Monday, August 22, 2016

Zoning shrinks the economy, TX cities as people, Astrodome, appreciating townhomes, helping homeless, and more

Lots of smaller items this week:
  • A cool video proposal for what to do with the Astrodome. The proposal is to strip it to its frame as a park for events. Great visuals. An Eiffel Tower for Houston. That is somewhat appealing, but I hate to give up the potential enclosed, air-conditioned, climate-protected space, especially given Houston's harsh weather.  Couldn't it be a park and events space while staying enclosed?  And I think that's the county's current concept/plan.  Then there'd be a place we could hold events and festivals in the summer and winter, instead of just the spring and fall.


"Bryan Mistele, the CEO of traffic tracker Inrix, argues in the Seattle Times that proposed new light-rail lines will be “obsolete before they are built.” Specifically, he says, automated, connected, electric, and shared vehicles–which he abbreviates as ACES–are already changing how people travel, and those changes are accelerating. 
Sound Transit, Seattle’s regional rail transit agency, wants voters to approve a $54 billion ballot measure this November for more light rail. This, Mistele points out, is more than twice the cost of the Panama Canal expansion, yet isn’t likely to produce any significant benefits.
$54 *billion* (!!).  Wow - that's a lot of money for what will soon be a very large white elephant. Thank goodness Houston METRO isn't trying to jump off a similar cliff...
"Cashman’s argument is that self-driving cars won’t be “affordable,” while public transit is. Excuse me? In 2014, American transit agencies spent $59 billion to move people 57 billion passenger miles (see page 106). That’s more than a dollar per passenger mile. 
All spending on cars and driving, meanwhile, amounted to $1.1 billion (add lines 54, 57, and 116 of table 2.5.5). Highway subsidies in 2014 were about $45 billion (subtract gas tax diversions to transit and non-highway purposes from “other taxes and fees”). For that cost, Americans drove 2.7 trillion vehicle miles in light-duty vehicles. At an average occupancy of 1.67 people per vehicle (see table 16), that’s 4.5 trillion passenger miles, which works out to an average cost of 26 cents a passenger mile. 
In other words, transit is only “affordable” because three-fourths of the cost is subsidized, while less than 4 percent of the cost of driving is subsidized. I’m in favor of ending both subsidies, but someone has to pay those costs; when adding them in, driving is four times more affordable than transit."
"Whatever they look like, townhouses increase the housing supply in a relatively low-impact way. They can help keep Houston affordable while its coastal rivals commit economic suicide."
“...a study published last year by Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti which estimates that the U.S. economy is 14 percent smaller as a result of constraints on housing development.”
Finally, a little humor from George Rogers, who recently visited Houston from Chicago:
If Texas cities were people
Collin County (North Dallas): A Dad trying to be cool.
Austin: A Hipster trying to be cool. Lives at Urban Outfitters.
Fort Worth: Urban Cowboy.
San Antonio: Fort Worth's tejano buddy.
Houston: A nerdy kid that doesn't care about being cool.
Dallas: A dudebro that blows money at Neiman Marcus.
El Paso: Isn't that in New Mexico?
Dallas: I'm cool because I blew 500 dollars at Neiman Marcus.
Austin: I'm cool because I blew 500 dollars at Urban Outfitters.
Houston: What is cool anyways?

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5 Comments:

At 10:03 PM, August 22, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

Why Houston by being the Energy Capital is the most important city on earth.

http://georgerogers42.herokuapp.com/article/energy-capital

 
At 10:04 PM, August 22, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

Why Houston by being the Energy Capital is the most important city on earth.

 
At 4:20 PM, August 23, 2016, Blogger dkastner said...

Moving my comment from the first post

Antiplanner's math is off. His analysis doesn't include local street funding, parking space costs paid by developers, and parking costs for household garages/driveways. It's not clear if the BEA table includes insurance, licensing, or property taxes. He should also include pollution costs and costs due to deaths caused by each mode to make a fair comparison.

 
At 4:37 PM, August 23, 2016, Blogger Antiplanner said...

BEA data include insurance and licensing costs. Property taxes and other local street funding going to roads are included in my highway subsidies calculations. Parking costs are paid by users. Accident costs are covered by insurance or users. Pollution costs are not included in my calculations but are rapidly declining. More than a decade ago, UC economist Mark Delucchi estimated they were a few pennies a vehicle mile. They are much less today.

Auto travel is far safer than it used to be, and new highways tend to be the safest of all. Light rail and commuter rail are far more dangerous than urban roads when measured in deaths per passenger mile. Buses are about as safe as urban freeways. Almost all costs of driving are several times higher for transit, which pollutes as much or more, uses more energy, and requires far greater subsidies than driving.

Anti-auto people love to think up ways in which autos are subsidized, but as Delucchi says, most of them "rely on outdated, superficial, nongeneralizable, or otherwise inappropriate studies."

 
At 10:08 AM, August 24, 2016, Blogger dkastner said...

"Parking costs are paid by users" - this is not true in the case where businesses are forced to provide parking for their customers. Even when people pay themselves (whether it's building driveways/garages on their homes or paying for metered parking) it's still a cost that needs to be accounted for when comparing modes.

"Accident costs are covered by insurance or users" - but the loss of human life is not inconsequential even if funeral and hospital costs are paid for.

"Pollution costs are not included in my calculations but are rapidly declining" - 2016 set a US record for gasoline consumption

"Light rail and commuter rail are far more dangerous than urban roads when measured in deaths per passenger mile" - this is a somewhat arbitrary way to measure safety. People generally travel shorter distances via transit.

"Almost all costs of driving are several times higher for transit, which pollutes as much or more, uses more energy, and requires far greater subsidies than driving" - this is only true looking at current transit (under)usage in auto-dominated cities. It's also affected by the fuel source for generating electricity. The thing is, it's much cheaper to electrify transit than refit the entire auto fleet with battery-electric motors.



 

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