Life is better in red states, plus smart greenways, stupid rail, rising suburbia, reducing crime, and moreHappy new year everyone. Unfortunately I'm going to have to open up the new year on a negative note with a take-down of a pretty absurd op-ed in the Chronicle today essentially calling for a multi-billion dollar commuter rail and monorail plan as well as aggressive land use regulation to go with it. In a world where the consensus is that the 2020s will have self-driving cars and incredibly affordable autonomous taxis that all together improve road capacity as much as 4x, why would any city in its right mind invest billions of dollars over decades to install old rail technology? Especially a city with jobs spread over multiple decentralized job centers instead of concentrated in a single downtown? In the meantime, he never explains what's wrong with our vast and cost-effective HOV lane network and express park-and-ride buses, or why we should just chuck that system for far more expensive and less flexible rail. An express bus can get in the express lanes and go to any job center, as well as circulate there to get people to their buildings and keep them out of the weather - rail can only go to one destination, and it can't circulate when it gets there. And when it comes to the land-use regulation to force dense development near transit stops: the LA Times looked at the data and found people in transit-oriented developments don't really shift their trips from cars to transit all that much.
And one more thing: I'm going to have to quibble with his estimate that we'll add 3.5 million people over the next 15 years to our existing 6.6m. Sorry, we're growing fast, but not nearly that fast. The GHP estimates our growth at between 1.5m and 2.7m over that time. It will be all Metro's budget can do to just buy enough express buses to keep up with that growth, much less scrap the whole system and go to a multi-billion dollar commuter rail system of any kind.
Moving on to some smaller miscellaneous items this week:
- Richard Florida asks if life is better in red states with a lower cost of living - and especially housing - creating a higher standard of living. He makes some good points until the goes completely off the rails in the last few paragraphs, arguing that somehow the red states are getting some sort of free ride from the blue states?!
- Wendell Cox over at New Geography does a good job summarizing The Economist magazine's new special section on the rise of suburbia around the world and the negative ramifications when planners try to restrain them.
- A lot of good lessons for Houston and Harris County in here if we want to get serious about reducing crime. Hat tip to Jay.
- Unlike Houston, San Antonio is still aggressively annexing new land, and looks to move into the top 5 cities in the U.S. just behind us.
- Great personal perspective on why You Never Leave Houston.