Monday, January 16, 2017

Another outsider loves Houston, top rankings, Super Bowl mobility, reducing rents with supply, insane rail costs, and more

Apologies for the posting delays - quite the backlog of items to get through:
"Another list recently heralded Houston as one of the best places in the U.S. to start a business — the Bayou City ranked No. 6 around the country. Houston ranked as fourth-best city in the U.S. for young entrepreneurs, and Texas was rated No. 2 on CNBC's "Top States for Businesses" list."
  • This article does a great job explaining the absolutely *insane* infrastructure costs in NYC for new subway lines, stations, and a bus terminal.  $2 billion per mile for new subway?! $4 billion for one new downtown station?! $10 *billion* for a new bus terminal?!  The equivalent of *thirty* NRG stadiums! Are you kidding me?!  Just pull out these numbers next time anyone complains about TXDoT spending a couple of billion completely rebuilding a spoke freeway in Houston... it's a relative bargain!
  • Speaking of insane rail costs, just in from the LA Times: California's bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun, a confidential federal report warns
"California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. 
A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion. 
The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property.  
The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule."
"Denver is spending billions of dollars building more than 100 miles of rail lines. When all the lines are done, promoters project they will reach just 26 percent of the region’s jobs. Since most people won’t live near a rail line, only about 2 or 3 percent of commuters are likely to use it
Even most of the people who live near it won’t ride light rail because it is so slow. According to the American Public Transportation Association’s Transit Fact Book, the average speed of light rail is 15.6 mph while streetcars average just 7.3 mph. Not much accessibility benefit there."
"Houston, perhaps America’s least-regulated metro housing market, is the simulacrum of this 21st-century urbanism in all its messy brilliance. The fast-densifying greater downtown area has good Walk Scores and could legitimately be called "urban"; a half-dozen similar job centers--from random edge cities to tasteful towncenters--dot the metro; makeshift settlement communities pop up to house incoming immigrants; and, of course, haphazard single-family and multi-family housing sprawls in every direction. This willingness to build is why Houston can accommodate large population influxes, remain cheap...and perform so well economically."
I've got more, but that's more than enough for this week's post.  See ya next week.

P.S. Memo to the Texans: get Romo. Whatever the cost (although he should be willing to take a pay cut to get on a team with a real shot at the Super Bowl). With him and a healthy JJ Watt, next year's Super Bowl is very, very possible...

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At 10:40 PM, January 17, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another example of obscene infrastructure costs in the northeast is the $120 billion plan to improve the northeast corridor Amtrack rail lines. It reroutes some sections. That makes Tezas Central (circa $12 billion) look incredibly inexpensive.
"The federal government has a $120 billion plan that would cut Amtrak’s Acela Express travel time between New York and Boston by 45 minutes, making it a two-hour-and-45-minute trip."
"The $120 billion plan is the product of a four-year process that sought input from state and local governments, residents, Amtrak and eight commuter railroads."

At 11:00 PM, January 17, 2017, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

That's insane. How could that small time savings possibly be worth that level of investment?!

At 9:26 AM, January 18, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Houston is an interesting place. My wife and I lived here for a little over five years. I used to follow this blog back in the day when we lived here. I am back from time to time for business but we are glad we left. We had kids and decided that getting out of Houston was best for them. I think it was also best for us.

That being said, Houston is not as bad as people make it out to be. When I mentioned to my friends that I was originally moving here their jaw hit the flow. I might as well of said that I was moving to Baghdad. But I actually enjoyed it initially. The winters were warm, the people were fairly nice and it was cheaper. But after getting married (to another non-Houston transplant) and getting a little wiser, we both decided to move on when an opportunity presented itself. The weather was just dragging on us (we missed seasons) and the schools were awful. We considered moving farther out in the suburbs (we lived just west of Beltway 8), but decided against that given my hours and the potential horrendous commute. It was already bad enough. We also never wanted to have to deal with the type of floods that the city is seeing today. I will take snow over that any day.

At 10:12 AM, January 18, 2017, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

All fair points - Houston is certainly not perfect, and there are parts of the city that are much better or worse than others. Can't argue on the traffic either. But I will say floods clear quickly while snow can stick around an obnoxiously long time... and you never have to shovel or scrape humidity... ;-)

At 2:22 PM, January 21, 2017, Blogger dj said...

people are gonna have to choose whether they want developers to build cheap housing and the burbs and have a great chance of drowning and homes keep getting flooded out or stop the housing development in the burbs,which will make houston more expensive to live.people should of listened to those environmental groups if the developers keep building building way out major flooding will happen,they were right and now several people are drowning every year.before all this development in the grand parkway,the chronicle interviewed environmental groups and warned if development happens there's gonna be flooding.if there isn't more development way out,it will make houston more expensive,but many lives and homes will be saved.

At 4:51 PM, January 21, 2017, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

OR... we can keep building in the suburbs but make sure the proper water retention facilities get built with those developments!


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