Bike plan prudence, how spontaneous order keeps Houston affordable, suburbs winning, high cost of zoning, and moreBefore getting to this week's items, a short comment on the city's new bike plan: while I’m all for making biking better/easier/more popular (especially along bayous and power-line rights-of-way), I’m a bit worried that some activists are using it as a smokescreen to attack cars (reduce speeds, take away lanes for bike lanes, etc.), which of course carry magnitudes more people than bikes do, especially in Houston. It would be the equivalent of disrupting/slowing big jets at IAH so little single-engine prop planes have an easier time, and how much sense would that make?
I feel the same way about initiatives to reduce traffic deaths: noble intention, and we should certainly work on it, but within the realm of prudence. For example, radical reductions in speed limits would certainly reduce traffic deaths, but it would also slowly suffocate cities from a lack of mobility. Thank goodness autonomous technologies are coming to save us from our own bad driving...
There are a heck of a lot of new items this week, so here we go:
- Big Ideas for Houston's Big Problem Areas: Some good creativity in the ideas here, but I just have to laugh at any idea that involves closing Westheimer to make it a pedestrian greenway. Oh the utter traffic havoc and local business/resident riots that would cause...
- Infographic too big to post here: if Texas was it's own country, how would it rank?
- Houston airport named one of the most improved, best places to eat
- New Research on Bus & Rail. Key excerpts:
"Increased frequencies did far more to increase ridership than fare reductions, the paper found. So-called “choice” riders are most likely to value their time more than money (at least, within the range of transit fares), so this makes particular sense in areas where most people already have cars.
The Antiplanner remains convinced that transit will soon be rendered obsolete by shared, self-driving cars. But until that happens, there seems to be little reason in most cases for cities to build new rail lines, as innovative bus services should be able to attract riders at a far lower cost."
- More proof that adding housing supply moderates or reduces rents.
- National noise map, including Houston. I had no idea the airports had such large noise zones!
- How spontaneous order keeps Houston affordable. Fantastic in-depth article. Hat tip to David. Conclusion:
"Contrary to conventional wisdom, many US cities have a lot to learn from Houston. With tight development restrictions, out-of-date urban planning regimes, and burdensome regulations forcing middle- and lower-class Americans out of West Cost and Northeastern cities, Houston’s mix of affordable housing and economic opportunity is more valuable than ever. As other cities have attempted to maintain tight, centralized control on urban and economic development—exemplified by a recent push by Dallas to shutter local businesses in order to attract chains—Houston has opted to take a back seat to residents, entrepreneurs, and civil society groups in cultivating economic development and crafting urban communities.
Some continue to blame Houston’s unique approach for everything from flood damage—as if imposing side setbacks and keeping delis out of neighborhoods would avoid statewide flooding—to remaining pockets of poverty within the city. Certainly some form of citywide coordination on data collection and service allocation in pursuit of efficiency and equity makes sense. Yet past attempts to impose greater centralized urban planning on Houston have been defeated by overwhelming working-class opposition every time. Those residents know something many in the urban planning world don’t. It is well past time that we start taking Houston’s success seriously."
- Americans’ Shift To The Suburbs Sped Up Last Year
- New census data: flight from urban cores accelerates
- Speaking of the census, the Houston metro area is now 6.8 million people (!), adding 125,000 residents last year, second only behind DFW.
- How much Houston parents save by living in the suburbs
- NYT: A hotel boom comes to Texas
- NYT: Why falling home prices could be a good thing, plus Antiplanner coverage. Key excerpt:
"According to a recent paper by the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh, from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and Enrico Moretti, from the University of California, Berkeley, local land-use regulations reduce the United States’ economic output by as much as $1.5 trillion a year, or about 10 percent lower than it could be."