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Uli Panel Gives Opinion On Houston Growth


lockmat

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So, they don't want zoning, but they do want regional land use controls. And they don't want to make housing less affordable because that'd slow down our growth, which they acknowledge that we like, but they do seem to want to implement policies that'd create supply constraints and higher property taxes.

There's a reason I didn't go to this event. I knew who the panelists were going to be (planners, lawyers, and politicians), so it was a foregone conclusion that they'd kiss ass and tell us to take both of two diverging approaches.

Edited by TheNiche
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Commuter rail from IAH to downtown is like a usable form of "civic pride" in my opinion. And the fact that 8% of jobs are DT now is almost meaningless considering that the act of putting in lrt/commuter rail itself will alter that number for the future.

I'm all in favor of doing things like hiring sculptors to put fixtures along downtown streets at costs of between $10k and $100k each. Paying up to a half a billion dollars for a marginally-useful sculpture would probably be overkill.

And the fact that 8% of jobs are DT now is almost meaningless considering that the act of putting in lrt/commuter rail itself will alter that number for the future.

Really? By how much, do you suspect? Or is it possible that you are completely ignorant of the underlying economic theory and empirical evidence within Houston and other comparable cities as it relates to employment location?

The expense and inconvenience associated with the CBD stunt its growth relative to suburban areas. Even if airport rail service were to make it marginally more attractive than it is at present, any uptick in long-term office absorption could not hope to rival the growth of suburban office space. And office space is just one kind of place of employment; and compared to cities like Austin, we use much less office space per capita.

And besides, is it really desirable to add more jobs to the CBD, given that that'd only mean that there'd be more traffic from all over the region trying to commute to and from the same point every day? Or is it better public policy to promote the polycentric city and shorter suburb-to-suburb commutes with bi-directional traffic during both morning and afternoon commutes, which also places a greater amount of inexpensive vacant land more accessible to employment, thereby keeping housing more affordable? That is of course, if we really must promote anything at all...

Edited by TheNiche
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Commuter rail from IAH to downtown is like a usable form of "civic pride" in my opinion. And the fact that 8% of jobs are DT now is almost meaningless considering that the act of putting in lrt/commuter rail itself will alter that number for the future.

Good point. Not to mention that the line would run not just downtown, but also connect to the whole system. What percentage of Houston's jobs are in DT, TMC, Greenway, and Uptown combined?

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I don't know the actual percentages in terms of just employment, but relative to each other, the ranking in terms of METRO ridership would be Downtown, TMC, Uptown and then Greenway. Granted, downtown's numbers are significantly higher than the other three, especially when you consider that downtown serves as more than just a destination. It's also a critical transfer point.

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I'm all in favor of doing things like hiring sculptors to put fixtures along downtown streets at costs of between $10k and $100k each. Paying up to a half a billion dollars for a marginally-useful sculpture would probably be overkill.

Really? By how much, do you suspect? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

The expense and inconvenience associated with the CBD stunt its growth relative to suburban areas. Even if airport rail service were to make it marginally more attractive than it is at present, any uptick in long-term office absorption could not hope to rival the growth of suburban office space.

Really? By how much, do you suspect? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

And besides, is it really desirable to add more jobs to the CBD, given that that'd only mean that there'd be more traffic from all over the region trying to commute to and from the same point every day? Or is it better public policy to promote the polycentric city and shorter suburb-to-suburb commutes with bi-directional traffic during both morning and afternoon commutes, which also places a greater amount of inexpensive vacant land more accessible to employment, thereby keeping housing more affordable? That is of course, if we really must promote anything at all...

I like adding more jobs to the CBD. The Katy Freeway project alone -- specifically designed to promote development out past Katy -- is $3b or so. That's worth quite a few rail lines, and whatever office space is or will be built out in Katy could easily be placed in the city along those rail lines, since we do not have zoning.

