Sunday, September 02, 2012

Traffic reduction tech, Houston's city type, Metro pros and cons, and more

Sorry to keep doing this, but there are just so many backlogged small misc items to get through...
"Basically, I don’t see the upside to voting against this referendum. I see the case for it, but not the case against it. I wish the referendum would have been better, but that fight is over. This is what we have to work with, and it’s good enough for me."
"Metro's high water mark for transit ridership was in 1999-2002 when its fixed-route service had slightly fewer than 100 million boardings annually. This was just prior to the opening of the light rail line on Main Street, so all of these boardings were on buses. 
However, since 2000, Metro's fixed-route ridership has declined in all but three years. In 2011, total boardings were just under 77 million, a decline of more than 21 percent in eleven years. Of the 77 million boardings in 2011, roughly 11 million were on the Main Street light rail. Therefore, bus ridership has declined in the last 11 years by about 32 percent
This decline in ridership has occurred at the same that Metro estimates that the population of its service area has grown from 4.2 million to 5.1 million, a 23 percent increase. If Metro had just been able to keep pace with population grown, its ridership would now stand at something over 120 million boardings annually. 
The decline in ridership certainly cannot be attributed to Metro being short on funds during the last decade. Its total annual revenues have increased 43 percent, from $397 million to $568 million. Much of the increase has come from the sales taxes area residents pay into Metro, which increased 49 percent since 2000, rising from $359 million to $537 million. 
Even if you net out the general mobility payments to the member cities and the county, its share of the sales tax collections have risen from $233 million to $348 million, also a 49 percent increase. During the same time, inflation in the Houston region only rose by 31 percent.
What is most startling, however, is the increase in the amount of sales tax subsidy per fixed-route boarding. In 2000, after subtracting the general mobility payments, local taxpayers only contributed $2.31 per boarding. By 2011 that amount had increased to $5.25 per boarding, a 128 percent increase. 
Metro attributes its ridership decline to the recent economic recession and the 2008 fare increase. However, nationwide transit ridership has grown by about 10 percent over the last decade. Certainly other urban areas have been hit harder than Houston by the recession and virtually all have substantially increased their fares since 2000. 
Metro's failure as a transit agency has not been for the lack of funds nor because of the recession. It is because Metro has neither a clear mission nor a cohesive strategy to increase ridership. Increasingly, it has been trifurcated into a light rail construction company, a bus company and special needs taxi service. 
Of these three, the bus service, which is the most flexible mode, has the greatest capacity to increase ridership and still carries more than 80 percent of Metro's riders. But it has been constantly shortchanged, primarily to pay for the at-grade rail system. As a result, the decline in Metro's bus ridership is three times the national rate. We have sacrificed the most effective transit system to pay for one that Metro's own environmental studies show will make traffic congestion worse, only marginally increase overall ridership and do nothing to reduce emissions."

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At 11:24 PM, September 04, 2012, Anonymous awp said...

Causes of Houston's recent relatively large income segregation.

"social mobility, prosperity, and growth as Houston has had"

I think most of the story lies in the strong growth rates.

For internal social mobility to be the cause one would have to argue that the response to change in income in the past was less than it is currently. In a city without mobility why would the rich be any more likely to stay in poor neighborhoods?

Prosperity means a general increase in income. Recently the increases in income across the nation have been skewed which has lead to the general increase in income segregation across the nation.If this has skew has been more extreme in Houston then that might explain the extreme results in Houston.

I believe the reason for increase in segregation, in relation to other metros, is largely due our rapid population growth. With new comers with no neighborhood ties and no local knowledge the location decision comes down to proximity to employment and the price range of properties in the neighborhood. The prices of the property of interest and neighboring property becomes a proxy for whether or not your neighbors are like you. People generally like being surrounded by people who like the same things as they do.

At 7:41 AM, September 05, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Good thoughts. I have heard many stories of people changing houses/neighborhoods as they do better, which may be easier in Houston because of the lower overall cost of living (i.e. you can sock away the down payment easier).

> In a city without mobility why would the rich be any more likely to stay in poor neighborhoods?

A city without mobility is more static and less likely to change/shift. The article talked about growth in segregation, not just absolute segregation.

But I do agree that strong growth has probably been the strongest overall driver.

At 11:16 AM, September 05, 2012, Anonymous awp said...

"people changing houses/neighborhoods as they do better"
"...mobility...The article talked about growth in segregation, not just absolute segregation"

I don't doubt that people change their living situations as they do better. But, for recent higher levels of income mobility (all else constant) to cause a growth in segregation you would have to assume the old rich were more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than the new rich. I don't think this is true. So then an increase in mobility by its self would not explain the growth in segregation.

I think that would be an interesting study, to try to answer this question. What was your income X years ago, and today, and what type of census tract do you live in?

At 1:52 PM, September 05, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I guess I'm not following you. It seems obvious to me that higher social mobility = more moving = more sorting out.

