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ToryGattis

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Posts posted by ToryGattis

  1. From what I'm reading there, it sounds like the could be an energy hub, but it would be a *regional* one, not a national and certainly not a global one like Houston.  A big chunk of the U.S. population lives in the northeast, and it probably needs a local energy infrastructure hub.  Philly is probably not a bad place for that with a port, affordable land, and a central location in the DC-Boston corridor.  Houston is a regional energy infrastructure hub too, but we're also the global hub for headquarters and professionals - and Philly is a far cry from that.

  2. I feel like some of our "highest standard of living in the world" is tweaking numbers to make them line-up for us.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I love this town and want nothing but the very, very best for Houston; but I don't see us having a higher standard of living than Geneva or Bern, Switzerland; Auckland, New Zealand; Singapore; or Vancouver, Canada...?

     

    Standard of living is cost of living adjusted average income, and although I don't have hard COLAI data on those cities, I do know their housing is astronomically expensive (see http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf), so we almost certainly beat them.  Don't confuse it with "quality of life", which integrates a lot of subjective non-economical factors, including weather.  Those cities certainly may have a case on that metric.

  3. Here's the story in a nutshell:

     

    1. Astroworld's land got too valuable with the light rail line and Six Flags sold it off to raise cash to pay down their debt

     

    2. Kemah and Galveston (including Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn, and the Pleasure Pier), not to mention theme parks in San Antonio and DFW, have diluted the appeal/need

     

    3. Now Grand Texas is being built to the northeast along 59

  4. I've done a lot of posts exploring Houston's identity, which you can peruse here:

    http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/search/label/identity

     

    But these two are my favorite as far as bragging rights:

    Friendliness/"Houspitality" http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-new-brand-for-houston.html

    Highest standard of living in the world http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2012/07/does-houston-have-highest-standard-of.html

    (especially note the graph at the bottom here: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2013/02/houston-dominates-americas-growth.html )

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  5. That seems fair, make the inner loop a dense area, and let the rest of Houston be what it is. However, I would like to some rail connections from the suburbs into the city, like BART, but only after a decent network is built within the city itself, otherwise we would become like DART in Dallas.

     

    A bit of common ground!  I agree we don't want to match DART, and I like the idea of offering dense, walkable neighborhoods in the core of Houston to people who want them (I live in one myself).  The planned light rail network should offer a chance for that to happen.  I seriously question the economic cost-benefits of the network, but at this point it seems to be a done deal (except for the Universities Line question mark).  

     

    So, at least for a decade or two, Houston evolves a dense core inside the loop around the light rail network, while maintaining a lower density auto and freeway-centric metro around it (ideally with a good network of congestion priced HOT lanes for commuters, IMHO).  After that, we can see if longer distance commuter rail to the suburbs makes sense.  I still don't think it will, but am perfectly happy to revisit that analysis in the mid to late 2020s after the U-line completes the core network.

  6. Between those two scenarios, I'm okay with scenario two, because I don't mind walking and when rail is built for a certain corridor, it gives people and developers confidence that corridor will stay in the long term, creating a dynamic area. Also it gives people the option to live a walkable life. I don't like being dependent on automobiles and the road system, whether it be gasoline or hybrid or self driving cars, it's all pushing towards auto dependence. What good is a self driving car if it's stuck on the same roads with the same traffic? Unless all cars are self driving then traffic and congestion won't go away, because there is the mix of humans and electronic cars. As far as your assertion of rail never clearing up congestion, when have freeways ever cleared up congestion? It has never been proven, In fact, expansion simply encourages more people to get on the roads, giving the opposite effect. Yes, hybrids and electrics are certainly better for the environment, but it still encourages sprawl whcih makes it more difficult for police, firefighters, and the city to service a growing city in general. Houston has grown out long enough, it's time to grow up now.