Edited by N Judah
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Really? By how much, do you suspect? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

Pretty dramatically, and this is a trend that has been extensively studied by professionals and academics. The benefits of officing in the CBD are two-fold: 1) a firm is central to the labor pool of an entire metropolitan area, which helps in hiring highly specialized and dispersed labor, and 2) many firms place a value on being very near other firms. In the classical monocentric city of the 19th century, the first force was self-reinforcing and the second force was of extreme importance and the second force was critical because mass transit and foot traffic were the most efficient ways to get around. The automobile, the telephone, and the internet has all but killed the second force, and once bi-directional roads were built that were uni-directionally congested at any given time of the day, the first force was substantially weakened.

High land prices--and therefore high office rents--in the CBD relative to suburban office locations, coupled with pretty severe parking constraints, then make suburban locales far more appealing to the majority of firms with office locations. This is evidenced in empirical fact. Look at where construction is happening and has happened...and look beyond just the larger buildings.

Was this an adequate explanation? Or are you naive to the realities of the businesses that justify your urban playground?

I like adding more jobs to the CBD.

You like it. Is that what makes good public policy?

The Katy Freeway project alone -- specifically designed to promote development out past Katy -- is $3b or so. That's worth quite a few rail lines, and whatever office space is or will be built out in Katy could easily be placed in the city along those rail lines, since we do not have zoning.

The Katy Freeway construction has already been highly beneficial to employment in areas such as Westchase and the Energy Corridor; the effect thus far is pretty marginal even approaching Katy, much less "out past Katy." To say that it does not also help the CBD and other urban core employment subcenters would be short-sighted. As I said earlier, one of the major benefits to being in the CBD is being well-located relative to specialized and dispersed labor, a large chunk of which lives in greater West Houston.

There's another factor at play that doesn't bode well for commuter rail...and you even mentioned it. Without some form of regional zoning as a tool to force employment growth specifically at commuter rail stations and not elsewhere, commuter rail may result in a few notable developments, but those will be drops in the bucket at the regional level.

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High land prices--and therefore high office rents--in the CBD relative to suburban office locations, coupled with pretty severe parking constraints, then make suburban locales far more appealing to the majority of firms with office locations. This is evidenced in empirical fact. Look at where construction is happening and has happened...and look beyond just the larger buildings.

Most of that has to do with the multi-trillion-dollar freeway subsidies over the past 50 years. Without freeways, there are no suburban office locations. Construction always follows the subsidies.

Was this an adequate explanation? Or are you naive to the realities of the businesses that justify your urban playground?

Houston is hardly an urban playground. If it ever becomes such a thing you are, of course, always free to go back to wherever you came from at any time.

You like it. Is that what makes good public policy?

If we're going to encourage one or the other, I choose the one I prefer the most (and you have done the same, whether or not you know what you're doing).

The Katy Freeway construction has already been highly beneficial to employment in areas such as Westchase and the Energy Corridor; the effect thus far is pretty marginal even approaching Katy, much less "out past Katy."

I'm not sure you're aware of the development going on in and around Katy. At any rate, of course I'm glad Westchase and the Energy Corridor have benefitted from the construction on the Katy Frwy; but I'd rather such places succeed via the free market, without a $3b subsidy going right past their front door.

Without some form of regional zoning as a tool to force employment growth specifically at commuter rail stations and not elsewhere, commuter rail may result in a few notable developments, but those will be drops in the bucket at the regional level.

I don't think you know what you are talking about.

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Most of that has to do with the multi-trillion-dollar freeway subsidies over the past 50 years. Without freeways, there are no suburban office locations. Construction always follows the subsidies.

Without freeways, the Houston area would never have been able to support population growth to the point at which we'd be able to support the Central Business District that we have.

I agree that toll roads are a far preferable form of transporation finance because they get around some of the distributional consequences, but as ought to be evidenced by all the construction along the West Belt, they are hardly an impediment to urban sprawl, either.

Houston is hardly an urban playground. If it ever becomes such a thing you are, of course, always free to go back to wherever you came from at any time.

