Sunday, May 17, 2015

ULI overstates the case for walkability, urban libertarians of convenience, TX HSR gets Reason support, and more

Catching up on some smaller items this week...
"Thus, my conclusion on Texas Central Railway is about the same as on All Aboard Florida. Both are private sector projects, to be done via project finance that must be paid back from the project's own revenues. There is little or no risk to taxpayers, federal or state, in either project."
  • Houston ranks #3 on America's Cities of the Future behind NYC and SF.
  • ULI makes the economic case for increased walkability in Houston.  While I do support overall efforts to increase walkability, I suspect they have their cause-and-effect a little muddled here when they claim walkability adds so much value.  Walkability is a proxy for density which is a proxy for an in-demand neighborhood, so of course rents are higher, but walkability isn't necessarily the primary driver (although I'm sure it helps).  That doesn't mean a developer can move a strip center up against the sidewalk and put apartments on top of it in the far suburbs along 1960 and instantly add value to it - in fact he might kill the retail with the inconvenient parking.  Same reason suburban developers don't build large subdivisions of tightly packed mixed-use and townhomes up against the sidewalk.  A comparable analogy would be noting that cars with a top speed over 150mph (i.e. luxury and sports cars) can charge, on average, much higher prices, so all cars should be designed to go that fast - the logic doesn't quite hold.
  • Aaron Renn (The Urbanophile) has an excellent piece in the City Journal: "Libertarians of Convenience: Urban progressives favor deregulation—but only for things they like or want to do."  At least the urban left is starting to realize the significant negatives of urban overregulation, but let's hope they broaden that freedom over time to things that aren't part of their orthodoxy.  I love the concluding paragraphs that give a nice shout-out to Houston:
"In Texas’s cities, by contrast, progressives often share, to some degree, the state’s pro-freedom, pro-market ethos. That’s why Houston, though hardly without restrictions on building, has no zoning per se and a pro-market Democrat, Annise Parker, for mayor. Unsurprisingly, it remains an affordable place to live, as do other low-regulation cities, such as Indianapolis. 
At least some on the left appreciate the principle of liberty when it comes to things like free speech: they understand that odious opinions have to be tolerated, or everyone’s liberty is at risk; and that selective free expression isn’t really free. But they fail to see that selective economic freedom brings its own injustices and inequities. Progressives should embrace a broader principle of economic liberty for American cities—not only for the sake of their own pet causes but also because it’s the right thing to do."
"Forty-four of North America's largest airports have "international" in their title. Only one has the word "intercontinental." No word yet on whether Houston's proposed space port will be named "intergalactic." 
Fifteen of the world's 20 busiest airlines serve Houston. They are Delta Air (1), United (2), Emirates (3), American (4), Southwest (5), Lufthansa (6), Air France (7), British Airways (8), Air China (12) Singapore Airlines (14), Turkish Airlines (16), Air Canada (17), KLM (18), and Qatar Airways (19). 
When Air New Zealand starts service later this year, IAH will be the only airport in North America that serves all six inhabited continents. There are only four other airports in the world that can claim the same--Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Johannesburg.
When the Houston's Hobby International Terminal opens this fall, Houston will be one of only six markets with dual international hubs"

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At 1:32 AM, May 18, 2015, Anonymous Rich said...

How many cities in the U.S.A. that have light rail and / or subway systems nevertheless fail to connect them with airport facilities? Could Houston's being probably in the extreme minority on that front be due to the city government's addiction to D.W.I. (i.e. drunk driving) fines and also revenues from taxes on rental vehicles? Dallas / Ft. Worth / Denton / Collin have rail connecting to airport facilities:

Houston can't say the same:

Might it be time to change that?

At 2:21 AM, May 18, 2015, Anonymous Rich said...

Might anyone here know how much influence the Houston Controller's office has over Houston Metro's budget and expenditures? It seems that times are getting to be distracting for the current Controller:

At 10:33 AM, May 18, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Airport rail is almost always a bad idea in terms of cost effectiveness:

Even Christof Spieler of the METRO board thinks it's a bad idea:

At 2:14 PM, May 18, 2015, Blogger Gary said...

Um, technically New Zealand is not really part of a continent, even if we associate the nation with Australia. Why not a flight to Sydney or some such city?

At 3:49 PM, May 18, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Yeah, NZ is a slight stretch, but they do seem in include it here with Australia:

To answer your question, Air NZ is partners in the Star Alliance with UA, so IAH is a natural connecting point. Qantas, out of Sydney, is partners with AA in OneWorld, so they go to DFW instead.

At 5:05 PM, May 20, 2015, Anonymous Rich said...

It's noteworthy that Christof Spieler seems to extol increased use of high speed rail as a replacement for airlines, while he cites the Amtrak route around Philadelphia as a success story.

Having said that, his article raises some interesting points. Thanks for sharing.

At 1:36 AM, May 21, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Houston vs. Chicago contest:

Houston Gross Metro Product is near 90% ($518B) of Chicago's ($590B) with only 7MM people vs. Chicago's 10MM, per capita we are so much richer, no flash in the plan here, Chicago is a great town but always a NYC copy cat wanna be, Houston is it's own universe. Bad streets but great town, go Houston!!!


At 1:45 AM, May 21, 2015, Anonymous Rich said...

One of the leading Houston mayoral candidates (a 25 year legislator) now has a live thread inviting public feedback on transit reform:

Join the fun. :-)

Hopefully other mayoral contenders will do something similar...

At 8:40 AM, May 28, 2015, Anonymous Neil said...

When the state's other large metro has equal population growth and post-recession recovery to ours, but falls from 25 billion $/yr to 70 billion $/yr behind us in the span of three years, you know that it's the price of oil talking, nothing more. Of course GMP's only a reflection that confidence in the future valuation of what we're producing now is soaring. When the BEA releases its 2015 estimates in September 2016, we're not going to like our per capita numbers so much.

At 12:48 AM, May 29, 2015, Anonymous Rich said...

A Texas state legislator (Sylvester Turner) based in Houston recently conducted a poll regarding how we can best address Houston's transit issues. The results are interesting:

His Facebook page is open for comment on that recently conducted poll:


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