     

    Well, I already specified that scenario 1 was equally as walkable and dynamic.  But the congestion argument is a legitimate one - it is unclear whether self-driving cars will open up enough capacity.  It is possible that grade-separated rail could be faster under some scenarios (as it is at rush hour in Manhattan).  I don't believe that will generally be the case, but it's a legitimate perspective.

     

    As far as I can tell now, your root objection is simply this: you have an extremely strong personal lifestyle preference for very high density and walkability with a very active street life, and you don't believe that will be possible as long as cars are convenient and common (whether driven or automated) because of peoples' general personal preference for lower density/more space, so they are "bad" because they keep the kinds of neighborhoods you want from being built.  You feel like if you can make auto travel painful and expensive enough, plus provide the rail alternative, these types of neighborhoods will get built.  Again, I don't agree - I definitely think they could form within an automated car/shuttle network - but at this point it just comes down to personal opinion.  What I was trying to find out was if you could be transportation agnostic if you got the lifestyle you wanted, and that does not seem to be the case.

     

    That does lead me to a followup question.  Assume Houston somehow develops enough rail and dense walkable neighborhoods to meet the demand of everyone in Houston that wants to live that way.  Would you be ok if the rest of the metro area remained auto and freeway-centric, or do you want to force everyone to live the same lifestyle preference you have?  And if so, why?

  7. Assuming anything is viable maglev is best

     

    Again, that was not the scenario presented (maglev is intercity in any case, not intra-city, except for occasional oddballs like the the Shanghai airport to downtown express).  I'm not saying assume anything is viable - I'm trying to understand your thoughts and tradeoffs between the two scenarios presented. Please give a thoughtful response to the original two scenarios presented. 

  8. So hold off on proven technology for something that may become? Houston has done that for the last thirty years. Enough is enough. Test your system on Enid, Oklahoma and other such towns to see if it even works before bringing it up in a realistic discussion. And if you say rail is expensive how much would it cost to buy 3 million self driving cars? If they were at a reasonable price of $30,000 that's 90 BILLION dollars. And it puts more stress on the roads which is more maintenance money. And until all cars are self driving the system simply won't work. You build rail in the right corridors it takes cars off the roads, gives developers a reason to invest in the area, and makes it easier to get from one place to the other because of right of way.

     

    Yes, people are privately paying for new cars all the time.  No extra road stress - same trips that were always being taken.  Self-driving cars are designed to be in mixed traffic with human driven cars.  Google's cars have hundreds of thousands of miles in mixed traffic with no accidents - they've been tested just fine.  No rail system ever built has reduced congestion - look at the data.  Developers build to meet overall demand - any development attracted next to rail is lost in another part of town, so the net economic benefit is neutral.

     

    Trying to get the conversation back to its focus, I'm going to give you two scenarios.  Please tell me which you'd prefer to live in and why.

     

    Scenario 1: Dense walkable neighborhood.  Your ideal urban paradise.  When you want to go somewhere out of walking range you dial up an automated car or shuttle to come right to where you are and take you directly there. 

     

    Scenario 2: Exactly the same dense walkable neighborhood.  You still live in your ideal urban paradise.  But when you want to go somewhere out of walking range, you must walk several blocks to the rail station, wait for it, and then ride it only to destinations linearly along that line near its stops - or otherwise requiring some sort of additional rail or bus transfer to get to another subset of destinations.  A wide range of destinations are not easily reached, or at least not in a very reasonable trip time, because of the required connections and walks.  The trains also run much less frequently at night, greatly reducing evening mobility.

  9. There is no way metro could afford to buy enough self driving cars for the entire city. And as I said before this just pushes toward auto dependency. Here is some reading material for you

    http://www.carfreeinbigd.com/2013/11/driverless-cars-and-technology.html?m=1

     

    Metro could certainly provide plenty of small self-driving shuttle buses, especially if they're no longer paying for drivers or rail lines.  If people want a private car, that would be a more expensive taxi service, although I think the marginal per-mile cost of using such a taxi service would be roughly the same as owning the car, since the expensive driver is removed from the equation.  Many more people would choose not to own cars and just dial up one when they need one.  That reduces parking requirements too, since the taxi cars are always in circulation instead of parking - and of course that makes density increases easier.  I would think all of those things would appeal to you.

