Dallas vs. Houston in two words, HSR loses its sweet spot, how cities decline, and more
This week's items:
- Dallas finally added a rail connection to DFW and thinks this helps qualify them as a world class city, even though downtown Dallas only has a tiny percentage of metro employment and it will take an hour to get there. I've always heard a big differentiator between Dallas and Houston is that Dallas is much more image conscious about appearances (sort of an LA of Texas), and this really drives it home for me. We're more pragmatic and are not worried about being considered world class (at this point, we already know we're there). We tried express bus connecting downtown to IAH (far faster than a rail line), and it flopped, with only 2-3 riders per trip on average. With that low of a demand, why would we build a multi-billion dollar rail line to the aiport that would be even slower?! That may very well sum up Dallas vs. Houston in two words: prestige vs. pragmatic. A few years ago I laid out the case here for why rail to the airport rarely makes sense.
- Speaking of Dallas vs. Houston, we definitely win this tourism smackdown vs. Dallas.
- Aaron Renn kicks off a 3-post series with a devastating description of how declining cities get into a viciously reinforcing cycle of decline driven by corrupt vulturous interests in real estate, construction, and legal services. The short version of the argument is that big local banks used to influence local politics to get broad economic growth, but those banks got rolled up into national firms and the business interests that are left really are mostly looking for narrow contracts subsidized by the taxpayer - they don't have the broader interests of the city at heart. It is a scary and depressing trap that is almost impossible for a city to get out of once it starts (Detroit and Cleveland being two examples). So far Houston seems to have avoided this fate, but it's certainly something we have to stay vigilant about...
- A pretty devastating but logical case against the viability of high speed rail, with the nail in the coffin being that self-driving cars will eliminate any distance "sweet spot" that might have existed between driving and flying.
- Governing magazine dissects the Ashby legal case and no-zoning in Houston. My favorite excerpt:
"Whatever views one may hold about a city without zoning, it’s hard to deny that Houston has done pretty well for itself over the past generation or so. Its population has grown faster than that of almost any other American city. Its unemployment rate is among the lowest. It continues to attract new businesses no matter what slogan it chooses to adopt for itself. And a growing number of scholars, notably the urbanologist Edward Glaeser, have argued that Houston has done well precisely because it imposes so few restrictions on development."
"By 2023, Houston's gross regional product (GRP) will approach $1.1 trillion, more than double where it stands today. The region will add nearly 1.2 million residents, more than 700,000 jobs, and $300 billion in personal income."
Labels: corruption, economy, governance, government transparency, growth, high-speed rail, land-use regulation, Metro, mobility strategies, rail, tourism, world city, zoning