Sunday, September 20, 2020

Dangerous HCTRA toll revenue diversions, Ike Dike, rail vs road forecasts, LA transit may go fareless, HTX and the energy transition, and more

A lot of smaller items to catch up on this week after our little diversion into aviation last week.

My lead this week is on Harris County playing games with HCTRA toll road revenue to spend it on things other than transportation, which is super dicey. The state is already in trouble with transportation because they diverted the gas tax to nontransportation needs. Now the county is making the same mistake... trading long-term prudence for short-term pet projects.  "For flood control" is PR spin, since they won't have any obligation to spend it on that. Toll money moves into the general fund where they can spend it on anything they like.  Oscar made a nice chart to show why HCTRA's money pot is such a tempting target, although he expects it may drop up to a third this year with the pandemic.

On to other items:
"Texas: Number 2 in Net Domestic Migration (just behind FL)
Texas, the nation’s second most populous state had the second largest gain in net domestic migration, at just below 2 million. During the two decades, the two largest Texas metropolitan areas, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston moved from below the top five to positions four and five respectively."
"And it makes no difference if the analysis includes other potential explanatory factors such as population density, age, ethnicity, prevalence of nursing homes, general health or temperature. The only factor that seems to make a demonstrable difference is the intensity of mass-transit use."
"The article’s real bias is shown in a paragraph about Bent Flyvbjerg’s well-known study on transportation megaprojects. The 2007 study (of a large global database of highway and transit megaprojects) found that average traffic on highway megaprojects was 9.5% more than forecast, while the average rail megaproject ridership was overestimated by 106%. In other words, for every 100 drivers forecast to use a given highway project, 110 did, and for every 100 rail passengers forecast to use a rail megaproject, only 47 did. If anything, the forecasting problem seems to be far worse with rail than with highways but the piece only mentions highways:

And here the problem is partly political; in order to receive federal funding, transit proponents have learned to game their forecasts, inflating ridership by one-third and deflating cost estimates by one-third. This is a well-known trick, and, unfortunately, the article fails to mention it or provide any way to solve this problem."
"The problem with light rail (and the reason it is popular with government officials) is that it is an upper middle class boondoggle.  There can be no higher use of transit than to provide mobility to poorer people who can't afford reliable automobiles.  Buses fulfill this goal better than any mode of transit.  They are flexible and can reach into many corners of the city.  The problem with buses, from the perspective of government officials, is that upper middle class people don't like to ride on them.  They like trains.  So the government builds hugely expensive trains for these influential, wealthier voters. Since the trains are so expensive, the government can only build a few routes, so those routes end up being down upper middle class commuting corridors.  As the costs mount for the trains, the bus routes that serve the poor and their dispersed commuting destinations are steadily cut."

Finally, ending with a fun short video with the "top ten" places to visit in Houston. I've never even heard of #1 before, lol, so see if you agree. Hat tip to George.

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At 9:32 PM, September 21, 2020, Blogger VeracityID said...

I'd never heard about either #1 or #2 best places in Houston. Thanks for posting!

At 2:10 AM, September 28, 2020, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HCTRA needs to be sued over diversion of funds. Thats' what's wrong with our society in general, to large a govt. and they rob peter to pay paul, politicians with no integrity.

Mike M.


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