Sunday, December 18, 2016

Bright lights district for Houston, millennials love HTX, tech cars vs. transit, real Houspitality, topping Chicago, and more

A lot more catch-up items this week, but some really good stuff in here:
"San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver tend to dominate discussions about where millennials are moving to. Further examination, however, reveals that there are other metros that are attractive as well, especially in Texas – Houston, San Antonio, and Austin all ranked very well."
  • Super-Cheap Driverless Cabs to Kick Mass Transit to the Curb - Bloomberg. Hat tip to Oscar.  Even more impressive, their graph shows that driverless carpool might be as low as $0.20/mile in 2025! How transformative is that?! This is part of why I think traditional rail mass transit is a very bad investment as it will get obsoleted by these very cheap point-to-point rides.  Excerpt:
"Having no driver to pay could reduce taxi prices to 67 cents a mile by 2025, less than a quarter of the cost in Manhattan today, the report found. 
It’s a change with the potential to reshape commuting patterns, transforming urban life. As prices fall, the challenge for cities is that the cars may become too popular. Instead of complementing public transit, they may lure commuters away from buses and trains, inundating streets with drone cars."
  • Atlantic CityLab: Self-Driving Cars Are Going to Beat Up on Trains, Too - "Got a gig in the global passenger rail industry? Prepare for an “enormous shakeout.”  Great cost graphs in this one to make the case.
  • Speaking of problematic rail, at the recent TAG luncheon Judge Emmet again expressed support for commuter rail.  Now I'm a big fan of the Judge (especially his Astrodome efforts), but I think he's been misinformed here.  Here's my simple challenge:  LA - with twice our density, perfect walking weather, and worse traffic - spent *$9 billion* on rail and yet transit ridership *fell*! Why do we think we can do any better with half the density, very problematic walking weather much of the year, and traffic nowhere near as bad as LA?  Commuter rail simply does not work in low-density, decentralized, multi-polar, post-WW2 automobile-based cities like Houston (with less than 7% of our jobs downtown - and falling).  It's also been tried and essentially failed as a strategy in Dallas, with low ridership (given the size) and no reinvigoration of jobs in downtown Dallas.  As I keep saying, the better solution is MaX Lanes - Managed eXpress lanes moving the maximum number of people at maximum speed across a network connecting all job centers to all parts of the metro area.
  • Second Ave subway in NYC: “At $2.2 billion per km, this sets a new world record for subway construction costs”  Wow. Just…. Wow.  There's no way the benefits top the costs there.
  • A great personal essay demonstrating Houspitality from a Cuban that made Houston home.
  • We Are Chicago, After The Fall:
"A question on every Chicagoan’s mind, at least in the context of this conversation, is “What about Houston?” Newspapers for years have (in Chicago) decried the city’s endless losses, or (in Houston) praised the city’s innovation and growth. It’s not difficult to see why, as the census numbers show, Houston just keeps going, while Chicago just keeps slowing. 
A Houston Chronicle article from June 2015 quoted University of Southern California demographer Dowell Myers as predicting that “It isn’t ‘possible,’ it’s ‘probable’ that Houston will grow to be the country’s third largest city,” and that “[Houston] has the employment trajectory, and it has the land area.” Chicago’s “exclusionary zoning rules” are also cited as an issue that gives Houston an edge, because Houston’s zoning laws are much looser."
Finally, I think it would be cool for Houston to do a "bright lights district" in our theater district around Jones Plaza, although I'm open to thoughts in the comments on other good areas around the city for it?...

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At 8:49 AM, December 19, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

On the Lights District, a great way of having it would be a mega strip along one of the freeways.

At 3:37 PM, December 19, 2016, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

That's kinda interesting. Different from Times Square, but might be interesting. I could see it along 610 in Uptown. But the risk is that the lights are too distracting for drivers. Probably better in a pedestrian area. Another option would be around Discovery Green downtown. But I still feel like Jones Plaza in the Theater district makes the most sense, since each of the venues around there could do big light displays/screens featuring their upcoming performances.

At 1:49 AM, December 20, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

Las Vegas strip in uptown was what I was thinking. Rice village at night or whatever that rodeyo drive thing on Westheimer is called is cool.

At 1:21 PM, December 20, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

Change the billboard ordinances to encourage Jumbotron Billboards and have a bright minimum brightness to start a arms race.

At 8:16 AM, December 22, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fairlie Poplar (that neighborhood in the middle of Downtown Atlanta with the smallest street-grid) will scream bloody murder over a sign district. It could work in the rest of the area though.

Downtown Houston is more defined as one district than Downtown Atlanta is, so I would think the challenges/opportunities for a sign district would be roughly the same no matter what part of Downtown it's located.


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