Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bruegmann sprawl + rankings, rankings, rankings

Well, the original plan was to wrap up Transportation Week at Houston Strategies with commentary on the Bruegmann sprawl op-ed from the Chronicle last Sunday (my older posts on Bruegmann can be found through this post). But after reading it a couple times, I've decided I don't have a whole lot to add to his very good points - albeit ones delivered in a somewhat meandering fashion that don't excerpt well. You can read the Reason take on it here. I will throw out one excerpt of warning for Houston to not make the same mistakes as LA:

As the population has grown, as families have become affluent and as more women have entered the workforce, there has been a major increase in car ownership and driving — and a demand for mobility.

But mobility has been impaired. The "sprawl debates" of the last few decades have pitted citizen against citizen by suggesting that the choice is between public versus private transportation and the automobile versus the railroad. This has weakened the consensus for funding for all transportation — public and private, highway and rail. This has hurt mobility, exacerbated traffic problems and eroded the global competitiveness of Los Angeles.

Moving on, today instead will be about rankings. Lots of 'em.
  • eWeek has named Houston one of the nation’s 10 emerging tech centers:

    Houston. City population: 2,016,582. Companies that call it home: BMC Software, Universal Computer Systems, Landmark Graphics. The details: Rated No. 3 of 10 by Forbes Magazine on its Best Places for Business and Careers list. Hewlett-Packard employs more people in its Houston operations than any other HP facility in the world.

    Others on the list were Austin, Denver/Boulder, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, Portland, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Richmond.
  • Money magazine has Houston the third skinniest city in the nation (!), with an average body mass index of 24.8. Certainly a contrast to the Men's Fitness fat-city ranking, which I took to task here. Money was certainly clever using an actual measure of fat for their rankings rather than the arbitrary formula at Men's Fitness that included everything but. That said, I'm pretty sure Money's number is a mistype by somebody in the data department... (thanks to Metroblogs for the tip)
  • In the same Money magazine rankings, Sugar Land was ranked the third-best small U.S. city to live in, behind Ft. Collins in Colorado and Naperville outside of Chicago. They were noted for job growth, education, diversity, and affordable housing. League City made #65, The Woodlands made #73, and Texas was the top state with 10 in the top 100. I was surprised at The Woodlands' relatively low ranking. I was just out there for an "insiders tour" last week and it was pretty amazing. Planners from all over the world come in to take tours. Austin made the top 10 big cities list. Here's the Sugar Land mini-profile from their site (detailed profile here):
Population: 75,800
Typical single-family home: $170,000
Est. property taxes: $4,500
Pros: Diversity; affordable housing
Cons: Like humidity? A lot?
Sugar Land is one of the country's more diverse communities. The area's heat and humidity tended to remind Asian immigrants of home, and in the '80s, as Sugar Land became less a sleepy small town and more a land of good jobs and affordable housing, more Asians moved in. Today the city is almost a quarter Asian, and Sugar Land is home to mosques as well as Hindu and Buddhist temples. And in few desirable cities does a buck go so far: $200,000 buys a roomy house in a landscaped neighborhood with a community pool.

If you use their little "Find Your Best Place" search engine and focus on affordable housing, plentiful leisure activities, plentiful cultural options, job growth, and good health care access, but don't worry about low crime rate, good weather, or short commute time, we come out #6 in the results out of hundreds in their database. Not bad.

You can read Houston's profile here. We are clearly deficient in the "ski resorts within 100 miles" metric, vs. 10 (!) for the average "best place." If we want to move up in the rankings, time to get started on the solution...

Passengers across the country have selected William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) as the number one (small) airport in the country for customer satisfaction.

Houston’s second-largest airport was selected, this year, as the top-pick among travelers in the United States who were surveyed by J.D. Power and Associates for an Aviation Week traveler satisfaction report. ...

Customer satisfaction is based upon eight factors: airport accessibility, check-in/baggage check, security check, terminal facilities, food and beverage, retail services, baggage claim and immigration/customs control.

For Hobby passengers, the determining factor in selecting the airport as their favorite was the airport’s terminal facilities, the study revealed. ...

In the same study, Houston’s largest airport, Bush Intercontinental (IAH) came in at the top-third of large US airports, at number five, for overall customer satisfaction. Houston-based Continental Airlines, IAH’s primary carrier, was rated the number one traditional network airline in the nation for customer satisfaction.
Sorry for the long post. I didn't intend it to get this long when I started. If all goes according to plan, we'll dig into Houston's branding identity next week.


At 4:01 PM, July 22, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Those magazines always have an arbitrary formula with different weightings, and they tweak the formula each year so they get new rankings and a new story. Places don't change very fast, and nobody wants to read about the same 10 towns every year. The Woodlands was probably featured in earlier years.

US News does the same thing with college rankings. Nobody wants read about the same #1 year-in and year-out, so they mix it up. I'm sure it must drive the colleges nuts that they can't get a stable ranking (well, at least those near the top).

At 12:14 PM, July 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree that the Woodlands would be ranked higher than Sugar Land. We all whine and moan about how Houston has no natural beauty compared to the West Coast and that we have done a good job here with the environment we have. But then what do we do when evaluating our own suburbs? We pick liking the one community that actually is placed in a good environment (Woodlands) versus the one that had to landscape its way from farmland, prisonland, and dumpyards into prominence (Sugar Land)

People in the Woodlands have a longer commute, less job growth, less schools and hospitals, more crime, less entertainment, and less diversity and it should be ranked higher than Sugar Land? Doubtful, we are guilty of using the same logic that people use to denigrate our whole city.


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