not in a healthy way if you ask me. Houston (and most of Texas) has not gone that way, thus we have stayed affordable and are attractive to migrants as a city of opportunity. People definitely move up the economic ladder here, but new migrants move in right behind them, limiting overall GDP/capita growth. We've got the right model - ignore the deceptive statistic.
"Yet it’s Houston’s star that is shining brightest. Over the past decade, when the country actually slightly lost jobs, the Houston-Sugarland-Baytown region expanded its employment by over 15%. Since 1990, the number of jobs has risen by 46%, more than twice the national average. Over a period of ten years, the region’s population has soared 26%, the most of any of the country’s largest metro areas, and again better than twice the national norm. Migrants are coming not only from other countries, but from much of the rest of the U.S., particularly the industrial Midwest, Northeast, and California.
Optimism among businesspeople on the Third Coast is infectious, as can be seen in the expanding footprint of the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest such facility. Much of the money for this amazing complex comes from a similar boom in oil and gas."
"To the uninitiated, Houston looks like a jumbled tangle of buildings placed haphazardly atop the coastal plain — which, of course, is a fair assessment for a city with little zoning. But this sprawling, boundless urban scene is, at the same time, what makes the Bayou City so unique with its patchwork of architectural gems and oddities."
Labels: economic strategy, economy, growth, Metro, rankings, zoning