I was referring to the CBD, your urban playground...not all of Houston. And I say that because you seem to want it to grow, if only for the sake of your own entertainment or as a kind of centralization fetish that I can't understand.

If we're going to encourage one or the other, I choose the one I prefer the most (and you have done the same, whether or not you know what you're doing).

Well shoot, if public policy ought to serve each individual voter, then I propose that we give everyone fitting my particular circumstances a billion dollars. Screw everyone else.

That'd be fantastic policy! :rolleyes:

I'm not sure you're aware of the development going on in and around Katy.

I'm not sure you know where Katy is.

At any rate, of course I'm glad Westchase and the Energy Corridor have benefitted from the construction on the Katy Frwy; but I'd rather such places succeed via the free market, without a $3b subsidy going right past their front door.

As I stated above, I'd prefer it if all existing and new projects were tolled, too. The outcomes would more or less be the same, however.

I don't think you know what you are talking about.

This topic is closely related to my professional and academic background. I think that it is you that do not have a clear understanding of the subject matter. I think you ought to read this. It was co-written by my old Urban Economics professor at UH. It'll bring you up to speed, from the 19th century to the 21st century.

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Anyone who has to support their argument by declaring that they know more than the other person is not doing a very good job.

Downtowns will continue to remain viable because people like them. Imagine if Manhattan were chopped up into twenty equal size parts and dispersed across the Tri-State area. Would as many people want to live/work/play in New York?

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Downtowns will continue to remain viable because people like them.

Who said that downtowns were not viable?

Imagine if Manhattan were chopped up into twenty equal size parts and dispersed across the Tri-State area. Would as many people want to live/work/play in New York?

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Why do so many people try to use Manhattan as a comparison for Houston!? :huh:

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Without freeways, the Houston area would never have been able to support population growth to the point at which we'd be able to support the Central Business District that we have.

Really? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

I was referring to the CBD, your urban playground...not all of Houston. And I say that because you seem to want it to grow, if only for the sake of your own entertainment or as a kind of centralization fetish that I can't understand.

There's a lot you don't understand, mostly having to do with your own obsession with freeways as the solution to transit woes. If you love LA so much, just go ahead and move there already. Sheesh.

Well shoot, if public policy ought to serve each individual voter, then I propose that we give everyone fitting my particular circumstances a billion dollars. Screw everyone else.

That seems to be your position on almost everything so far. You only think you're being facetious...

I'm not sure you know where Katy is.

Unlike you, I grew up in Houston. How could I not know where Katy is?

Next time you are not sure about something, feel free to ask!

This topic is closely related to my professional and academic background. I think that it is you that do not have a clear understanding of the subject matter. I think you ought to read this. It was co-written by my old Urban Economics professor at UH. It'll bring you up to speed, from the 19th century to the 21st century.

I'm well aware of the rise in freeway-building and its impact on the cost of goods. With a multi-trillion dollar subsidy, I'd expect nothing less. If economic growth has come from gains related to reduced transportation costs, a la Wal Mart or Costco, I'd agree that it's time to leave that type of growth to the third world and find some new way to pump up our economy.

Edited by N Judah
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The expense and inconvenience associated with the CBD stunt its growth relative to suburban areas. Even if airport rail service were to make it marginally more attractive than it is at present, any uptick in long-term office absorption could not hope to rival the growth of suburban office space. And office space is just one kind of place of employment; and compared to cities like Austin, we use much less office space per capita.

And besides, is it really desirable to add more jobs to the CBD, given that that'd only mean that there'd be more traffic from all over the region trying to commute to and from the same point every day? Or is it better public policy to promote the polycentric city and shorter suburb-to-suburb commutes with bi-directional traffic during both morning and afternoon commutes, which also places a greater amount of inexpensive vacant land more accessible to employment, thereby keeping housing more affordable? That is of course, if we really must promote anything at all...

hence the growth in office space in the woodlands, sugarland, galleria, energy corridor and west belt. it is becoming more desirable to live inside the loop and reverse commute for some.

as much i liked the idea of the red line and am happy we have it, i'm disappointed that the land prices are such that residential for median income folks isn't sprouting around the stations. i'm sure there are other factors at play here. it IS easy to dream of all the "urban" centers connected by clean, efficient people movers.

i did so love my sci-fi.

i think you guys (niche and judah) have a legitimate debate going on. please make your points without personal attacks. thanks.