As far as old rich: I do think senior citizens can often be better off but stay in their old familiar neighborhoods, while younger families doing well are more likely to move to a new neighborhood.

At 1:06 PM, September 06, 2012, Anonymous awp said...

society without social mobility
10 rich people
10 poor people

how are they going to sort?

society with social mobility

5 rich become poor
5 poor become rich

which leaves us with

10 rich
10 poor

how are they going to sort?

Thinking about more, I actually believe that higher income mobility would lead to less income segregation. If you have more people who recently became rich/poor they have had less time to sort. And, they would have more ties to their neighborhood where they had their previous status. What kind of rich people do you expect to live in poor neighborhoods? The ones who have always been rich or the ones who have recently become rich?

old rich meant people who had money previously, as opposed to recently due to higher mobility.

At 3:01 PM, September 06, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I see your point. OTH, I also imagine it this way: assume a neighborhood with some mix of average, below average, and above average incomes. If there is no/low social mobility, it stays the same. If there is high social mobility (usually upwards), the above averages are going to move to a better neighborhood, the below averages will move up to average, and averages will become above average (the median of the whole neighborhood moves up). Who moves in to replace the above averages that left? Probably averages.

The net result is a neighborhood that is less income diverse (i.e. more segregated), with the new range being average to above average instead of the below average to above average range before. The median has moved up a bit, but the bell curve has also tightened around that median.

At 2:35 AM, September 07, 2012, Blogger Rail Claimore said...

I've seen that Global City matrix before: I think he posted about it in a previous entry years ago. Chicago is probably near the center right of the matrix: high in diversity, but Chicago has a higher tradeability level than it would like to believe. IMO, the only other US city that is squarely in the same box as New York is Los Angeles, but its low tradeability is due more to its gifts of geography: being the gateway to the Pacific Rim and having that Mediterranean climate that makes it a desirable place to live for those who can afford it. It's already huge population base just adds to that.

At 8:11 AM, September 07, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'd say LA is more like Chicago than New York - more a regional business center than global city (or at least in the middle). It's just a very, very big regional business center. As you said, Pacific gateway (although the new Panama Canal widening may dilute that). The business of shooting movies has been migrating to whoever offers the largest tax breaks, although the studios and industry experts are staying local (a definite industry cluster). I think the great climate isn't so much about tradeability (most of LA's industries can be done elsewhere), it's just an amenity advantage that attracts talent and businesses the way low costs and air access/hub do for Dallas and Atlanta. Chicago's issue is that it doesn't have either low costs or great climate to compete in the regional business center game (does have air access/hub though).

At 4:01 PM, September 08, 2012, Anonymous awp said...

"If there is high social mobility (usually upwards)"

you are confusing mobility with increases in income disparity. Changes in mobility with all other things equal, implies average incomes remain the same. I think we can both agree that as income disparities increase segregation along the lines of income will also increase.

"assume a neighborhood with some mix of average, below average, and above average incomes. If there is no/low social mobility, it stays the same"

What is different about the location decisions people are making in the low mobility world. You are assuming that because a person is less likely to switch income status they are less likely to switch neighborhood status when their income status changes.

In a world with no income mobility I would expect the rich to live with the rich and the poor to live with the poor. In a world with low mobility I would expect the newly rich and the newly poor to re-sort to the appropriate neighborhoods. In a world with high mobility, I would expect the newly rich and the newly poor to re-sort to the appropriate neighborhoods.

Which leads to my argument that higher income mobility would actually decrease income segregation. A snapshot at any point in time is more likely to catch people whose income statuses have recently changed before than can (or decide to) change their location to match their new status.

At 4:30 PM, September 08, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

are you saying social mobility happens down exactly as much as it happens up? I don't think that's the case. Generally upward.

The rest of your points are fair. I can see the case for either side.

At 6:57 PM, September 08, 2012, Anonymous awp said...

social mobility is typically measured as changes in an individual's (or a family's across generations) relative position to the rest of the population through time. Usually measured in one's percentile position on the income scale. You (or your family) were once in the bottom quintile, what quintile are you in now. The more individuals' places change in the rank through time the more social mobility one has. This is all relative, so one person moving up in rank necessarily moves another down in rank.

The way you usually hear this reported is given your parents were in the bottom quintile of income, what is the probability that you are in quintile X?

You are conflating social mobility with increases in prosperity(either in general or for an individual through her life).

An increase in general prosperity would only increase income segregation in as much as the increase is concentrated on the rich (which it is) increasing the disparity of income. Or, in as much as it allows increasing neighborhood specialization(i.e. if income ranges from 50-100 neighborhoods might be more similar than if income ranges from 500-1000(1000s))

You are right that individual's income generally increase during their lifetime up to retirement. Social mobility in this context would be their relative status change through their life when compared to others their age.

I am among the poorest of 31 year olds in Houston, hopefully I will be among the richest of 41 year olds in ten years time, but I most certainly will be better off than I am now. Right now I live in a crappy inner suburb and I sure as hell better be in Montrose or the Heights in ten years.


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