Monday, May 27, 2013

NYT wants to save the Astrodome, Houston rising, Atlanta learns the wrong lessons from us, and more

Let's open this week's post of smaller miscellaneous items with this excellent NY Times essay on the importance of saving the Astrodome: "Astrodome: Dirty and Dated, but Irreplaceable".  Great old pics too.
So it was despairing to hear that the vacant Astrodome might be torn down and its site paved over as Houston prepares to host the 2017 Super Bowl. Demolition would be a failure of civic imagination, a betrayal of Houston’s greatness as a city of swaggering ambition, of dreamers who dispensed with zoning laws and any restraint on possibility.
James Glassman, a Houston preservationist, calls the Astrodome the city’s Eiffel Tower and the “physical manifestation of Houston’s soul.” New York could afford to tear down old Yankee Stadium, Glassman said, because the city had hundreds of other signature landmarks. Not Houston. Along with oil, NASA and the pioneering heart surgeons Michael E. DeBakey and Denton A. Cooley, the technological marvel of the Astrodome put a young, yearning city on the global map.
I sincerely hope someone at the county shows some leadership to pull together a solution, rather than passively sitting back, willing to only review fully-funded proposals, and then defaulting to demolition when that impossibility doesn't happen.

Moving on to this week's items:
Texas still stands head and shoulders above others in their business climate, employee work ethics and living environment.
Texas is best by far. No other state is even close.
A number of my friends do business in both California and Texas. Their experiences are causing them to move as much of their operations to Texas as they can. I only invest in California if I have to!
Texas has it ‘right’ on all fronts.
Texas is the best place to do business, recruit talent, every metric, hands down. New Mexico is our home state and they try, but it just has not yet happened like in Florida, Nevada and Texas.
  • I found this David Brooks' piece on engaged vs. detached approaches to writing/blogging to be thought provoking.  I think I've tried to aspire to be detached, although I certainly have a pro free market and pro Houston worldview (and Brooks points out that even detached writers have a philosophy/worldview).  Thoughts welcome in the comments.
  • Great time lapse animation of satellite photography showing Houston's growth since 1984.  Most of the growth is west of 45, although northeast near IAH grows strongly too.  I like that our growth is somewhat balanced around the core, as opposed to cities like Dallas where it's all to the north and west.

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At 3:54 PM, May 27, 2013, Anonymous Rich said...

Yes, I agree that Atlanta (where I went to college for a couple of years) could definitely learn from our investments in freeway loops, and the corresponding traffic congestion and pollution that go hand-in-hand with Houston's having ignored greener means of transportation.

Rail pundits' concerns will make more sense to me if and when buses can be powered by electric batteries for adequate travel distances. But even then, are buses adequate substitutes for rail? For now at least, buses pollute...whereas rail can be fueled by electricity from green sources like hydro, solar and wind. Meanwhile even electric buses get stuck in traffic, and it takes much longer for handicapped individuals to board buses too. We therefore never really know when a bus will arrive, but rail is easy to board and punctual. Here in Houston, though, we're not left with much choice unless we want to add to the traffic congestion with our own vehicles.

But it shouldn't cost so dang much to expand rail. On that, rail pundits and I are in strong agreement. Hopefully we can work on that in constructive ways.

At any rate, Dallas already has around a hundred miles of rail including to airports and at least 3 neighboring counties:

Houston has 8 and hopes to have 25
by the end of 2014:

Rent's much more economical in Dallas, since folks can disperse throughout the area without sacrificing access to the rail system. The air's less carcinogenic in Dallas, too... How does Houston's economy benefit from the malaise here that's still resulting from the comparative lack of light rail options? Rumor has it that we'll not even see rail reach Houston's airports because Harris County makes too much money off of over-taxation of auto rental services. :-(

Admittedly, an article that Tory recently shared suggests that rail actually causes more (not less) traffic congestion in Dallas because cars have to wait for trains. Hopefully engineers can figure out how to get beyond that. Aboveground rail options could seemingly emerge someday right over where existing rail lines are, perhaps. That's costly though.

At least Metro's finally going to have some expanded rail become available for public use, supposedly by year's end:

At 4:00 PM, May 27, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I was staggered by the cost numbers in that article for the north line: $753 million for 5.3 miles!! That's $142 million per mile!! Every 3 miles is the equivalent of a new professional sports stadium! Absolutely crazy expensive.

At 4:10 PM, May 27, 2013, Anonymous Rich said...

Tory, could it be that the 16 or so expansion miles (covering at least 2 new lines, plus the North line extension) are that with which that pricetag actually corresponds?

At 4:26 PM, May 27, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm pretty sure that's just the budget for the north line extension. The other two are longer, but have a budget well north of a billion.

At 9:35 AM, May 29, 2013, Anonymous Rich said...

I wonder what it costs to build and maintain (including regarding vehicular wrecks) freeways per mile.

At any rate, I'm taken aback at how ghastly expensive it reportedly seems to be to build light rail.

In other news, Houston's in the headlines for its job-retention and creation prowess:

Why Houston supposedly "needs" to remain a part of the taxation-happy, regulations-fomenting USA is beyond me. I can't help but think of Andorra, Catalonia, Quebec, Scotland, Sudan...

At 7:42 PM, June 07, 2013, Blogger George said...

I have a new idea for the Astrodome. What's iconic about it is really the dome itself. So keep that and only that. Demolish everything under the dome except maybe the spiral ramps, and leave an open framework supporting it, creating the world's tallest support-free covered parking lot. Covered parking is an iconic Houston architectural motif in itself.

At 8:56 PM, June 19, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We come up with a crowd source fund ability to Save The Astrodome as a non profit.


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