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Really? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

Read the paper.

There's a lot you don't understand, mostly having to do with your own obsession with freeways as the solution to transit woes. If you love LA so much, just go ahead and move there already. Sheesh.

Because I don't like LA. Their regulatory environment is rather draconian and convoluted.

That seems to be your position on almost everything so far. You only think you're being facetious...

As I've already said multiple times, I like converting all roads to toll roads with market pricing. And if that were possible, I'd also prefer charging market-rate tolls on mass transit.

Unlike you, I grew up in Houston. How could I not know where Katy is?

Either you do not know where Katy is or you severely overestimate the amount of commercial development taking place beyond it. I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt when you made an implausible statement earlier.

If you have specific examples and can prove that development beyond Katy was the exclusive intent of the 'powers that be' in addition to identifying those 'powers', I'm all ears. Otherwise, I'd ask that you stop questioning the orifice from whence my messages are transmitted.

I'm well aware of the rise in freeway-building and its impact on the cost of goods. With a multi-trillion dollar subsidy, I'd expect nothing less. If economic growth has come from gains related to reduced transportation costs, a la Wal Mart or Costco, I'd agree that it's time to leave that type of growth to the third world and find some new way to pump up our economy.

I suggest that you read the paper. This discussion is about the movement of labor, not goods. Please keep it on topic.

Edited by TheNiche
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Either you do not know where Katy is or you severely overestimate the amount of commercial development taking place beyond it.

I have lived in Katy for 6 years, which is probably longer than you've lived in Houston. Development follows subsidies. Without the Katy freeway expansion, there is no Katy expansion. Without the Katy Freeway existing, Katy would not have as great a population.

If you have specific examples and can prove that development beyond Katy was the exclusive intent of the 'powers that be' in addition to identifying those 'powers', I'm all ears.

I never made that claim.

Otherwise, I'd ask that you stop questioning the orifice from whence my messages are transmitted.

Well you're the one that brought THAT up. To be honest, it's much better for everyone if you keep your temper tantrums to yourself, or at least let it simmer a bit before you post anything offensive or obnoxious. If you could manage that, this board will be a more civil place. If you think that is too much to expect, just say so.

I suggest that you read the paper. This discussion is about the movement of labor, not goods. Please keep it on topic.

The paper's not that amazing and actually most of it is about the cost of transporting goods.

This discussion is about a panel that wanted a regional growth plan for Houston. You seem to disagree with the idea that any sort of growth plan is needed at all, and openly disparaged the idea of the event itself (which you did not attend), so please take your own advice. At any rate I'll wait for a moderator (not you) to tell me to keep it on topic, but thanks for the input.

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I'm all in favor of doing things like hiring sculptors to put fixtures along downtown streets at costs of between $10k and $100k each. Paying up to a half a billion dollars for a marginally-useful sculpture would probably be overkill.

Really? By how much, do you suspect? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

The expense and inconvenience associated with the CBD stunt its growth relative to suburban areas. Even if airport rail service were to make it marginally more attractive than it is at present, any uptick in long-term office absorption could not hope to rival the growth of suburban office space. And office space is just one kind of place of employment; and compared to cities like Austin, we use much less office space per capita.

And besides, is it really desirable to add more jobs to the CBD, given that that'd only mean that there'd be more traffic from all over the region trying to commute to and from the same point every day? Or is it better public policy to promote the polycentric city and shorter suburb-to-suburb commutes with bi-directional traffic during both morning and afternoon commutes, which also places a greater amount of inexpensive vacant land more accessible to employment, thereby keeping housing more affordable? That is of course, if we really must promote anything at all...

