Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kotkin on CA vs TX and Hou, BRT, HSR, dining, bikes, and more

Before I get to a collection of smaller misc items for your holiday reading pleasure, a blatant self-promotion unrelated to the normal content of this blog: yours truly was notified last night that I had won the first ever M-prize for management innovation by the Management Innovation eXchange community lead by the Wall Street Journal's #1 ranked management guru, Gary Hamel.  I won in the category of "Reinventing Leadership" with my proposed 'hack' "The Bossless Organization: from Bosses to Mentor Investors", which competed against hundreds of other submissions over the course of this year.  The winners will get recognition in a variety of venues--from the McKinsey Quarterly to the Wall Street Journal to the 2011 World Innovation Forum  (WIF).   If the concept is something of interest to you, drop me a line, especially if you might consider trying it inside your own organization.  And you can find out more at my work blog here.  End of grandstanding.  Thanks for your indulgence.

On to our items this week:
"The author’s advice to Houston - “Keep being who you are, and don’t try to be Boston, Chicago, or any other city.” This, Kotkin says, has brought us where we are, and will earn us the well-deserved recognition as an undisputed City of Opportunity."
"Houstonians should keep a close eye on Austin’s BRT.  The nationwide push for conservative government spending may reduce or end Houston’s light rail expansion.  If that should come to pass, a stellar BRT will be one of the few remaining ways to prevent gridlock as Houston’s population grows over the next three decades."
"Americans want many kinds of cities. They want Midtown Manhattan (a nice place to visit). They want Houston (whose seeming chaos actually provides some of the most affordable decent housing for middle-class Americans). They want quaint towns and edge cities. When it comes to city life in America, there is no one size that fits all."
Finally, a dump of recent interesting items from the Houston Digital Ambassadorship email newsletter:
May you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving holiday!

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At 9:39 AM, November 24, 2010, Blogger Michael said...

It seems like Samuelson is confusing HSR with commuter rail.

"Every day, about 140 million Americans go to work, with about 85 percent driving an average of 25 minutes (three-quarters drive alone; 10 percent carpool). Even assuming 250,000 high-speed rail passengers, there would be no visible effect on routine commuting"

Big deal - this is not the point of HSR. You could also shut down IAH and Hobby for a day and you would notice no visible effect on commuting.


"We are prisoners of economic geography. Suburbanization after World War II made most rail travel impractical. From 1950 to 2000, the share of the metropolitan population living in central cities fell from 56 percent to 32 percent, report UCLA economists Leah Platt Boustan and Allison Shertzer. Jobs moved, too. Trip origins and destinations are too dispersed to support most rail service.

Only in places with greater population densities, such as Europe and Asia, is high-speed rail potentially attractive"

Maybe this is something to consider for local rail, but not HSR. This ignores the reality that cities in the US are where the population growth is occurring - sure - it may be the entire metro area versus the central city, but these are still huge metro areas that need all forms of transit. Look at where Texas will be getting new representatives - likely San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.

What does this mean in terms of HSR versus the way you would design it in Europe? Well - maybe it makes sense to have a stop in Katy on a Houston / San Antonio line. Maybe it makes sense to have a stop in the Woodlands or IAH on a Dallas / Houston line, versus just having stops in central cities. Problem solved.

If Samuelson is looking for pork, he's looking in the wrong place.

And I disagree with the antiplanner: "if you believe, as I do, that all modes of transportation should be paid for by users, and not by tax subsidies...". Nope - don't really care. I don't have a technology bias in terms of how we build out the most efficient system, NOR do I have a funding bias in terms of where the money should come from. If it is more efficient to build the system using our tax dollars, and if it means lower overall costs to me at the end of the day (considering taxes plus my personal expenditures on auto, gas, auto insurance, etc), then build it with tax dollars.

At 5:08 PM, November 24, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

The antiplanner doesn't actually believe that all modes should be unsubsidized. He believes all modes except cars should be unsubsidized, and lies to himself that roads have an operating ratio even approaching 100%. (The actual number, excluding all local roads, is 62%, i.e. less than the New York City Subway, which he said should be closed down.)

As for Samuelson, the density argument is used in reverse in Britain. France, Brits explain, isn't very dense, so there's plenty of room for greenfield tracks; Britain is just too dense for it. Tellingly, those sorts of arguments are used in countries where public goods (including public transit) are substandard, to justify why it's perfectly reasonable that public goods should remain substandard.

Look, there are informed opponents of high-speed rail out there. There's Ed Glaeser, for one. More on the ground, a lot of Californians don't mind HSR but think the California HSR Authority is completely incompetent. But Samuelson and O'Toole have zero peer-reviewed publications between them, and should not be considered experts on anything.

At 4:57 AM, December 13, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Californian who wants HSR. Why? Because building freeways is a losing proposition. It's expensive to build big freeways and once you see gridlock on a 16 lane freeway, you start to understand why other forms of tranportation might be desirous.

The sad fact of freeways is that the idea "If you build it, they will come" is completely true. Once a nice freeway is put in some area, builders find a way to develop that area and before you know it, that freeway is just as gridlocked as the rest of them.

And freeways are not that cheap to maintain. Gas taxes don't even pay 1/2 of the maintenance costs. One freeway in Orange County was just expanded by ONE lane on ONE side for SIX miles and it cost $65 million dollars.

While articles about HSR in California always talk about LA to SF and how cheap is it to fly between those cities, they miss the idea that it's not cheap or easy to fly to Fresno or Bakersfield. HSR would make it possible for a hiker in LA or SF to take the train to Fresno (Yosemite) and never need a personal car. There is demand for that. There are already a lot of people in both cities who don't own cars and rely on public transportation to get around.

HSR will be a blessing here.

At 9:31 AM, December 13, 2010, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

You can already do that with a bus or Amtrak. It's about the economics: the costs vs. the ridership, as well as the ticket prices. In theory you may prefer HSR to Yosemite (or other central CA locations) vs. a car, but what if I told you tickets are almost certainly going to be at least $100 each way? All of a sudden a little drive doesn't sound so bad, esp. if you're going with other people...


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