     

    So if I'm interpreting this article correctly, the car (automated or not) allows people to live spread out in lower density, which is inherently bad (for unclear reasons), so the car is, ipso facto, bad.  So, unless I'm misunderstanding, there is no logical argument involved here - it's essentially an aesthetic/religious argument: high density living without cars is good, low density living with cars is bad.  Just like religion, you either believe or don't believe.  And arguing/debate is not going to get anywhere.  Got it.

  10. Again, what sense would it make for a public transit agency to provide self driving cars? That's not mass transit. And what's with obsession with self driving cars overall?

     

    Sure it is.  If anybody can dial up an on-demand shared shuttle bus/car, that's mass transit.  METRO already does it right now for the disabled, but it's too expensive to do for everybody.  Self-driving shuttles using optimization algorithms to pick people up and drop them off where they want to go would be the *ultimate* mass transit - people save tons of trip time and the vehicles can run at near capacity almost all the time (vs. trains and buses that run nearly empty and very inefficiently much of the day).

     

    Google and the auto makers all admit self-driving vehicles are coming, probably in the 2020s.  The prototypes already work, they just have to get the costs down. That definitely will have a major impact on transportation in the country, including transit.  I'm trying to think this through before we make 30-50+/year capital investments in rail.

     

    I'm still having trouble getting to your root objection, and I'm not sure you even know it.  If it's about neighborhood design, make it about neighborhood design, not cars and freeways.  If there's some type of superiority of buses or trains vs. automated vehicles, *please* explain it to me.  In other words, please directly answer the question I ended my last post with: "But you should be agnostic on the longer-distance transportation method used unless there is some other hidden objection I'm missing?  In other words, if Houston developed a vibrant collection of walkable neighborhoods connected by self-driving cars (again whether owned or on-demand provided by transit), that scenario would be just as good as those neighborhoods connected by some rail system. Right?"

  11. The root objection is auto dependency. I understand freeways are here but if we were a city like New York, Washington DC, Boston, or Chicago where we had a viable alternative than that wouldn't be the case. What if everyone doesn't want to spend thousands, possibly tens of thousands on purchasing a car and then thousands more maintaining it? What about the people that can't do that to begin with? What about the vitality of your city? The one excellent neighborhood in houston is midtown, because it's walkable. We need more like that, and to be able to travel between them in an efficient and attractive way that a world class city is deserving of. The thing is I'm not the only person that thinks like this. Most people my age think the same way. So it's just a matter of time before we make some real changes in this city. Hopefully it's sooner than later. But I won't stop advocating.

     

    So it's not the environmental aspect. And I already specified in the scenario that transit agencies would make self-driving shuttle cars available on demand for roughly the same price as a bus ride, so that invalidates the economics argument.  As-is, Houston is pretty much the most vital/vibrant city in the country right now, but that's a side argument.  I understand wanting walkable neighborhoods, but that's not incompatible with my scenario.  You can have perfectly walkable neighborhoods knitted together by a freeway network and using self-driving cars for longer distances (whether owned or transit-provided).  It sounds like your root objection is not cars but a desire for walkable neighborhoods (i.e. new urbanist), so I assume that means you want a powerful top-down planning regime to force such neighborhood development - something I disagree with but understand others have legitimately different opinions.  But you should be agnostic on the longer-distance transportation method used unless there is some other hidden objection I'm missing?  In other words, if Houston developed a vibrant collection of walkable neighborhoods connected by self-driving cars (again whether owned or on-demand provided by transit), that scenario would be just as good as those neighborhoods connected by some rail system. Right?

