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ToryGattis

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Everything posted by ToryGattis

  1. I don't think it will have any material affect on people moving here, *but* it certainly may increase tourist visitors from Latin America to Houston, boosting our tourism economy.
  2. If anything it will probably accelerate it, based on the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale case study. Competition = lower fares = more demand = more flights.
  3. This is big news! I would have expected them to be neutral with so much United power among their board and committees. The fact that this resolution still got through speaks to the powerful benefits of competition for the city and the business community. http://blog.chron.com/houstonpolitics/2012/05/greater-houston-partnership-supports-hobby-expansion/ Greater Houston Partnership supports Hobby expansion The Greater Houston Partnership is backing a plan to expand Hobby Airport that would allow for international flights. The Partnership’s Business Issues Committee voted unanimously to support the plan to add five gates and a Customs facility to the airport. Southwest Airlines is pushing the plan so it can start flying to Mexico and the Caribbean. The Partnership’s board of directors is expected to adopt a resolution in support of Hobby expansion by the end of next week. “This is a critically important issue for Houston. We want two vibrant airports and the benefits that go along with it: more jobs, more travelers and a competitive advantage for our city,” said Tony Chase, chairman of the Partnership. United Airlines, which dominates the Latin American market from its base at Bush Intercontinental Airport, has fought the proposal. Company officials and consultants have argued that dividing the city’s international air traffic will cost jobs and routes. A city consultant’s study concluded that the Hobby plan will create 10,000 jobs and inject $1.6 billion into the local economy. Having the most prominent voice in the Houston business community behind the Hobby plan is another blow to United, which merged with Houston hometown airline Continental in 2010. In pressing its case, United has been drawing on the good will and trust Continental generated as an active corporate citizen for decades. The Partnership’s immediate past board chairman is Larry Kellner, who was CEO of Continental from 2004 to 2009. The Partnership’s airports task force is chaired by Michelle Baden, United’s managing director for international and state affairs and a registered lobbyist for the airline at City Hall. But the Partnership still backed the Southwest position. “GHP has carefully deliberated on how increased competition changes the landscape within airport systems, having reviewed and analyzed extensive data and listened intently to representatives from the Houston Airport System, city of Houston, United and Southwest,” said Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Partnership. “We intend to keep working with all airlines and parties to protect and grow our region’s airports.” City Council is scheduled to vote next month on the Hobby expansion plan.
  4. Worst set of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) arguments I have ever seen. A lot of smokescreen and hand waving. Expect a complete blog post response from me soon at Houston Strategies. In the meantime, I'll keep hammering the same simple argument: JetBlue and Spirit dramatically grew discount intl competition at Ft. Lauderdale, lowering fares and increasing demand, which forced American to nearly double the size of its Miami hub. Everybody is winning except for American's profits.
  5. Looks like it may have found its buyer and future purpose.... http://invite.starthouston.com/
  6. Yep. They link to it from the online petition (please sign!) http://www.freehobbyairport.com/ It's here: http://c3430896.r96.cf0.rackcdn.com/economic-impact-study.pdf
  7. I agree it's depressing to see what's going on in council. Evidently United has supported every one of their campaigns, but not SWA. I heard the Mayor speak at another event, and she sounded in favor of Hobby/SWA.
  8. Based on what I've heard and read in the Houston Press (http://www.houstonpress.com/2012-04-12/news/earthquest-green-amusement-park/), EarthQuest is dead. No, this is an effort to attract another theme park. Nothing specific, just putting out feelers to different companies and promoting Houston as a location.
  9. Funny you should mention this. I know the people involved, and I can assure you that the problem is being worked on actively. It's unlikely to do enough to make Houston a tourism powerhouse (any more than having Astroworld used to), but it will be a nice amenity for the regional population. Although for the record, we may not have a Six Flags equivalent, but we do have two good size waterparks, Moody Gardens, Kemah, and the new festival pier being built by Landry's in Galveston. None of them alone is all that impressive, but they make for a pretty strong collection of options on any given weekend.
