Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Ivy League studies Houston, new left urbanists want to control your life, improving Houston's flood resilience, and more

A whole bunch of backlogged smaller items this week:
"These activists have big dreams. They want local governments to rebuild the urban environment—housing, transit, roads and tolls—to achieve social justice, racial justice and net-zero carbon emissions. They rally around slogans such as “ban all cars,” “raze the suburbs” and “single-family housing is white supremacy”—though they’re generally white and affluent themselves, often employed in public or semipublic roles in urban planning, housing development and social advocacy. They treat public housing, mass transit and bike lanes as a holy trinity, and they want to impose their religion on you. 
“The residential is political,” wrote new left urbanists David Madden and Peter Marcuse in 2016. “The shape of the housing system is always the outcome of struggles between different groups and classes.” By dictating how cities build new housing, the logic goes, urbanists can dictate how people live and set right society’s socioeconomic, racial and moral deficiencies.
Activists use euphemisms like “transportation alternatives” and “transportation choices,” but at heart their vision is about control."
“It’s too easy to drive in this city,” said Phil Washington, the chief executive of LA Metro. “We want to reach the riders that left and get to the new ones as well. And part of that has to do with actually making driving harder.”
 “Sometimes you have to tell people what’s good for them,”
As you would expect, the piece lead all sorts of reactions:
"According to the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies, the average Los Angelean can reach 50 percent more jobs in a 20-minute auto drive than a 60-minute transit ride...
So tell me again, Mr. Washington, how is transit so good for people that it is worth slowing down the 90 percent of them who don’t ride it just to fill a few more bus seats?"
"Transit agencies (and reporters) need to recognize that they exist to serve people; people don’t exist to serve transit. If transit is no longer providing the service that people need, then it is time for the agencies to reduce their services, not to increase taxes."
"Yet like the famous Soup Nazi in “Seinfeld,” if you want to drive, own a house and live a middle-class lifestyle in L.A., no soup for you!"
"Houston’s living costs are 5.5 percent below the nationwide average and 22.8 percent below the average of the nation’s 20 most populous metropolitan areas, ranking it third most affordable among its peers (only Tampa and St. Louis are less expensive)."
And I've argued in the past that if you combine our high incomes from the energy and other industries with our low cost of living, we enjoy the highest standard of living of any major metro in the US and probably the world.
"The four strongest large metropolitan areas for job seekers, with nonfarm employment up by at least 3% in the 12 months ending in July are Orlando, Florida; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Seattle, Washington, and; Houston, Texas. The top four large metropolitan areas with more than a million nonfarm workers are in states without an individual income tax.
The three Texas metros accounted for 247,300 new jobs over the past 12 months, penciling out to 948 jobs added for every workday in a typical year in the Dallas, Houston and Austin areas. Texas’ big three produced more than 1-in-3 jobs created in the top-15 metro areas."
Finally, if this week's rains are making you nervous about flooding, come out to this Houston Stronger event Oct 2nd to learn more about what's being done to make us more resilient (click the graphic to enlarge).

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At 9:20 AM, September 18, 2019, Blogger SSpillette said...

Tory, haven't commented here in quite a number of years I believe, but I wanted to push back a little on the cost of living comment. Not that Houston isn't significantly more affordable than West Coast and East Coast major cities - no argument from me there - but your statement about the energy industry and high-income jobs caused me to comment. Yes, the energy industry pays very well, and that had a huge impact when Houston had its oil and gas boom from 2011-2014. But, since then, the industry hasn't hired much at all, and to be quite honest, prospects for another hiring binge seem very very unlikely - perhaps ever. Maybe it's best to think of oil and gas as a source of stability, not as a source of growth and dynamism, unless the industry itself has a significant transformation. Instead, our regional growth is coming from industry sectors that have a range of pay scales, from low to upper-middle-income - but the really high-income jobs typical of the oil and gas boom (and typical of what you see in tech metros like Austin) have been growing much more slowly.

Even the petrochemical boom isn't helping much. While plant jobs pay quite well, the plants are so automated that they just don't hire that many people on a permanent basis. (The capital investment per permanent job created for these facilities is just off the charts.)

All that to say, when talking about cost of living, perhaps we shouldn't throw all of our eggs in the basket of oil and gas workers. Instead, maybe we should be thinking about what it's like for workers in other industries, who may be college-educated professionals or otherwise skilled, but who don't necessarily earn oil and gas white-collar incomes.

At 10:08 AM, September 18, 2019, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks Steve. I completely agree there are a range of industries and incomes here, and our growth has not been as energy-driven recently. But clearly the bulk of our existing pool of high-paying jobs are driven by energy, and they pump up the average for the metro.

For standard of living, I'm referring to the graph I just added to the bottom here:

Houston is somewhat rare in having a dominant high-paying industry without the usually high cost of living that goes with that like on the coasts. And of course there are plenty of inexpensive metros in the US, but few have a high-paying major industry.

It's a great gift and competitive advantage for the city, but certainly one we may not be able to count on for the future, thus the need for diversification and tech innovation.

At 12:57 PM, September 18, 2019, Blogger George Rogers said...

The green energy future will be based in Houston because Greenies only want energy that DOES NOT WORK!

At 11:55 AM, October 22, 2019, Blogger Pseudo3D said...

"And part of that has to do with actually making driving harder. Sometimes you have to tell people what’s good for them,"

That's horrifying, but I appreciate his candor.


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