Monday, April 14, 2008

Airline mergers, VMT, tech jobs, boom, stats, neighborhood fights, and more

More of the small misc items I couldn't fit in the post last week, but first the big news of the night is the formal announcement of the Delta-Northwest merger (they even rolled out a web site to tout it), which is highly likely to lead to a merger of hometown carrier Continental and United. From the NY Times:

The leading candidates are United and Continental Airlines, which have explored the idea. The airlines may now try to get the deal wrapped up within the next 30 days, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations said Monday night. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

One reason for the urgency is that airlines want to get their deals approved by the Justice Department under the Bush administration, rather than risk seeing them stall until a new president takes office.

United’s chief executive, Glenn F. Tilton, has been eager for a merger, but Continental had resisted, saying it wanted to wait to see if the combination between Delta and Northwest came about. The chief executive of Continental, Lawrence W. Kellner, called it “good news” last month when it appeared that the Delta-Northwest talks had cooled. But Mr. Kellner could end up running the combined Continental-United, should an agreement take place, this person said.

The Chronicle also has their take, as well as Reuters. My previous thoughts on the topic are here and here.

On to the remaining items:
  • Wendell Cox at Demographia takes issue with FHWA estimates of Houston's 36 daily vehicle miles per capita (#1 in the nation), pointing out a very fundamental flaw in their calculation, and concluding that:
...Houston’s metropolitan population growth would indicate an increase to in the neighborhood of 4.4 million in 2006. On that assumption, Houston’s daily vehicle miles traveled per capita would be 22.7, 20 percent below San Antonio, 10 percent below Dallas-Fort Worth, lower than Los Angeles and only 10 percent higher than Portland.

While much of America wrestles with a mortgage crisis, a credit crunch and higher living costs, the nation’s fourth-largest city is bustling. At 3.4 percent, February’s job growth in Houston led the nation among the 12 largest metropolitan areas in the past year, government figures show.

That was down slightly from its January rate of 3.9 percent but still far ahead of the national average of 0.6 percent.

The housing market, though slowing somewhat, remains relatively strong compared to other big cities. And Houston’s manufacturing and construction sectors are growing, bucking the national trend.

No wonder the Census Bureau last week said metropolitan Houston, already home to about 5.5 million people, ranked as one of the country’s biggest population gainers in the past year.

"The ugliest McMansion in the world could be built, and it wouldn't rip neighborhoods apart like this process does," said Josh Doherty, who with his wife, Dawn, and others successfully fought the so-called Maplewood overlay.

Overlay is shorthand for what the city has officially dubbed a "neighborhood stabilization overlay," a zoning device that planners hoped would end unrest over new construction in established neighborhoods.

Instead of peace, overlays in many areas have sparked neighborhood civil wars.

Conceived in 2005, the idea was to give older, established neighborhoods a way to preserve their scale in places where lots have become more valuable than homes and giant new houses have sprouted up, dwarfing their neighbors.

But what resulted in many cases are knock-down, drag-out fights that land before the City Council with the nasty thud of neighbors at each other's throats.
A solid case of "beware what you wish for," if you ask me, and a warning for Houston not to make the same mistake.

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At 8:37 AM, April 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you hear Discovery Green opened downtown this week?

At 8:58 AM, April 16, 2008, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Yes. I'm looking forward to checking it out. The Chronicle did a nice front page write-up. Generally speaking, I assume my readers follow the local media (mainly the Chronicle), so I don't point to those stories unless I have something meaningful to add. I will link to stories from outside of Houston, since my readers are less likely to have seen them.


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