Sunday, October 11, 2015

Texaplex rivalries, Sun Belt rail-fail, recycling overdone, Mayor Parker's legacy, and more

This week's items:
"Cities get ranked in numerous ways — by income, hipness, tech-savviness and livability — but there may be nothing more revealing about the shifting fortunes of our largest metropolitan areas than patterns of domestic migration. 
Bright lights and culture may attract some, but people generally move to places with greater economic opportunity and a reasonable cost of living, particularly affordable housing."
  • Yet another major company giving up on the core and moving to the suburbs (more here) - in this case Schlumberger moving out to Sugar Land.  When is Houston going to take this seriously?  I'm looking at you, Metro and TXDoT.  We need comprehensive MaX lanes and express services to every job center, or more employers are going to give up on traffic and move to the suburbs, slowly bleeding Houston's tax and job base...
  • John Tierney over at the NY Times does a clear-eyed rational analysis of our nation's near-religious dogmatic obsession with recycling and shows the benefits have declined to the point of even becoming negatives (i.e. it's actually worse for the environment to recycle than landfill for some items).  I'm an avid recycler myself, but it looks like Houston does it at the right levels with the right materials vs. extravagant "zero waste" initiatives in places like NYC, SF, and Seattle.  I also have my own somewhat unique perspective on this, which is that in a few decades we'll have smart cheap robots that can easily sort through landfills to recycle what makes sense.  Start thinking of landfills as temporary holding places until the technology gets better, and suddenly they seem a lot more reasonable, especially with all of the environmental safeguards they now have in place (linings, methane recapture for electricity production, etc.).  Worried about the lost land for landfills? How about this factoid: "all the trash generated by Americans for the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing."
  • Love this Texas Monthly piece on the dysfunctional family of Texas cities and rivalries. Some of the best excerpts:
"Here it is in a nutshell: Fort Worth hates Dallas. Houston hates Dallas and Austin. San Antonio hates Austin. Austin wishes all the rest of us would just go away, and Dallas pretends that none of the rest of us even exist."
As East Dallas resident Mamie Joseph puts it, “Dallas is too busy hating itself to notice anybody else.” 
That observation was borne out four years back when I wrote a piece for the Houston Press and Dallas Observer about how those two cities were getting cooler while Austin was becoming more business-like and big city. The piece was met with near-universal praise in Houston, but about half of the feedback I got from Dallas was that I was a lunatic to think that way, and that only their jobs were keeping them from escaping to Austin ASAP. Meanwhile, Houstonians were printing up T-shirts with slogans like “I’m Not Moving to Austin” and “Keep Austin 170 Miles from Houston.” 
Then some more good Austin myth-busting and...
"In reality, Austin is no more “weird” or liberal than inner-loop Houston is. In fact, when I was growing up in Houston during the 70’s and early 80’s, Austin’s brand of “weird”, or bohemian culture as it were… seemed pretty tame compared to the Montrose area of inner-loop Houston. Montrose has since been heavily gentrified, but I’d say it’s still on par with Austin’s most liberal/Bohemian areas, which are hardly a majority of Austin as a whole. Houston just doesn’t toot it’s horn constantly about these things, the way Austin does."

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At 11:06 AM, October 12, 2015, Blogger Gary said...

Did you catch this item from the Census Bureau? "Texas Passes California as Top State in Volume of Wholesale Trade Sales" (September 30 news release (

At 11:11 AM, October 12, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I did not. Good catch - thanks for the heads up!

At 3:46 PM, October 13, 2015, Anonymous Rich said...

Here's a potentially interesting article comparing DFW's DART rail system with that of Houston:

EXCERPTS: About 100,000 riders use DART light rail each weekday.

A study commissioned by DART found developments built between 1993 and 2013 near light rail stations, like Mockingbird, are worth more than twice as much as developments built in comparable places without rail.


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