Sunday, October 12, 2014

Opportunity Urbanism released, Houston outbuilds CA, America loves us, top GDP growth, and more

So as I mentioned in the last post, last week Joel Kotkin came to Houston for the release of our Opportunity Urbanism study at a major luncheon.  The tweetstream for the event is here, and the report itself can be found here from this page at the GHP under the Independent Research section.  Joel also published the introduction to the report at his New Geography site.  Our op-ed in the Chronicle should be coming out next Sunday, and I will post more about it then.  In the meantime, here are some of my favorite tweets from the #oppurbanism tweetstream:
  • Houston is the alternative to the "luxury city" - focused on upward mobility for middle and working class
  • In an Opportunity City, the objective is how do you make life better for more people
  • Opportunity Urbanism = high growth in jobs/incomes, growing appeal to immigrants/millennials, city for middle class
  • You have suburban and urban center growth at the same time in Houston
  • Much higher percentage of home ownership among minorities in Houston than in many other cities
  • Kotkin: "People go to Houston because they like the community, can make a good living and everyday life is better"
  • Houston has fairly strong growth in millennials. #1 in growth in adults with bachelors or higher (2007-2012)
  • When you factor income relative to cost of living, Houston is the best bargain you can get
The backlog of smaller misc items has also been growing incredibly quickly lately:
Planning the Boom
As Houston enjoys staggering growth, can a city known for its lack of zoning and car-centric ways embrace a more pedestrian-friendly urbanism?
There are plenty more where those came from, but that's enough for this week.

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At 1:06 PM, October 13, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Houston's now among the most overpriced cities in the entire country, housing-wise:

High property and sales taxes certainly don't help. What do we get in exchange for it all? Expansion rail lines won't even be open until April of 2015, at the soonest. In light of the latest metro rail expansion release delays and cost overruns, one can't help but increasingly want jitney buses to become legalized throughout Houston (instead of merely Washington Avenue and a few select routes). Metro doesn't deserve to continue having a monopoly. It can't even keep its contractors and winner-picking bureaucrats in order amidst their temptations to increasingly snatch money out of taxpayers' pockets "for their own good" amidst all these additional delays.

Here are some interesting websites on the subject of jitneys' legality in Houston:


Well... Walt Inc. appears to have gone outta business:

Having to compete against taxpayer-subsidized, established monopolies without an economy of scale like what Metro's allowed to have can do that to a company.

Isn't there a better way? With all these newcomers voting in Houston, it's easier to sway public opinion than before. But the public needs information and inspiration. Mr. Gattis can lead the charge and others among us will follow his charismatic, well-informed lead.

At 2:18 PM, October 13, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks, Rich. I don't know about leading the charge, but I'd love to see METRO offer a flat taxpayer subsidy per passenger-mile and let private operators compete on routes and service.

At 3:19 PM, October 13, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Hi Tory:
What you're mentioning is very interesting. Please feel free to elaborate.
With Metro's upcoming reimagining, inertia will be undermined and new competitors will have a chance to enter the scene perhaps more than ever before. Folks have to change their routes, regardless, so why not experiment with competitors? :-)

At any rate, newcomers will not be married to the Metro brand, while they're often from cities that are commuter friendly. Meanwhile traffic will keep getting worse here as more move to Houston. Stress is the mother of innovation. And a thousand mile journey begins with a single interaction Tory Gattis... :-)

At 3:40 PM, October 13, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Here's the Jitney ordinance:

I bet there are opportunities for out-of-town companies that would like to compete with Metro here, and probably help push for whatever pro-competition reforms that you're proposing Tory. Monopolies don't work; I endured telephone, near-banking, political and petroleum monopolies for 6 years in Mexico during the 1990's and saw that vividly, time & time again.

At 3:58 PM, October 13, 2014, Blogger Houston Wave said...

I'm here at the APTA convention & been able to have some discussions w/transit operators including Metro. The Wave would be able to expand into markets needing jitney services with subsidy/grant money from HGAC, and others. For now however, we keep expanding & providing services to our growing ridership. To date we've moved 100,000 people. Not bad for a small operator. Stay tuned for our 5 year anniversary and updates we will be doing to help move Houstonians where they want to go! Thank you Tori for educating the public.

At 4:11 PM, October 13, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Way to go, Houston Wave! Your Facebook page has very recently been liked at the unofficial page devoted to rail expansion here in Houston:

Obviously Houston needs more jitney service, what with the high cost of rail expansion and the nearly inexplicable delays... May your endeavor attract considerable investment and enthusiastic support. :-) Houston needs you...

At 4:12 PM, October 13, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Here's the elaboration you requested, Rich:

Way to go, Lauren - congrats! Good luck with continued growth!

At 7:14 PM, October 13, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Thanks Tory. I look forward to checking it out.

At 7:47 PM, October 13, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Hi again Tory:

I enjoyed your article but I still don't quite understand what you mean by the following quote from earlier today:

>>>I'd love to see METRO offer a flat taxpayer subsidy per passenger-mile<<<

Maybe you're referring to how Metro could theoretically take tax dollars and allocate them to the various competing jitney buses per ticket sold?

At 7:59 PM, October 13, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Exactly. 80% of Metro's budget comes from it's 1% sales tax, not the fare box. It could say to private operators, "We'll give you $0.10 per passenger mile you carry", enabling the jitneys to offer lower prices to passengers.

At 12:46 AM, October 14, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Any chance that your very interesting proposal could wind up on a website (maybe a .org one, or perhaps just a dedicated Facebook page) maintained by Houston Wave, etc.? Your idea has very interesting potential, Tory. Let Metro focus on serving the unprofitable routes while facilitating others' commercializing the potentially profitable ones.

It's analogous to what spacers are trying to do with NASA: have NASA focus on Mars and beyond, which the private sector isn't inclined to touch anytime soon. Having NASA closer (as with the fortunately canceled Shuttle program that I seem to recall barely, if ever left near Earth orbit) spooked investors and potential customers. Same goes for jitney services here in Houston, perhaps? :-)

At 8:01 AM, October 14, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm open to it being shared anywhere. I know people inside METRO are aware of it, but bureaucracies are quite resistant to innovation.


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