  12. Well, even if not all of them are self-driving, the self-driving ones will be amazing at defensive driving and collision avoidance (like they won't go thru an intersection if their radar detects a car about to run a red light).  Let's just say the risk rate gets the same or better than walking + transit, which have plenty of their own risks. 

     

    It's not about trying to transport the maximum number at once - it's a tradeoff with convenience and trip times.  Otherwise train and buses would be much more infrequent so they ran more full.

     

    Now will you answer the question?  Sounds like you're a 'no' if they generate any carbon emissions, so what if it runs purely on renewables? (even in states with a mix, you can buy a wind power plan)

     

    Just checking in again, Slick.  Is there any technological/environmental scenario under which individual vehicles + freeways are good with you?  I'm trying to understand if the root objection is environmental (which could be fixed), or if it's something else?

  13. How is it possible for the cars to be accident free unless all cars are self driving? Do you see that happening anytime soon?

    Also why would the transit agency provide cars that carry at a maximum of 5 people? That goes against the idea of trying to transport the maximum number of people at once.

    There is no clean natural gas. Have you watched the documentary gasland?

    Plug in hybrids are only as clean as the electricity source. So that varies by state.

     

    Well, even if not all of them are self-driving, the self-driving ones will be amazing at defensive driving and collision avoidance (like they won't go thru an intersection if their radar detects a car about to run a red light).  Let's just say the risk rate gets the same or better than walking + transit, which have plenty of their own risks. 

     

    It's not about trying to transport the maximum number at once - it's a tradeoff with convenience and trip times.  Otherwise train and buses would be much more infrequent so they ran more full.

     

    Now will you answer the question?  Sounds like you're a 'no' if they generate any carbon emissions, so what if it runs purely on renewables? (even in states with a mix, you can buy a wind power plan)

  14. I would rather be on a train instead of spending energy and time and gas driving, not to mention any time you drive you put yourself at risk of being in an accident.

     

     

    Question for Slick: if cars were automated self-driving, accident-free, all-electric, and recharged from solar power (both on the car and the roof of your garage) - and were also available on demand to those who don't own one by the local transit agency and taxi services - would you still be anti-car/anti-freeway/pro-rail?

     

    Followup questions: what if they ran on clean natural gas?  What if they were plug-in hybrids that ran on battery power at first but also normal gasoline for extended range and got 50+ mpg?

     

    Just trying to understand where the line is here on cars are good vs. cars are bad.

  15. This conversation has helped me to realize what a complete waste of productive time HAIF is.  It's been real.  Peace to all.

     

    Hope you stick around, livincinco.  I really like a lot of your points.  But I agree - you have to pick your battles, make your points, and get out before the quagmire starts.

  16. Transtar has some street info for the major surface streets in the I-10, Hwy 6, Westpark Tollroad, 610 block, but doesn't appear to do that for any other section of the city.  Is that info in a test phase of some sort?

     

    Transtar gets their data with EZ Tag readings.  Google takes that when available (I think), but also tracks Android phones in cars that have agreed to send data to Google.  That's how it has this data on South Main.

  17. I don't know of any camera like that.  Transtar runs the camera network, and they only do freeways.  My suggestion would be this: create a fake route in Google Maps for the origin and destination along S. Main you're talking about.  Make a link out of it you can bring up anytime.  Usually it will say something like "X mins, Y mins in current traffic".  Watch that Y number over a few days and see how it correlates with your experience.  I think within a week or two you'll know what your tolerable Y threshold is.

    • Like 1
  18. Just had a thought: how amazingly valuable to Houston's reputation would it be to have Astrodome renovated as the National Museum of Technology and Innovation, and then every time there's a Texans home game next door the national media and the aerial blimp shots are talking about it and even doing interior shots of exhibits for their cutaway footage? (you know, the short local background videos when they return from commercials)  Our national and global identity would get tied to technology and innovation (in addition to the existing identity around energy), and that would help draw talent and jobs.

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