Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Impressive Houston stats you don't know, Ashby densification vs the courts, national transit scandal, and more

A couple of weeks ago Joel Kotkin came to town to present at May meeting of the Houston Economics Club at the local Federal Reserve bank branch.  It was their highest attended session of the season and very well received.  He brought an excellent set of slides chock full of insightful stats on Houston - well worth a skim.  Some key highlights:
  • We're one of the only major cities in the country adding high-value blue collar jobs, and the fastest grower of middle-skill jobs not requiring a college degree - crucial to social mobility and opportunity.
  • We have the second-highest concentration of engineers in the country after Detroit.
  • We work for a living - we have the lowest percentage of income from investments of any major metro (i.e. living off of existing wealth).
  • Houston, with 6m people, is issuing more building permits than all of California combined with 38m people! 
  • And my absolute favorite chart on page 20, showing Houston with a significantly higher cost-of-living-adjusted average annual wage than any other major metro ($75k vs. $62k for #2 Dallas and #3 Austin), meaning we offer the highest standard of living in the country and probably the world (objective standard of living, not arguing subjective quality of life, which is heavily dependent on personal preferences).
Moving on to a few smaller misc items this week:
"The real point of the report is that almost all proposed new rail lines are high-cost, low-capacity transit. Double-decker buses can move 18,000 people per hour on city streets, twice what three-car light-rail trains can move; double-decker buses can also move more than 100,000 people per hour on a freeway lane, twice what a subway line can move."
Houston would be able to do *so much* so affordably with express buses in a comprehensive managed lane network connecting up all of the city to all of the major job centers... 

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At 3:07 PM, June 04, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Buses contribute to pollution, get delayed for all sorts of reasons (including handicapped boarding, wrecks & traffic jams) and can be uncomfortable to ride when compared to rail.

Why is it reportedly so much more economical to expand light rail in Eastern Europe than it is here? Perhaps Congress could call a hearing on such issues over in D.C. where hundreds of billions of our tax dollars get spent each decade.

What if we recycle existing railroad lines that are underused... can't that save us money? For multicounty rail to interconnect here like Dallas / Tarrant / Denton and Collin counties already enjoy, these folks can play a key role:


Newsflash: they're beginning to:


Meanwhile the Dallas metroplex already has over 4 times as much light rail as Houston hopes to have by the end of 2014:


Unlike in the Houston region, rail connects the abovementioned counties near Dallas with airport facilities too...

But Houston has the potential to begin catching up, especially if we can somehow cost-contain regarding what is otherwise exorbitantly expensive light rail expansion:


Any thoughts?

At 5:47 PM, June 04, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Unfortunately, almost all of the freight rail lines in Houston are very heavily used, esp. inside the loop. They've been looked at for commuter rail, and that's always the problem. Houston's Ship Channel trade is *booming*. Hempstead is one possible exception.

Dallas has 4x more rail, but only a small percentage more ridership - their lines are much more underutilized than ours.

Even if the corridors were found and people thought it was a good idea, I don't know where the money would come from. METRO is tapped out for a decade+

At 7:55 PM, June 06, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

Perhaps Hempstead is where the expansion will happen, then?

BTW, I don't know how true it is but I've heard a rumor that China's seeking to invest in canal-digging in Nicaragua. With two canals making it possible for Pacifica to reach the Houston ship channel, Houston freight rail traffic will likely get increasingly more busy. It will happen significantly enough when the Panama Canal expands soon.

These are interesting times. :-)


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