Summing up Houston, realistic transit, better policy platform for cities, very bad rail, and moreLots of items this week:
- Fantastic post on Houston transit by Dug Begley over at the Chronicle discussing Houston's long-running love/hate thing with mass transit. Top insight of the survey analysis: "First, most Houstonians don’t want to abandon their cars." Yep - news flash there. He links to my favorite Onion article of all time, "Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others." Lol ;-D The bottom line is that when people express support for more mass transit, in almost all cases they're thinking one of two things that are generally not true:
- Others will ride it which will clear up the road for me (never happens - transit does not reduce traffic congestion, all of the big transit cities also have big traffic congestion)
- The perfect route to my workplace will be created and it will be faster than my drive now with convenient schedules (rarely happens)
Not arguing against good, cost-effective transit - it is absolutely very important - just saying you have to take support surveys with a grain of salt and make intelligent, pragmatic decisions about road vs. transit investments based on real-world usage.
- The most awesome line of the week comes from Raj over at Cite. Very insightful, although I'm not sure I'm totally on-board with the "Southern pace" assessment ;-)
“For me, Houston is an intimate and kind-hearted city. A city as innovative as New York but with a Southern pace and a Western openness.”
- Affordable housing: Now it's a problem for the middle class, too
- Learn the local lingo with a new book from the Houstorian. Another quote I love:
"I ask Glassman a few times in a few different ways, What makes Houston Houston?
There's a "misfit tinkerer" mystique to the place, he finally answers.
"Think of the Astrodome," he says. "The Art Car Parade. Wes Anderson. The Orange Show. The Beer Can House ... "
- Devastating factoid on commuter rail as constructed in Orlando. Can you say "massive white elephant taxpayer boondoggle"?
"We’ve all heard the claim that a rail line can move as many people as an eight- (or sometimes ten-) lane freeway. Not so much. Orlando’s billion-dollar commuter-rail line carries less than 2,000 people to work each weekday morning and home in the evenings. (Amortized over 30 years at 3 percent, it would have cost less to buy every single daily round-trip rider a new Prius every year for the next 30 years.)"
- I generally like to avoid politics on the blog, but found this a compelling argument that the Republicans should adopt an urban policy of openness and affordability (second item). Hear, hear! Would love to see the Democrats adopt it as well!
"As a result of decades of Democratic governance and misplaced priorities…American cities do not offer the opportunities for success and growth that they should, especially for those looking to climb the socio-economic ladder. In many cases, city governments are utterly dysfunctional. And the reason for this dysfunction is that our cities are too often closed—closed to businesses and closed to outsiders. For the middle class and those striving to make it up the ladder, the taxes, housing, and other costs leave cities simply too expensive to afford—especially with a family. Excessive regulation makes it difficult, if not downright impossible, to get the permits necessary to start a business. Cronyism and a lack of transparency make it difficult to know whether anyone is trying to fix the situation."
"Housing regulations have been used by the urban left to restrict new construction, as if city neighborhoods are gated country clubs that should never allow change or new people. The liberal business elite have fortified the business permitting process so much that, in many cities, it is nearly-impossible for competing entrepreneurs to enter basic professions like hair-styling. And to carve out a voting bloc, the left has defended unionized public monopolies that deliver services at far higher cost, and less efficiency, than is necessary.
To the authors, making cities more “open” would mean embracing economic and administrative liberalization. They call for housing deregulation, so that cities can accommodate growing populations; one-stop shops for business permitting; and civil service reform, so that bureaucracies are either held to better standards, or replaced through privatization. They also call for better online data, so that residents can easily view info on their cities’ spending and debt, and gain access to officials."Finally I want to end with an excerpt from Gov. Perry's National Press Club Speech highlighted in the Wall Street Journal. Hat tip to Wendell.
"There's a lot of talk in Washington about inequality, income inequality. But there is a lot less talk about the inequality that arises from the high cost of everyday life. In blue state coastal cities you have these strict zoning laws, environmental regulations that have prevented buildings from expanding the housing supply. And that may be great for the venture capitalist who wants to keep a nice view of San Francisco Bay. But it’s not so great for the single mother working two jobs in order to pay rent and still put food on the table for her kids.Hear, hear!
It's not just about how many dollars you earn, though there are still pretty substantial opportunities for that in the State of Texas. It's also about how far each dollar that you do earn can take you. After you’ve paid your taxes, you’ve paid your rent, your tuition, your grocery bills. "
Labels: affordability, commuter rail, governance, government transparency, home affordability, identity, land-use regulation, Metro, mobility strategies, opportunity urbanism, politics, rail, transit, zoning