METRO considers making rush hour traffic even WORSE, real housing affordability, the gentrification problem, and more
- It just makes no sense to me that METRO is considering charging for Park & Ride parking. So as Houston's sustained economic boom leads to rapidly increasing traffic congestion, we're going to *discourage* people switching to the Park and Rides?!?! How much sense does that make?! This is an incentives problem. Metro is getting too much demand on the Park and Rides and can't move fast enough to meet it, so they're going to discourage demand with parking fees and keep cars on the freeways at rush hour that would otherwise use transit. Does anybody else think this is a really bad idea? The Mayor and County Judge need to represent the interests of the city as a whole and put pressure on the METRO board to make Park and Rides as affordable as possible and ramp up to meet that demand.
- An engineer looks at options for Houston's transportation future (hat tip to Jessie). Unfortunately, he just falls into the same old trap of advocating a NYC-like rail system as the answer, despite our very decentralized, multi-polar set of job centers instead of a single mega-CBD like Manhattan. And no, you can't just lump downtown together with the med center, Greenway, and Uptown and just pretend they're one big CBD - they're too far apart for a centralized commuter rail focus. The answer is high-speed HOT/managed lanes with nonstop express bus service from every neighborhood of the region to every major job center.
- There are plenty of stats showing Houston's median housing costs are much cheaper than the big coastal cities, but what gets missed is also how many more square feet you get in Houston for that money. This chart compensates for that, showing how many square feet of house a million dollars will buy across the country, ranging from a very expensive 1,502 sq.ft in San Francisco (or 650 in Manhattan!) to your own private apartment complex of 83,333 sq.ft in Detroit. Houston came in at the very affordable bottom of the list at 10,753 sq.ft (have fun cleaning and air conditioning that puppy), surprisingly substantially more than Dallas (7,042) or Austin (5,128). How's this for a tag line? "Houston: all the coolness and weirdness of Austin at half the cost"
- On the other hand, yet another ranking that says Houston isn't so cheap if you factor in transportation (hat tip to Josh). I still don't buy it. They’re not equalizing on a per sq.ft basis, not considering taxes for transit, and not considering higher-end cars as a luxury good (not a basic “cost of transportation”). The ACCRA data standardizes for all that and finds Houston *much* cheaper to live in.
- Is gentrification good or bad? I think gentrification is not as controversial in Houston because we are less regulated and there are plenty of other low-cost areas residents can move to. Where land use regulation is strict, like San Francisco, you get riots and street protests, because there are no alternatives for existing residents as they're driven out by rising costs. And here's a hand grenade of a quote from the article: "As California political writer Joseph Perkins (who is black) once said, “smart growth is the new Jim Crow.” "
Labels: affordability, commuter rail, home affordability, land-use regulation, Metro, mobility strategies, rankings, transit, transportation plan