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Everything posted by ToryGattis

  1. The Feds will pay less than half the capital cost, and none of the operating costs. Metro will float a huge bond issue as well as tying up revenues for a dozen+ years to pay for the rail construction - all to provide service for a handful of miles in the core already well served by bus.
  2. Very cheap if they diamond existing left lanes, more expensive if they want to separate them or elevate them. Mostly we need them on the 610 loop, esp the western half.
  3. I'm opposed because of the multi-billion dollar capital expense that will hobble Metro financially for decades (while providing service for relatively few riders that aren't already on buses), when it should be investing in a vastly expanded HOV/HOT lane network and express commuter bus service from all neighborhoods to all job centers. The new lines may be "inner city", but they won't connect anywhere near the density of important locations as the Main St. line. Inner-city transit should be improved with more signature bus lines. The one new LRT line that might make sense would be the University line, giving us an east-west backbone to go with the north-south Main St. line.
  4. For the same reasons: lots of passengers making short trips on our 7-mile LRT line make the cost per trip cheap, while few passengers on long, thin bus routes make the cost per trip expensive. The LRT looks especially good because thousands of med center employees park remotely and ride the LRT a couple of stops up to the med center every day.
  5. In addition to the fixed cost issue, you're comparing the operating expense per passenger on one of the most successful light rail lines in the country - a short line in a high-density area with many popular destinations along its length as well as acting as a parking shuttle for the med center (i.e. perfectly optimized to minimize the cost per passenger mile - many passengers, few miles) - vs. a bus network that covers most of Harris County, including many, many thin routes that carry few passengers but we offer it as a public service to the poor. Unfortunately, the planned future LRT lines will add many more miles but nowhere near as many passengers as the Main St. line (by Metro's own estimates), which will kill the illusionary statistical advantage.
  6. Two words: Energy industry - including the port activity. The energy boom has definitely pumped up our GDP per capita and incomes. DFW has a more diffuse set of companies/industries that more reflects the national average. All the cities that are shrinking GDP/capita just means lots of low income people are moving in looking for jobs - which also diluted the Houston numbers down to the middle of the pack. Those cities with the highest GDP/capita gains represent high cost-of-living cities that are driving out the poor and not attracting new ones (CA) or, IMHO, the largess of federal govt spending and pay increases (DC, Baltimore).
  7. Good question. The original plan was to let private operators build and run toll roads, but that generated a lot of political backlash. So we're back to the state building them, which puts the taxpayer at greater risk.
  8. Well, flipping that around, if total revenue earned by the investment indicates value to society (i.e. what people are willing to pay reflects how valuable they find it), the toll road swamps out the rail fares. Agree on total toll road conversion, but it won't happen - the political backlash would be too great.
  9. By all means, it is not guaranteed. Demand models have an error range. But even if it ultimately can't completely cover its $350m cost, you still end up with a very cheap freeway on a net cost basis. The Hardy toll road may have lost money overall, but it was definitely a much cheaper addition of capacity (on a net basis after tolls) than expanding 45N. There is no scenario where the rail line doesn't use the full $350m - and probably a lot more.
  10. Big difference: the toll road pays for itself and may even generate a profit, the rail line is all loss.
  11. Toll payers are not getting screwed. They're being offered a service they did not have before that they can choose to use or not.
  12. Well, of course people have to pay to use a rail line too. And, in actuality, I'm guessing you don't live out there and won't be paying many GP tolls, so it is a lot like buying a stock and having others pay a dividend to you. That dividend can then be reinvested in other options - inc. transit. You say rail - I'd say a better HOV/HOT network with decentralized commuter express bus service from all neighborhoods to all job centers.
  13. It will be expanded as needed to meet demand, but more demand = more toll revenue to cover the costs of expansion. Beltway 8 has been very profitable for HCTRA, even beyond the costs they've been spending to expand it.
  14. HCTRA deferred to TXDOT to build it. They're choosing not to borrow to save the financing interest costs. A rail line would charge fares, but still lose plenty of money annually on an operating basis - the fares don't cover the costs of operating the train, much less building it in the first place. As each GP segment is built, it instantly becomes a cash generator well above its operating costs. TXDOT - and taxpayers - will benefit from that cash flow for decades to come. The difference between the two is like choosing to invest your money in a dividend paying stock (toll road) or giving it to charity (rail).
  15. The *key* difference is that the GP will generate a toll revenue stream to pay for itself - or at least some substantial portion of itself. Rail not only will eat all of the money, it will then require ongoing operational subsidies year after year. There are definitely plenty of transportation projects that would be more helpful to the region, but they don't generate enough toll revenue (like the 290 Hempstead Tollway). Early lesson learned by HCTRA: tollways with no good alternatives like Beltway 8 generate big $, while ones with free parallel options (like Hardy vs. 45 and 59) lose money overall. So, from a financial perspective, this is why the GP is so attractive and moving forward so quickly.
  16. I've heard stories of required mixed-use development laws in LA where miles of stuff have been built to satisfy residential demand, but the first-floor retail sits empty. The developers still do it because the residential demand is so high, but they can't make the retail work. More thoughts on the limits of mixed-use in Houston here: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2008/07/why-there-arent-more-new-urbanist.html
  17. The original link is to the post at my twin blog over at the Chronicle, Opportunity Urbanism, but there's actually a pretty interesting debate on this topic in the comment thread of the original post at Houston Strategies: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2011/03/nashville-vs-houston-vs-coasts-tx-beats.html
  18. You are absolutely correct. Purely a confidence builder for the civilian population scared of commie Ruskie nukes...
  19. Yeah, and I'm sure running a freakin' TANK down the middle of the street didn't help much either!...
  20. I seem to remember seeing pretty much only the backs of the monitors...
  21. I was there recently, on the 2nd or 3rd level of the Pavilions if I remember correctly, and there is a wall of windows where you can see NRG's crazy trading desks with dozens of flat screen monitors. I remember thinking it's a bad sign if what's clearly supposed to be retail space is rented for office space. I like the Pavilions and hope it succeeds, but it doesn't look good. Anybody with any insights?
  22. I'm not sure the Census has released official 2010 results for the Philadelphia MSA yet, so it's still a little uncertain. I'd certainly like to hear about it on this board as soon as they do release them though, if anybody's tracking it.
  23. I think I remember reading something about this a few years back. It implied Miami had a lock on the HQ (if it ever happens) because every airline in the Americas has nonstop flights to Miami (including most of the Caribbean islands), and there are substantial native communities there from pretty much every country in the Americas. I think Houston could make a good case, but it would be hard to overcome Miami's inherent advantages...
  24. Agreed, but it would good to do *something* nice with them if they can't be redeveloped. I wonder if they could bring in one of those crazy, big-scale artists to do a project on one of them? Maybe cover them with some cool banners? Turn an eyesore into an attraction...
  25. Attached images from an old Rice "Tunnel Naked" T-shirt, including a map on the back that was tediously built from scratch by extensive unauthorized pacing trips by some friends of mine (none of which were naked, to my knowledge)...
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