Sunday, July 08, 2012

First class bus, DART declining, big data, big port, debunking creative class, and more

It's been too long since the last smaller items post and the queue has been building rapidly...
In his ini­tial cri­tique, Peck said The Rise of the Cre­ative Class was filled with “self-indulgent forms of ama­teur microso­ci­ol­ogy and crass cel­e­bra­tions of hip­ster embour­geoise­ment.” That’s another way of say­ing that Florida was just describ­ing the “hip­ster­i­za­tion” of wealthy cities and con­clud­ing that this was what was caus­ing those cities to be wealthy. As some crit­ics have pointed out, that’s a lit­tle like say­ing that the high num­ber of hot dog ven­dors in New York City is what’s caus­ing the pres­ence of so many invest­ment bankers. So if you want bank­ing, just sell hot dogs. “You can manip­u­late your argu­ments about cor­re­la­tion when things hap­pen in the same place,” says Peck. 
What was miss­ing, how­ever, was any actual proof that the pres­ence of artists, gays and les­bians or immi­grants was caus­ing eco­nomic growth, rather than eco­nomic growth caus­ing the pres­ence of artists, gays and les­bians or immi­grants. Some more recent work has tried to get to the bot­tom of these ques­tions, and the find­ings don’t bode well for Florida’s the­ory. In a four-year, $6 mil­lion study of thir­teen cities across Europe called “Accom­mo­dat­ing Cre­ative Knowl­edge,” that was pub­lished in 2011, researchers found one of Florida’s cen­tral ideas—the migra­tion of cre­ative work­ers to places that are tol­er­ant, open and diverse—was sim­ply not happening. 
They move to places where they can find jobs,” wrote author Sako Mus­terd, “and if they can­not find a job there, the only rea­son to move is for study or for per­sonal social net­work rea­sons, such as the pres­ence of friends, fam­ily, part­ners, or because they return to the place where they have been born or have grown up.” But even if they had been pour­ing into places because of “soft” fac­tors like cof­fee shops and art gal­leries, accord­ing to Ste­fan Krätke, author of a 2010 Ger­man study, it prob­a­bly wouldn’t have made any dif­fer­ence, eco­nom­i­cally. Krätke broke Florida’s Cre­ative Class (which includes accoun­tants, real­tors, bankers and politi­cians) into five sep­a­rate groups and found that only the “sci­en­tif­i­cally and tech­no­log­i­cally cre­ative” work­ers had an impact on regional GDP. Krätke wrote “that Florida’s con­cep­tion does not match the state of find­ings of regional inno­va­tion research and that his way of relat­ing tal­ent and tech­nol­ogy might be regarded as a remark­able exer­cise in simplification.” 
Per­haps one of the most damn­ing stud­ies was in some ways the sim­plest. In 2009 Michele Hoy­man and Chris Far­icy pub­lished a study using Florida’s own data from 1990 to 2004, in which they tried to find a link between the pres­ence of the cre­ative class work­ers and any kind of eco­nomic  growth. “The results were pretty strik­ing,” said Far­icy, who now teaches polit­i­cal sci­ence at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­sity. “The mea­sure­ment of the cre­ative class that Florida uses in his book does not cor­re­late with any known mea­sure of eco­nomic growth and devel­op­ment. Basi­cally, we were able to show that the emperor has no clothes.” Their study also ques­tioned whether the migra­tion of the cre­ative class was hap­pen­ing. “Florida said that cre­ative class presence—bohemians, gays, artists—will draw what we used to call yup­pies in,” says Hoy­man. “We did not find that.”
Finally, Eric recently interviewed me over lunch for his "Houston, we have a Solution" blog if you'd like to check it out.  It's hard to compress the subtleties of an hour conversation into a few paragraphs (ask any journalist that's talked to me - I am not the master of the short sound bite or pithy answer), but Eric does an admirable job of getting to the rough essence of my answers.

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At 1:37 PM, July 09, 2012, Anonymous Neal Meyer said...


It's too late to save Houston from the same sorry old story of where the local transit agency, egged on by the political supporters of rail, from traveling down the long slow train track of sagging ridership while blasting through ever larger numbers of other people's money to build rail lines.

I haven't updated my old Metro boardings spread sheet in 3 years or so, but Metro does post its boardings online now. The agency has lost some 20 percent of its boardings since 2000.

Back when Metro was building the Main Street rail line, a friend of mine, Dave Hutzelman, offered a $500 bet with anyone in Harris County - ANYONE - that Metro would have a lower percentage of work trips or overall trips in the Houston area by 2010 than it did today. Nobody took him up on the bet, and that's a good thing they didn't because they would have lost.

I was at a public meeting recently where the mayors of the smaller cities were discussing the upcoming Metro referendum over the general mobility monies. I told several of the mayors afterwards that they'd be better off if they simply demanded a bill get passed in the Legislature asking for a vote to get out of Metro. There's no reason why their residents should be paying for the day dreams of rail fans in Houston.

At 6:54 PM, July 11, 2012, Anonymous awp said...

two things about zoning. To me the developed form (conflicts and all) of Houston is not all that different from other cities(except the feeder road development), just cheaper and malleable. Second, the implicit assumption of people that support zoning, is that the zoning board (or whatnot) will make the same decisions as they would.

At 8:13 PM, July 11, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Agree with second, respectfully disagree with first. Almost no other city allows subdividing single-family lots into townhomes. They often force high-rises downtown or into a couple other clusters - Houston spreads them widely, both commercial and residential. Other cities tend to limit apartments - Houston construction flexes to meet demand in whatever areas of the city are seeing the demand. Other cities will run major arterials and freeways thru residentially zoned areas - this is rare in Houston (almost all of it is or goes commercial).

BTW, this is also why condos are not a great investment in Houston: too easy to add supply to meet demand. Hard for existing units to appreciate when there is always new stock coming online.


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