This has got to be one of the best posts I've seen in a while Niche. Why should I have to ride a train into downtown to get to work? Just build my office out here where I and most of the people in my industry live. There is no compelling reason for promoting the downtown area other than for some people's ego trip that are jealous of New York or Chicago. It would be a disaster for me if my company moved downtown. I would start looking for another job right away. I don't need to deal with a commute into downtown every morning.

My company followed this path, we moved from the Galleria out to the West Belt to get away from high land prices and long commutes.

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Who said that downtowns were not viable?

You implied that they were a thing of the nineteenth century, and that it wasn't "desirable" to add more jobs to them (but then said we shouldn't promote anything, oddly enough).

Why do so many people try to use Manhattan as a comparison for Houston!? :huh:

I didn't compare Manhattan to Houston. :blink: Reread.

Edited by H-Town Man
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I have lived in Katy for 6 years, which is probably longer than you've lived in Houston.

That is precisely how long I've lived in Houston.

Development follows subsidies. Without the Katy freeway expansion, there is no Katy expansion. Without the Katy Freeway existing, Katy would not have as great a population.

Development follows infrastructure. The financing mechanism utilitzed to install infrastructure is grossly inadequate as well as inequitable--we agree on that.

Without the population of Katy to draw from, the size of downtown Houston would not be justifiable. The surest way to ensure the growth of downtown is to ensure the growth of the region, and to the extent that the region grows beyond a geographic area from which downtown can draw upon for labor, then the secondary priority is to ensure job growth within the region, on account of that suburban firms will utilize services from downtown providers.

I never made that claim.

See post #9.

Well you're the one that brought THAT up. To be honest, it's much better for everyone if you keep your temper tantrums to yourself, or at least let it simmer a bit before you post anything offensive or obnoxious. If you could manage that, this board will be a more civil place. If you think that is too much to expect, just say so.

You are correct. I tend to have lapses in civility when someone makes such a glaring error as yours. Until checking, I did not recall even that I'd said that, and even thought that you had started it in post #9.

The error has been corrected and I appologize for not having criticized you as I do now.

The paper's not that amazing and actually most of it is about the cost of transporting goods.

This discussion is about a panel that wanted a regional growth plan for Houston. You seem to disagree with the idea that any sort of growth plan is needed at all, and openly disparaged the idea of the event itself (which you did not attend), so please take your own advice. At any rate I'll wait for a moderator (not you) to tell me to keep it on topic, but thanks for the input.

The paper shouldn't be that amazing. It should be pretty simple and straightforward. Much of it is indeed about good transport, but that is only relevent insofar as it illustrates why the archetypal 19th century monocentric city was what it was, and how that changed as technology progressed so as to explain how the form of cities changed into the 21st century. Additionally, discussions related to the cost-based proximity of labor to any given employment subcenter ought to have caught your eye because downtown cannot esacpe that reality.

This gets back to what I said at the outset of this post. Without Katy or other major suburban areas supported by freeway access to the urban core, downtown Houston would be materially hurt. And since you've expressed an interest in ensuring the growth, development, and vitality of downtown, I figured that that might be of interest to you, given your apparent centrality fetish. The underlying idea is that the urban and suburban growth interests are inherently connected and mutually beneficial. There's essentially nothing within the realm of reason that can be done to cause downtown employment to consistently grow the downtown employment at a more rapid rate than suburban employment in such a way as would make downtown more dominant within the context of the region, but downtown can be grown in size if the suburbs are permitted to do the same. And it doesn't have to do with subsidy or force. It has to do with infrastructure.

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You implied that they were a thing of the nineteenth century, and that it wasn't "desirable" to add more jobs to them (but then said we shouldn't promote anything, oddly enough).

From a public policy standpoint, is it desirable to add more jobs to the CBD? And by that I mean adding jobs at a rate above which the private sector otherwise would.

