Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Glaeser on Houston and rail, job growth, and Intergalactic IAH

Just a handful of quick items this week.  First, a couple of Harvard professor Dr. Edward Glaeser excerpts:
Public policies only made things worse. The defining characteristic of declining cities is that they have plenty of infrastructure relative to the level of demand. Detroit didn't need the People Mover—an expensive monorail that glides over empty streets. And today, a Light Rail project is being pitched by the federal government, which seems to have learned nothing from the failures of past follies.
Neither Detroit nor the U.S. suffer from any profound transportation problem that can only be fixed with vast federal spending. The country doesn't need more People Movers. It needs unleashed, educated entrepreneurs—and they will only be held back by taxes being funneled into fanciful make-work projects in a futile attempt to fix our economic malaise.
Glaeser's solution is simple: Where land is scarce, density becomes vital. Cities that cannot build out must build up. Freed from restrictive and Byzantine zoning regulations, Houston has built up and out to become the fourth-largest city in the U.S., he notes, all despite an unusually vile climate. Owing mainly to affordable housing and the availability of jobs, Glaeser calculates that—after taxes, housing, and transportation costs—an average family in high-density Houston is much better off than a comparable one in Queens or Staten Island. While not everyone will want to experience high-rise life, its availability should result in lower prices for all.
From the Houston Digital Ambassadorship newsletter: Houston No. 2 in job gains among metros nationwide (behind DFW, but not by much)

And finally, a question for my readers (which I have asked before, but would like to do a new survey): has anybody ever heard IAH humorously referred to as "Intergalactic" in a conversation?  I've been asking around, and nobody seems to have ever heard it, so I'm starting to wonder if I made it up and just thought I heard it from others?  If you have heard it before, please let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

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At 10:15 PM, March 29, 2011, Blogger Michael said...

Yes, when I went to Rice many people referred to IAH as Intergalactic.

As for Glaeser's point:
>>all despite an unusually vile climate

I'd say Houston has as good or better weather than nearly all major US cities outside of LA, Miami, San Diego, and Honolulu. Our summers are slightly less comfortable than our Texas triangle counterparts but I think November to March is slightly nicer / warmer in H-Town that Dallas and Austin, for instance. It was still snowing in the Midwest this weekend. In the 70s and 80s here.

And I actually think weather is a moderate contributing reason to Texas's growth. We have plenty of sun, very little snow, and a lower cost of living than anywhere else you are going to find that combo.

At 10:46 PM, March 29, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unusually vile climate???!?!?

I am sitting in my home in Houston Texas' "unusually vile climate" on March 29, with the doors and windows wide open, and such has been the case for almost every day of the past many weeks. One can regularly enjoy al fresco dining at least 9 months out of the year. Most evenings even in the summer are amenable to enjoying outdoor theater, dining and other activities. October through April is generally a pretty amazing climate. Yes,yes, yes, it is hot and humid in the summer, but the fact is, we enjoy lower temperatures for much of the summer than many cities far to our north, enough lower that even our much much much too-often-discussed humidity does not make up for it (i.e., Houston has a lower humidex than cities to its north.)

How mind-numbingly ignorant to claim that Houston has an "unusually vile climate." I'm guessing the author has been to Houston maybe once, on a particularly hot day in August.

At 11:34 PM, March 29, 2011, Anonymous PD said...

Growing up in Houston in the late 70s and early 80s, I used and heard others use "Intergalactic" to refer to IAH. I don't think we were originators either. I'm not sure where we first heard or came up with the usage. However, we were in the Friendswood/Clear Lake area and many of our parents worked at NASA at the time. Maybe that was why we went with that term.

At 8:06 AM, March 30, 2011, Blogger lockmat said...

never heard called that.

At 11:46 AM, March 30, 2011, Blogger Unknown said...

I heard IAH called "intergalactic" almost exclusively once I started at Rice in the 90s, but it seemed like a nickname that had been around a LONG time. I don't think you're imagining it!

At 12:13 PM, March 30, 2011, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

It's a great nickname given the NASA presence here. The city and airport authority should do more to encourage it as a fun, semi-official nickname. With Continental becoming United, I doubt they'd worry much about a reduced emphasis on "InterContinental".

At 12:17 PM, March 30, 2011, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I don't know why I didn't Google it before, but there are lots of references to Intergalactic on the interwebs.

At 1:01 PM, March 30, 2011, Blogger Jardinero1 said...

Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin are significantly hotter than Houston in the summer. Also colder in the winter, with appreciably colder nights.

At 2:34 PM, March 30, 2011, Blogger JC said...

I remember hearing the phrase "Intergalactic Spaceport" in the weather reports on KPFT back around '75, before they were taken over by the SF crowd from Pacifica headquarters. They could never do anything like that now that their senses of humor have been surgically removed.

At 6:24 PM, March 30, 2011, Blogger Rail Claimore said...

Intercontinental is a unique name in and of itself. :D

Btw, I'm moving to Texas next week. The job market there is indeed true for me.

At 1:40 PM, March 31, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intergalactic? Yes, I've heard it many times, beginning in the 1970's. Anything but Bush, please!

At 1:45 PM, March 31, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not just vile, unusually vile! LOL!
Dictionary.com's first definition of vile is "wretchedly bad"
Okay, there've been more than a few days in Houston when I'd agreed with "wretchedly bad." But, then there are days like today!

At 9:02 PM, March 31, 2011, Blogger Alon Levy said...

I grew up in a city with about the same thermal regime as Houston (it's actually slightly cooler in the summer), and yes, the climate is unusually vile.

At 11:13 AM, April 01, 2011, Anonymous Mike said...

Average annual temperature: 67.9 F

That's not just vile, folks. That's unusually vile!

At 9:18 AM, April 02, 2011, Anonymous Dave said...

"Houston Intergalactic", or in my case, "Houston Intergalactica" has been around nearly as long as I've been in Houston (since 1977). While, like others, fuzzy memory sometimes makes me feel as if I made it up myself, it likely was coined by many simultaneously in reference to the TV series, 'Battlestar Galactica', which came out in 1978.

At 3:53 PM, April 06, 2011, Anonymous Evan said...

I think Intergalactic is at least partly a Rice thing.


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