Fix our pensions like AZ, passing Chicago for #3? avoiding over-regulation, MaX Lanes, and moreI want to open this week by getting a little contrary with this call for more planning, control, and zoning in Houston to prevent future flooding problems. While I'm sure there's more we can do to make sure new developments retain their runoff, I get a little tired of the call for more controls and regulations every time an averse event happens. This is how stultifying bureaucracies get built, and once built they're almost impossible to remove. Repeat after me: "planning does not lead to utopia" (if it did, please point to such a city for me). If strong centralized planning led to thriving communities without disasters, then the USSR would have won the Cold War and Chernobyl would never have happened. (mic drop)
Moving on to this week's items:
- I'm quoted a bit on MaX Lanes in this good summary article on "Seven points of conversation from Mayor Turner's Houston mobility plan"
- Chicago Tribune: Chicago losing population, could be overtaken by Houston as 3rd-largest. Patrick at the GHP disagrees (bottom page 5).
- Speaking of Chicago, now you can take formal tours of the corruption, lol!
- Market Urbanist Scott Beyer on why Subsidizing Light Rail Is Like Subsidizing The Landline Telephone. Opening and closing excerpts:
"What would happen if your city, in the name of progress, started giving poorer residents vouchers for landline telephones rather than smartphones? Or if, rather than stocking public libraries with computers, so that people could write emails, your city installed fax machines? You would consider these unnecessary expenditures on outdated technologies. Yet when it comes to public transit, many cities splurge on modes designed for a different time and place—namely light rail.
Instead these officials, often backed by federal grants, are throwing money into a century-old transportation concept that is unfit for most U.S. cities. This is a lazy approach, and insofar as it perpetuates the congestion crisis, it undermines the urbanist cause, by making dense living less convenient. It’s time for transportation planners to emphasize the future over the past."
- Another Scott piece on how Modern Zoning Would Have Killed Off America's Dense Cities, with the following conclusion:
"And Houston, which lacks a formal zoning code, has become a city that, contrary to its reputation, features numerous skyscraper clusters and whole neighborhoods dominated by new townhomes.
These trends point out a glaring contradiction in modern urbanist thinking. The people who claim they like density—such as planners, architects, environmentalists, and self-described progressives—also tend to prefer government centralization for cities. And they tend to oppose, as a broader principle, ideas that are market-oriented, anti-regulatory, capitalist, and pro-growth. But they seem not to have pondered how any of these variegated ideas actually work in practice within cities. Centralization has led to a stifling regulatory climate—most notably zoning—that prevents cities from adding new buildings and people, a point demonstrated by the New York Times. A hands-off approach, meanwhile, is what has proven to liberalize cities for this human influx, making them dense and dynamic."
- Houston does pretty well in this ranking of the income needed to pay the rent in the biggest U.S. cities: #13 out of 17 (lower number ranking is more expensive)
- The WSJ gives a good review of Joel Kotkin's new book, The Human City: In Praise of Urban Sprawl: Dense urban living discourages child rearing. Shlomo Angel on why there are 80,000 more dogs than kids in San Francisco
- Which Sun Belt Cities Are Building the Most New Single-Family Homes. Houston is near the top along with Austin, Orlando, Charlotte, and Dallas.
- Pretty cool animated map of how Houston has dramatically grown since the 1940s.