I didn't compare Manhattan to Houston. :blink: Reread.

You said:

Downtowns will continue to remain viable because people like them. Imagine if Manhattan were chopped up into twenty equal size parts and dispersed across the Tri-State area. Would as many people want to live/work/play in New York?

In order to conceptualize your example, a person must utilize Manhattan in its current form as a comparison.

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From a public policy standpoint, is it desirable to add more jobs to the CBD? And by that I mean adding jobs at a rate above which the private sector otherwise would.

I think that as far as road construction, one should not be promoted over the other. But as far as building a transit network, centralizing the network in downtown allows the city to attract businesses whose workers enjoy commuting by transit and easy access to airports. There is a type of worker who enjoys working in an urban center rather than in a suburban node, and the city should try to attract him.

In order to conceptualize your example, a person must utilize Manhattan in its current form as a comparison.

The example does not require one to directly compare Houston and Manhattan. It simply makes the point that when there is a conglomeration of things in one place, there are certain emergent properties that would not have existed if those same resources were dispersed. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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There is a type of worker who enjoys working in an urban center rather than in a suburban node, and the city should try to attract him.

All cities have comparative strengths and weaknesses that factor into labor migration decisions. Our city and Dallas, have been the fastest-growing cities in the country in recent history, while cities such as San Francisco have been stagnant for want of places to physically house people. We have key comparative advantages that we can maintain and leverage, and weaknesses that are utterly impossible to overcome, regardless of the resources committed.

I submit to you that we ought not discriminate on the grounds of an individual's preferences, and that the objective ought to be maintaining regional numerical population growth that tops nearly every other city in the country. It is not difficult to accomplish, as Texas cities demonstrate very effectively. The trick is to treat all comers with equality or undue penalty for being. Let there be no annointed class.

The example does not require one to directly compare Houston and Manhattan. It simply makes the point that when there is a conglomeration of things in one place, there are certain emergent properties that would not have existed if those same resources were dispersed. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Is a consolidated Manhattan greater than an unconsolidated Manhattan? Upon what criteria do you base your conclusions?

Edited by TheNiche
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All cities have comparative strengths and weaknesses that factor into labor migration decisions. Our city and Dallas, have been the fastest-growing cities in the country in recent history, while cities such as San Francisco have been stagnant for want of places to physically house people. We have key comparative advantages that we can maintain and leverage, and weaknesses that are utterly impossible to overcome, regardless of the resources committed.

I submit to you that we ought not discriminate on the grounds of an individual's preferences, and that the objective ought to be maintaining regional numerical population growth that tops nearly every other city in the country. It is not difficult to accomplish, as Texas cities demonstrate very effectively. The trick is to treat all comers with equality or undue penalty for being. Let there be no annointed class.

I don't know. Is San Francisco even trying to grow, along w/ other cities? Aren't some cities anti-growth, or are there just anti-growth residents?

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I don't know. Is San Francisco even trying to grow, along w/ other cities? Aren't some cities anti-growth, or are there just anti-growth residents?

San Francisco is an extreme example; people there are opposed to anything and everything. The effect is that they crowd out the poor members of their labor pool, causing ridiculous price inflation and creating a kind of class of educated poor. LA is somewhat similar, but one where many aren't actually opposed to growth in principle, but almost ubiquitously with respect to most individual developable sites. NIMBYism wins the day there. As a developer, you just have to accept that the neighborhood gets to choose what kind of countertops you'll be installing (assuming they let you build).

Places like NYC, Chicago, and Boston are held back because even though they don't completely shut off developers, they're still unfriendly and on top of that have unions. Unions make costs go up, the costs get passed on to the consumer, and consumers move to Texas and other lower-cost cities.

Portland is still growing because it has a solid foothold on the particular niche of people that H-Town suggested that we target. My position on that is that we can't compete effectively on their level because we're already a big established sprawling ugly city in a geographically uninteresting place, but that we do have competitive strengths that we can exploit, and that the best way to do that in all too many cases is to do little or nothing at all, as we have historically with great success.

