Monday, February 27, 2017

NYT David Brooks on Houston as a model city + our evolving urban form

Just a couple of items this week. First, I got quoted in David Brooks' NYTimes column last week on immigration, with Houston as a model city. Key paragraphs (bold mine):
"For the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many Republicans prefer a dying white America to a place like, say, Houston. 
Houston has very light zoning regulations, and as a result it has affordable housing and a culture that welcomes immigrants. This has made it incredibly diverse, with 145 languages spoken in the city’s homes, and incredibly dynamic — the fastest-growing big city in America recently. (Personally, I wish it would do a bit more zoning — it’s pretty ugly.) 
The large immigrant population has paradoxically given the city a very strong, very patriotic and cohesive culture, built around being welcoming to newcomers and embracing the future. As the Houston urban analyst Tory Gattis points out, the Houston Rodeo has so many volunteers it has recently limited their special privileges. In 2015 it had the healthiest philanthropic sector in the nation. The city is coming together to solve its pension problems better than just about any other big place. 
Cotton and Perdue are the second coming of those static mind-set/slow-growth/zero-sum liberals one used to meet in the 1970s. They’ll dry up the river. I wish they had a little more faith in freedom, dynamism and human ingenuity."
Hear, hear! For the record, I'm not a fan of the ugly comment either, but you can't win 'em all. Still some great recognition for our city.

That leads me directly to the second item this week, Wendell Cox's piece on New Geography about Houston as an example of the evolving urban form. A lot of good excerpts in this one (bold mine):
"Houston is a city (metropolitan area) of superlatives. The most recent Brookings Institution data shows that Houston has the seventh strongest per capita economy (gross domestic product) in the world (Figure 1). This places Houston above New York and more surprisingly, perhaps, other cities perceived to have strong economies are far below Houston and outside of the top 10, such as London, Tokyo and Chicago." 
Decentralized employment which is not rail-transit friendly - see Figure 6:
"The central business district (downtown) ranks eighth in total employment in the nation and also experienced growth. The Texas Medical Center is the largest life sciences center in the world. The center is located south downtown and rivals some of the nation’s largest central business districts, larger than Minneapolis and nearly as large as Denver ,, with more than 100,000 employees (see photograph above). There are other large centers, such as the Port of Houston, the Galleria (Uptown) and the Energy Corridor. Houston is one of the best examples of a decentralized city, with major employment centers throughout." 
"Houston is often characterized as a “sprawling” urban area. In fact, however, Houston has a higher than average urban density for the United States (by eight percent) and an urban density approximately 75 percent higher than Atlanta and Charlotte and denser than Philadelphia and Boston. " 
"Since 2010 Houston has led the 53 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population in net domestic migration.
"There are at least two important keys to Houston’s attractiveness. Obviously, its strong job-creating economy has opened career opportunities for people from other parts of the country. In addition, Houston’s favorable housing affordability has been an important factor. Seminal recent academic research has pointed to the importance of housing affordability in attracting domestic migrants " 
"Houston has been more successful in controlling traffic congestion than many other cities. In 2015, Houston tied with Boston for the 11th worst traffic congestion in the United States, according to the TomTom Traffic Index (Figure 10). This is a far better rating than in the middle 1980s, when the Texas Transportation Institute ranked Houston as having the worst traffic congestion in the nation. 
Since that time, Houston has managed to have spectacular population growth, yet has kept up with it by expanding its freeway and arterial systems, along with traffic management improvements. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, New York, Honolulu, Miami, Portland, Washington, and Chicago have seen their traffic congestion become worse than in Houston over the same period. Houston is larger in population than all but three of these nine metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago), more than twice the size of San Jose and Portland and nearly seven times that of Honolulu. Further, exhibiting the association between greater traffic congestion and higher population density, all cities ranked worse than Houston have higher urban densities."
Another interesting tidbit to note is the remarkable parity between the City of Houston, the rest of Harris County, and the outer burbs of the metro area in figures 3 and 4.

After the Oscars last night, I should probably mention that all of the above is true about Houston as an actual winner, and not a mixup of mistaken identity with Dallas... ;-D

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At 9:40 PM, March 06, 2017, Anonymous Rich said...

Doesn't it seem like this new list of Top U.S. Cities in which to be Car-Free should include at least DFW if not Houston, as well?


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