  10. We didn't get a space shuttle because NASA decided to put them in the largest tourist centers (LA, NYC, DC, Orlando-Kennedy) to get the most citizen exposure and therefore build the most political support for NASA. Not unwise. And if it works, it actually helps Houston/JSC more in the long run than having an actual shuttle would. A simple way to get to the root of why Houston is what it is is to realize that it's really a city run by engineers, because engineers run the oil and gas industry. And engineers value function over form, practicality over aesthetics, and cost effectiveness over just about everything. You don't build for durability, but to get a job done - anything more is waste. It does lead to some disposable construction, but then it's also easy to tear it down and rebuild, so we have a dynamic, evolving city - unlike most cities, esp. in Europe.
  11. I agree with a lot in the video (thanks, Double L, for sharing), but also think the responses here bring up a lot of aspects we don't always see or think about. Identity doesn't necessarily have to be about pure realism, it can also be aspirational - something we as citizens strive to be, even if we don't always succeed (not unlike the identity of being "American"). Houston's identity is one of the topics I've explored quite a bit on my blog, and rather than repeat it here, I'll just link: Most of the best identity posts are linked to from this highlights post http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2010/03/fifth-birthday-retrospective-best-of.html And here's everything I've tagged with "identity", although it misses the critical first few years of the blog (before Blogger had tags), and it is also a bit cluttered with less relevant posts: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/search/label/identity
  12. I hope they're not changing the plan. Here's an item I was about to post on my blog. Hope it's not already out of date. It's Alan Clark of HGAC interviewing the TXDoT regional head about 290. If you're interested in the ongoing expansion plans for the 290 corridor (including the Hempstead toll road), check out this comprehensive video by HGAC. Some good visualizations make it easier to understand all the improvements. They also discuss the financial crunch that TXDoT is facing with the gas tax not being adjusted for inflation. They only have funds to fix bottlenecks at 610 and Beltway 8, but they need a lot more to implement the plan throughout the entire corridor, which is one of the most congested in the city and the state.
  13. I suspect the flow on Westpark is more balanced than you might think, with many employers in Westchase and the Energy Corridor receiving employees from inside the loop. Regardless, there simply isn't enough capacity on 59 to take a full 4 lanes inbound. They can feed one lane into 59, and one lane into Uptown/Post Oak, and that's about the limit of what either can handle. On the other hand, I do think 288 and 290 are prime candidate for reversible lanes, since the demand is truly single-directional on the morning and evening commute, and there should be multiple places they can feed the additional capacity (whether surface streets or freeways).
  14. Berryhill beats all. Any of their locations. Closest to downtown is Montrose, I think.
  15. That is affordable water front, albeit at some distance from downtown, but I'd think you'd have to build for hurricane surge risk - as well as check the home insurance rates. May be manageable factors, but just be aware.
  16. I tend to agree - northeast on 59 is going to be your best bet. Also check out Summerwood and Atascocita in addition to Kingwood. You may also want to check out the hottest of all areas, The Woodlands, on 45N, although it might be tough to get the commute you want, esp. if you live deep inside The Woodlands (far from the freeway). On the plus side, the Hardy Toll Road does provide a fast route, and the Woodlands Express bus service is a good option for downtown (I think it does get to use the HOV lane).
  17. From my blog: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2007/04/curing-everything-metro-analysis-2.html " Black Enterprise magazine recently ranked Houston the fourth-best city for African Americans, behind DC, Atlanta, and Raleigh-Durham (???). Thanks to Houstonist for the heads up, and they have some of their own thoughts . And here's more on the culture of Houston, which I believe also applies to the local AA community: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2007/07/many-meanings-houston-as-open-city-of.html http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2006/07/houston-branding-identity-week-history.html Just ranked as the most diverse major city in the country, including over NYC http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Houston-region-is-now-the-most-diverse-in-the-U-S-3382354.php#photo-2584248
  18. Reminded me of a hilarious quote from a recent Wall Street Journal article: " If Tim Tebow were to be sprinkled with magic Lombardi dust and simultaneously possessed by the spirits of Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham and Popeye the Sailor-Man, he would be lucky to be one-quarter as good as Peyton Manning at his best. Even at 35 and recovering from an injury—actually, even if he drank a 12-pack of Meister Bräu and wore a Big Bird costume—Manning is surely a better passer and game manager than Tebow is after his second year of pro quarterbacking."
  19. Also living in 77002, I'll second that exact response.
  20. I think I read somewhere once that the fastest spacing they can get away with is every six minutes. More often than that causes major traffic problems. That is their spacing at peak times, and, I'd assume, for major events. Oh, and that stat most definitely includes children. In fact, I'd say they're probably the vast bulk of them, if you assume under 16 is roughly 1/6 or 1/7 of the population.
