Sunday, May 27, 2007

Most Houston place, $ for parks, strong housing, wireless problems, toll roads, transit networks, and vote for Houston!

Time again to clear out the miscellaneous small items of interest. I also would like to announce that work has gotten so busy that I think I'm going to have to drop down from 3 posts/week to 2 posts/week, probably on Sunday or Monday nights, and Wednesday or Thursday nights, depending on what's going on in a given week. If you check in Tuesdays and Fridays, you should catch 'em. Or better yet, sign up for the RSS feed.

On to our items:

I recently found The Most Houston Place in the Universe.

I started this unscientific process by asking myself what makes Houston Houston, and different from Atlanta or Boston or Dubai. This was my list:

1. Diversity, particularly the off-handed, easy kind that seems astounding only when you stop to think about it.

2. Drive, as in the drive to succeed, accompanied by the belief that anyone who works hard here can make it.

3. And driving. The kind you do in your car.

Being a good Houstonian, I then got in my car and drove around.

Her answer: Veteran's Memorial in northwest Harris County, out by 1960, which I think is a pretty good choice - even if it technically is not inside the city. Read the whole thing for the reasons why.

  • Another "don't miss" from the Chronicle on a proposed developer fee/requirement to purchase open space and parkland. Makes a lot of sense as long as it's not too onerous. Don't forget that a lot of these new inner-loop townhome/condo buyers are recent college grads that have pretty tight limits on what they can spend for a home. Hopefully land costs will adjust flat or slightly downwards so final home prices stay roughly the same even with the new fees/requirements.
Update: just caught a Wall Street Journal article that notes "city planners generally use 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 people as a rule of thumb for necessary green space." The Chronicle article says we already have 16.5 acres per thousand. Not that a few more acres wouldn't be nice, but we seem to already be in pretty good shape in this department.
  • A Wall Street Journal article on cities that are bucking the national housing downturn includes Houston as well as Seattle, Salt Lake, Portland, Boise, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Austin.
  • An AP story on cities having trouble with their wireless Internet plans from lack of demand as well as coverage problems. Gotta hope Houston's plan goes better...
  • Reason's Bob Poole on the toll road transportation debate in the Texas legislature. He argues strongly for private toll roads, but I'm more on the fence. I have trouble seeing the real advantages vs. a public authority using tax-free bonds, and the potential disadvantages down the road can be frightening, because these things are essentially structured as 50+ year semi-monopolies. Imagine if I45 between Houston and Dallas had been structured as a private monopoly 40+ years ago? Talk about minting money at the public's expense. I have some other Reason reports that go into more depth on the arguments, and I'm hoping to read them soon and report back here.
  • Christof on building the right multi-modal, interconnected transit system, using Germany as an interesting example. It makes a good argument for why our local LRT/BRT system should be separate, but connected, to our commuter system. Trying to use one system for both short-distance hops and long-distance commutes creates a mutant that is good at neither.
  • Finally, this last one is a call to action. Kiplinger recently ranked their best cities. We're not on it, but they've opened up online voting. Based on the results in-progress I've seen, if the readers of this blog vote for Houston, we should be able to move pretty far up the rankings. And tell your friends! (especially if they're also bloggers)

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