Sprawl wins in a solar world, bribing commuters to ride transit, new option to Dallas, downtown's progress, lessons from Chicago and AtlantaFirst, an event announcement: long-time readers know I don't do official political endorsements (this is a policy blog), but I have admired Bill King's strong stand on the city's pension crisis (among others), a topic most politicians seem to shy away from. You can learn more about his Back-to-Basics campaign and ask all the questions you like (the man can definitely engage seriously on policy discussions) at his kickoff fundraiser Monday from 5:30 to 7 at Cadillac Bar. Details here.
Moving on to this week's items:
- Vonlane's luxury bus service is finally opening on the Dallas-Houston route, although without many frequencies to start. They're having trouble building the buses fast enough. I suspect this will be a popular service. I am hearing increasing complaints about packed crowds and bad service on Megabus, although it is clearly popular.
- Atlanta is bribing commuters to take the bus with toll credits. Something Houston should consider?...
- Aaron Renn (The Urbanophile) has a great piece on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the deep, deep troubles of Chicago. Definite cautionary tale for Houston not to fall down their slippery slope, especially when it comes to unions and pensions. (Not so) fun fact: their local obligations add up to $83,000 per household!!
- Really impressive set of slides on what's going on downtown and their strategy moving forward. It's coming along really, really well. Hat tip to Erik.
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution has done a major series of articles critiquing Atlanta as falling far behind its peer cities. Everybody knows the worst case scenario for a city is Detroit, but Atlanta is a more realistic cautionary tale for Houston: a city that can't unify to solve big problems like transportation, infrastructure, and education. It has especially underinvested in their freeway network - including a lack of loops/beltways - which is coming back to haunt them. Had we not done Beltway 8 and now the Grand Parkway, we could be in the same situation. They also did in-depth profiles of two peer competitor cities doing much better than them: Dallas and Charlotte, including well done short profile videos. I'm not surprised they didn't choose Houston, where the comparison is muddied by the oil boom (Dallas much less so). And if you're curious for more backstory, Aaron Renn (the Urbanophile) wrote a prescient piece on Atlanta's decline back in 2010.
- Dallas professor points out that suburban sprawl makes more sense than forced density in a world of autonomous electric cars charged by solar panels. Hat tip to Curtis.
The solution to these issues, as proposed by Townsend, is "solar-powered, self-driving sprawl." The thinking goes like this: sprawl is the ideal land use pattern for developing a solar grid that can power the electric cars of residents while still providing the electricity that the region needs to function. He quotes from a paper issued in 2013 by University of Auckland researchers:
"[S]uburbia is not only the most efficient collector of solar energy but that enough excess electricity can be generated to power daily transport needs of suburbia and also contribute to peak daytime electrical loads in the city centre... While a compact city may be more efficient for the internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by [photovoltaic solar cells] is the main energy source and [electric vehicles] are the means of transport."