Saturday, July 24, 2021

MaX lanes network moves forward, 45N turmoil, Houston Story movie, immigrant magnet, downtown woes, zoning tax, and more

Apologies for the long delay between posts while on extended travels with the family. The featured item this week is TXDoT's new video promoting a managed lane network for Houston similar to what Oscar and I proposed in 2017. Can't say I'm a fan of the Regional Express Access Lanes (REAL) branding vs. Managed Express (MaX) Lanes Network, but great to see TXDoT pushing the concept forward! It would enable a high-speed nonstop ride from every part of the region to every major job center and be a major asset for the city.

Speaking of TXDoT, if you'd like to support the I45N rebuild project and prevent it from losing funding, fill out the survey here and sign the petition here.

Moving on to several items to catch up on:
"California may be a great state in many ways, but it also is clearly breaking bad. Since 2000, 2.6 million net domestic migrants, a population larger than the cities of San Francisco, San Diego, and Anaheim combined, have moved from California to other parts of the United States."
Finally, ending on a little humor, hat tip to Barry for finding this little gem: The Houston Story movie from the 1950s. How have I never heard of it before?!  Trailer, background, and even the full movie if you're so inclined. Wow.

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Monday, July 05, 2021

Austin vs. Houston, 45N defunding, Houston's 'tough love' homelessness model, traffic rankings, and more

 A few small items to kick it off this week followed by extensive excerpts from Evan Mintz's excellent Texas Monthly piece on Austin vs. Houston.

Finally, some of my favorite excerpts from Evan Mintz's newest Texas Monthly essay (highlights mine): 

Dear Austinites, You Have Permission to Move to an Affordable, Weird City: Houston

If you’re trying to buy a home, then you’re probably a grown-up. You deserve a grown-up city—the city of Houston. 

"Austin is a fun place, no doubt. Texans from across the state love to hop in the car and spend a long weekend paddle-boarding on Lady Bird Lake, swimming at Barton Springs, partying on Sixth Street, and reliving college memories at Kerbey Lane—as if the city were their personal playground. But playgrounds are for children. If you’re trying to buy a home, then you’re probably a grown-up. You deserve a grown-up city—the city of Houston. 

Don’t get me wrong; Austin has some great attributes. The Capitol is a beautiful and historic building. Houston should aspire to have a campus of the caliber of the University of Texas. And Austin summers are somewhat more of a dry heat. But those great Austin amenities that people swear they could never do without—the live music! The outdoors! The progressive attitude!—exist in every other major city in one form or another. And I would argue that Houston’s offerings are better, and more sophisticated, than Austin’s. 

...the fact that the city’s leadership can’t find a way to make housing affordable should be an indictment of anything related to self-proclaimed progressiveness. Politics is about power, and if Austin politicians can’t use their power to improve the fundamental living conditions of not only the most vulnerable but also a reasonably privileged middle class, then they should just admit the city is becoming a resort town for celebrities and a techno-oligarchy and spend their time arguing about plastic straws. Say what you will about Houston’s relationship with the oil and gas industry; at least pollution here has abated. Austin still hasn’t figured out how to mitigate the collateral consequences of tech wealth and Hollywood tourism. 


No doubt Houston isn’t as affordable as it used to be, especially for renters already struggling. But somehow it remains tenable for those upwardly mobile geriatric millennials taking their first steps into homeownership. In the past few months alone, I’ve seen four friends buy their first places: a new townhouse in Oak Forest, a classic eighties townhouse in Montrose, a bungalow north of downtown, and a cottage in the Second Ward. These homes aren’t in far-flung suburbs; they’re in Houston’s inner core, within walking and biking distance to the breweries, restaurants, arts venues, and other hallmarks of a livable, enjoyable city. Some of these are dense housing allowed by Houston’s lax land-use rules. Others are older homes still left standing—and reasonably priced—as new construction soaks up capital like a sponge, saving older neighborhoods from the deluge of wealth that has made Austin so unaffordable. I also know people who moved to the Woodlands. 


In contrast, Houston, a place without pretension or zoning, will gleefully tear down its past if that makes the present more appealing—anything to give you the freedom to grow. You won’t be restrained by outdated notions of what the city should be. You’ll be empowered by hopes of what the city can be. We’re improving our parks, adding more bike lanes, and expanding the mass transit system. And we don’t listen to NIMBYs who want to block affordable housing. Forty years of the Houston Area Survey show that we’re a city perpetually, even irrationally, optimistic about our future. Houston thinks there are better days ahead, while Austin worries it is past its prime. 

The choice is clear: You can rage against the dying of the light in Austin and spend 50 percent of your income on housing, or you can be reborn a sweaty, home-owning phoenix in Houston."

Hear, hear!

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