First class bus, DART declining, big data, big port, debunking creative class, and more
It's been too long since the last smaller items post and the queue has been building rapidly...
- Wow. I'm impressed with Megabus, and glad they finally came to Texas (undermining the case for HSR), but check out this luxury inter-city bus service in India (click thru the pics on the home page, or even watch the over-the-top cheesy video). It's like international business class air travel. Maybe Megabus should consider transforming one of the two decks on their buses to this kind of first class service? (minus the attendant or food service, I'm thinking). Hat tip to Mihir.
- A Dallas Morning News story on the ongoing declines in DART ridership. It doesn't bode well for the future of Metro's budget-busting new lines...
- Forbes on "The Tyranny of Houston" and how we continue to get a larger and larger share of the nation's building permits. Just goes to the power of our more open, no-zoning approach vs. the constrictive building regimes in other cities. Includes a great opening line: "When Houston is the only place America can build things, all things will be built in Houston."
- Speaking of zoning, as you might expect, I'm not a fan of this pro-zoning op-ed at CultureMap. If you want control, live in a deed-restricted community, or add voluntary deed restrictions to yours. The mechanisms are there - just use them. Rather than repeat them here, check out Joshua Sanders' comment at the bottom for a good summary of many of the anti-zoning arguments.
- More from Forbes on Houston, with a nice writeup and a top ranking.
- Eric has a post on a cool new ride sharing mobile app service.
- The power of predicting crime before it occurs using big data analysis. HPD and Harris County should be jumping all over this technology. Hat tip to Jay.
- Continuing the big data trend, here's the WSJ on using new 'big data' approaches to solving traffic and road infrastructure problems, including doing accident and pothole detection via peoples' cell phones.
- A cool global shipping map with ports from Fortune magazine. It puts Houston in context, and it's impressive. But a caveat: this is based on tonnage, which is why Houston (oil) and New Orleans (oil and agricultural commodities) look so impressive vs. LA and NYC. If it was shipping containers, those dot sizes would be reversed.
- A well written debunking of Richard Florida's Creative Class theory. Excerpt:
In his initial critique, Peck said The Rise of the Creative Class was filled with “self-indulgent forms of amateur microsociology and crass celebrations of hipster embourgeoisement.” That’s another way of saying that Florida was just describing the “hipsterization” of wealthy cities and concluding that this was what was causing those cities to be wealthy. As some critics have pointed out, that’s a little like saying that the high number of hot dog vendors in New York City is what’s causing the presence of so many investment bankers. So if you want banking, just sell hot dogs. “You can manipulate your arguments about correlation when things happen in the same place,” says Peck.
What was missing, however, was any actual proof that the presence of artists, gays and lesbians or immigrants was causing economic growth, rather than economic growth causing the presence of artists, gays and lesbians or immigrants. Some more recent work has tried to get to the bottom of these questions, and the findings don’t bode well for Florida’s theory. In a four-year, $6 million study of thirteen cities across Europe called “Accommodating Creative Knowledge,” that was published in 2011, researchers found one of Florida’s central ideas—the migration of creative workers to places that are tolerant, open and diverse—was simply not happening.
“They move to places where they can find jobs,” wrote author Sako Musterd, “and if they cannot find a job there, the only reason to move is for study or for personal social network reasons, such as the presence of friends, family, partners, or because they return to the place where they have been born or have grown up.” But even if they had been pouring into places because of “soft” factors like coffee shops and art galleries, according to Stefan Krätke, author of a 2010 German study, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, economically. Krätke broke Florida’s Creative Class (which includes accountants, realtors, bankers and politicians) into five separate groups and found that only the “scientifically and technologically creative” workers had an impact on regional GDP. Krätke wrote “that Florida’s conception does not match the state of findings of regional innovation research and that his way of relating talent and technology might be regarded as a remarkable exercise in simplification.”
Perhaps one of the most damning studies was in some ways the simplest. In 2009 Michele Hoyman and Chris Faricy published a study using Florida’s own data from 1990 to 2004, in which they tried to find a link between the presence of the creative class workers and any kind of economic growth. “The results were pretty striking,” said Faricy, who now teaches political science at Washington State University. “The measurement of the creative class that Florida uses in his book does not correlate with any known measure of economic growth and development. Basically, we were able to show that the emperor has no clothes.” Their study also questioned whether the migration of the creative class was happening. “Florida said that creative class presence—bohemians, gays, artists—will draw what we used to call yuppies in,” says Hoyman. “We did not find that.”
Finally, Eric recently interviewed me over lunch for his "Houston, we have a Solution" blog if you'd like to check it out. It's hard to compress the subtleties of an hour conversation into a few paragraphs (ask any journalist that's talked to me - I am not the master of the short sound bite or pithy answer), but Eric does an admirable job of getting to the rough essence of my answers.
Labels: deed restrictions, economy, growth, high-speed rail, land-use regulation, Metro, mobility strategies, port, public safety, rankings, technology, zoning