  21. Nope, for reasons fully articulated here: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2009/09/why-feds-should-stay-out-of-high-speed.html and plenty more here: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/search/label/high-speed%20rail No and no. Streets serve a whole lot more than just buses. In fact, the street grid is not optional. It *must* exist, even if only for police, ambulances, fire trucks, garbage collection, construction equipment, and freight deliveries. There is no city in the world without a basic street grid, which is also why it's perfectly reasonable to fund it from property taxes, since all properties must be connected to it to receive services. Metro spent around $50m/mile to build the Main St. line, and will spend well north of that on the new lines, approaching $100m/mile. Do you really believe that's even within an order of magnitude of what streets cost? If you want to understand why rail is appropriate for some cities and not others (like Houston), go to minute 8 in my TEDx Houston talk here: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2011/11/my-tedx-houston-talk-mostly-about.html
  22. Take his opinions however you like (and he and I don't agree on everything), but facts are facts.
  23. I asked a more knowledgeable friend for his thoughts, and here's what he sent: 1. Metro massages its ridership numbers and none are trust-worthy. Witness the fact that numbers it submitted to the feds, which is what O'Toole relied on in 2010 (Cato Policy Analysis #663), are at variance with what it includes in its annual report for that year show on its website. 2. Lanier is not hard core anti-rail...he signed off on Metro's rail plan approved by voters in 1988, and he endorsed the Red Line before construction began in 2001 ("Oh, let's let them have their little toy train", he told the Houston Chronicle, in more or less those words) and he endorsed the extensions before Metro's 2003 referendum.... He also let Metro, under his buddy Billy Burge's chairmanship, conduct a months long study of commuter rail when he was mayor and issue a statement that commuter rail may be appropriate in the future. (Lanier is conflicted on the issue; he knows rail is bad policy but as a political animal he is compelled join his buds in the establishment. He was willing to buck that group when it served his interest as mayor...but not since. He's a sad case.) 3. Texas has six cities with a dedicated transit tax, and at one point three were less than one percent...Ft. Worth, I think I recall, was at the time just a quarter of one percent. Very few agencies in the country are funded with a dedicated transit tax...One percent is HUGE, and for many years collected far more than projected in the original plan released before the 1978 election authorizing the Metro tax. A former Executive Director, Alan Keeper, once bragged to the Chron, circa 1985, that Houston is "the Saudi Arabia of transit agencies." 4. Metro's ridership numbers may be rising but bear in mind that Metro uses its bus program to force feed riders to train stations and double counts riders who make transfers. In spite of that artificial boost to its productivity numbers it is far below its peak when it was a bus-only system. O'Toole's Cato report on rail nation-wide, cited above, states that ridership was on upward trend in 2001 before rail construction began. 5. Metro's annual report shows the agency suffers operational losses of a million dollars DAILY, has a farebox recovery rate around 20% while it promised in its founding report to voters to target a 50% recovery rate, and that the average Houston household gives up to Metro about $500 a year. 6. Lastly, I'll point out that in my 30 years of involvement in transit questions I have never encountered a transportation economist who endorses the decision of cities to convert bus-only systems to bus and rail, and they always point to the OPPORTUNITY COST, how much service and ridership could have been expanded if rail programs had never been launched. This is the underlying theme in the landmark 2010 speech by Peter Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, when he urged cities to abandon their plans for "shiny" new rail lines and focus on bus service. (See: Video of Rogoff's speech and his speech notes: http://www.fta.dot.gov/news/speeches/news_events_11682.html) Barry Klein, Pres./ Houston Property Rights Association
  24. It was 'just fine' in a financial sense. And I believe it won awards as a transit agency for the service it provided the poor over such a large city. TXDoT is funded by gas tax from the cars that use it. The Feds should only be responsible for the interstate system. Transit is a purely local investment and should be locally decided and funded on its own merits. This pretty much sums up Metro's problems: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2010/03/decline-and-fall-of-metro.html
  25. Plenty over the years. Go back through the archives here to find some of them: http://ti.org/antiplanner/ Metro was just fine without the 25% until they embarked on the overly-ambitious light rail plan well after the Lanier administration. They could still be just fine with the Main St. line and even the University line, but the other lines are likely to put them in a deep fiscal hole.
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