Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Highlights

Time for the annual hike down memory lane for 2017, wrapping up the 13th year of this blog. It was quite an epic year in Houston's history, successfully hosting both the Super Bowl (with an equally epic collapse by the Falcons against the Patriots) and the Astros' first World Series Championship (!!) over the Dodgers as well as the thousand-year storm that was Hurricane Harvey - the one we'll all still be talking about decades from now. 

These posts have been chosen with a particular focus on significant ideas I'd like to see kept alive for discussion and action, and they're mainly targeted at new readers who want to get caught up with a quick overview of the Houston Strategies landscape. I also like to track what I think of as "reference posts" that sum up a particular topic or argument; and, last but not least, they've also been invaluable for me to track down some of my best thinking for meetings or when requested by others (as is the ever-helpful Google search).

Don't forget we offer an email option for the roughly once/week posts - see the Google Groups subscription signup box at the bottom of the right sidebar. An RSS feed link for newsfeed readers is also available in the right sidebar (I'm a fan of Feedly).

As always, thanks for your readership.

And don't forget the highlights from the first few years. For what it's worth, I think the best ideas are found there, often in the first year (I had a lot "stored up" before I started blogging) and most definitely in the best posts from the first dozen years and million pageviews.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

My City Journal piece defending Houston, Katy commuter rail vs. freeway, Elon Musk vs. transit, zoning failures, and more

Before getting into the smaller items this week, I wanted to pass along an analysis from Oscar Slotboom responding to Judge Emmett's lament that we should have kept commuter rail in the Katy Freeway corridor, which I'm guessing would have removed a minimum of two and possibly more lanes from the new Katy:
"The freeway carried 387,144 average vehicles per day in 2016 at Gessner. I'm assuming that's all the lanes: main, managed and frontage. 
If you assume uniform distribution across all the 20 lanes (which of course it not correct, since the main lanes carry most of the traffic), you get 19357 vehicles per day per lane. Two lanes are 38714 vehicles per day. Metro reports 65894 boardings per weekday on all light rail, with the disastrously low 4588 on the Green line and 6769 on the Purple line. Since TxDOT numbers are an average over all days of the week, you can average the Metro data over the week, which lowers it to 55324 average per day. 
So the question becomes: what is the traffic of a main lane? I'm thinking the main lanes carry at least 75% of all traffic (but that's just a guess), and then that would be 387144*.75/10=29000 per lane or 58,000 vpd for two lanes. So the two lanes carry about the same number of trips as the entire Metro light rail system, and of course some cars have more than one person, further increasing the highway advantage
Of course the Red Line has good ridership. A better comparison would be a light rail lines going along a freeway corridor, like in Dallas. The entire 90-mile Dallas light rail system has only 96,300 average weekday boardings. The Red (26,800) and Green (24,900) roughly parallel freeways. The blue (22,200) and orange (22,400) lines are similar. I think those numbers are good for comparison, and a single Katy Freeway lane carries more trips than any of the radial DART lines."
And one lane of freeway is a heck of a lot less expensive than a commuter rail line!

One commenter on Swamplot also makes a good case for Park-and-Ride buses over commuter rail:
"The train isn’t going to travel that much faster than buses, if at all. Also, buses in the Katy corridor make just one stop at most between the burbs and Downtown (the major route is express from the Park-and-Ride lot direct to Downtown). And people play on their phones on the bus (have you never been on one? the park-and-ride vehicles have nice cushy seats and baggage racks). And unless one’s destination is outside the CBD, no transfers are required; you are likely dropped off within a few blocks of your destination, an easy walk. Furthermore, on the highly used Park-and-Ride routes the buses leave every several minutes; you don’t have to time your arrival, the wait time to depart is minimal. Commuter rail never works like that (though light rail can). The assumption that rail is going to provide superior service simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s likely to be worse service for the patrons than what we have now with the Park-and-Ride buses. Especially since most everyone will have to drive to the station anyway, so no difference there.”
Moving on to some smaller items this week:
Musk said that “public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end?”
  1. Why Zoning Doesn’t Work
  2. Zoning Laws Destroy Communities
  3. Zoning laws: A tool for designing dysfunctional, unsocial communities
  4. Ten Good Reasons Why Zoning is a Bad Idea, Houston Chronicle, 1993
Finally, ending on a little heroic inspiration from a METRO employee.  If the opening few seconds of this video don't grab your attention, I don't know what will.  Wow.

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Sunday, December 03, 2017

Should Houston promote an annual TAMU-LSU football game? Houston's #1 Winner-Take-All-City Quotient, #2 std of living, innovation corridor, and more

Before getting to this week's items, an idea for Houston as we wrap up the college football regular season: just as UT and OU play each other every year at their midpoint in Dallas with the Texas State Fair all around them (quite the tourism boost for Dallas) - and now that TAMU is in the SEC with a new coach - has anyone considered trying to promote an annual TAMU-LSU game in Houston at NRG Stadium?  I think it would have a lot of potential given the numbers of alums of both schools here - high profile for the schools and a good tourism boost for the city.  And I could see a whole weekend of festivities around the event centered on downtown and midtown (like a mini Super Bowl).  Would love to hear thoughts in the comments... or if you know someone with the GHCVB please pass it along!

Moving on to this week's items:
"For each global city, and for the various categories of global cities, we calculate a “Winner-Take-All Quotient” (or WQ). This is a simple “over-representation ratio” that compares the share of the total amount of economic output, venture capital investment and/or, billionaires in a global city divided by its share of the world’s population.
Indeed, the 20 largest global metros (by economic output) account for a considerably larger share of the global economic output than they do of global population (see Table 2). The WQ for these cities range from lows of 1.2 and 1.3 in Mexico City and Sao Paulo to highs of 4.5, 4.7, and 4.8 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Houston."
Speaking of Amazon HQ2, I really like the new Houston proposal and the concept of the "innovation corridor" from downtown to the med center.  The video is especially well made.  I still think we're a longshot, but this is good stuff to share with any company that might consider coming to Houston.

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