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That is precisely how long I've lived in Houston.

I apologize, in that case -- I can't reasonably expect you to know what Katy was like before you even moved to the region. Suffice it to say that the freeway expansion (and prior to that, the simple prospect thereof) caused much growth in the region, which continues to this day, the latest example of which is the Bridgelands project.

Without the population of Katy to draw from, the size of downtown Houston would not be justifiable. The surest way to ensure the growth of downtown is to ensure the growth of the region, and to the extent that the region grows beyond a geographic area from which downtown can draw upon for labor, then the secondary priority is to ensure job growth within the region, on account of that suburban firms will utilize services from downtown providers.

The same population with a larger density could easily grow a similar downtown (or one that is arguably better). The phrase "growth of the region" only need refer to population growth, not geographical. Downtown Houston is dependent on Katy only as a function of the style of freeway-oriented growth prevalent in Houston, the direct result of billions of dollars of subsidy.

See post #9.

It's delusional think the Katy Freeway was only intended to be utilized by the existing population. Anybody who believes that freeways are not designed to accommodate growth along its corridors is either naive or disingenuous.

You are correct. I tend to have lapses in civility when someone makes such a glaring error as yours. Until checking, I did not recall even that I'd said that, and even thought that you had started it in post #9.

My only supposed "error" was in pointing out that it is, in fact, difficult to predict the future.

The paper shouldn't be that amazing. It should be pretty simple and straightforward.

Well, when you tout it as being able to bring people from the 19th century to the 21st, you're talking it up quite a bit. I've read some of Glaeser's papers and one of his books, and I didn't mind reading this one either.

Much of it is indeed about good transport, but that is only relevent insofar as it illustrates why the archetypal 19th century monocentric city was what it was, and how that changed as technology progressed so as to explain how the form of cities changed into the 21st century. Additionally, discussions related to the cost-based proximity of labor to any given employment subcenter ought to have caught your eye because downtown cannot esacpe that reality.

According to that paper, people with more human capital tend to live in denser areas. If this is their preference, then I would hope Houston would be willing to accommodate such people. I understand your desire to have an ever-growing pool of illegal migrant workers around to do manual labor, but as someone who grew up in Houston I have -at the very least- an emotional investment in seeting Houston continue to attract educated workers also. If densification helps snag them, then I am all for it.

There's essentially nothing within the realm of reason that can be done to cause downtown employment to consistently grow the downtown employment at a more rapid rate than suburban employment in such a way as would make downtown more dominant within the context of the region, but downtown can be grown in size if the suburbs are permitted to do the same.

It is not outside the realm of reason to think that employment in the core can grow at a faster clip. If even a fraction of the amount of $ put into Houston freeways over the past 50 years were taken and put into mass transit in the core, it could easily attract workers and employers seeking to avoid spending too much time in congestion.

And it doesn't have to do with subsidy or force. It has to do with infrastructure.

Infrastructure = subsidy.

Edited by N Judah
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I apologize, in that case -- I can't reasonably expect you to know what Katy was like before you even moved to the region. Suffice it to say that the freeway expansion (and prior to that, the simple prospect thereof) caused much growth in the region, which continues to this day, the latest example of which is the Bridgelands project.

Um...Bridgelands isn't Katy. Katy is Katy. See City of Katy website. When you talk about development beyond Katy, it really needs to be beyond the City of Katy for me to recognize that as truth. Otherwise, its either naive or disingenuous.

Bridgelands is the Cypress area, and will only penetrate the northernmost part of Katy ISD and the easternmost part of Waller ISD many years from now. ...and even given school district naming, I don't think that very many living in Bridgelands are going to describe themselves as living in Waller or Katy.

The same population with a larger density could easily grow a similar downtown (or one that is arguably better). The phrase "growth of the region" only need refer to population growth, not geographical. Downtown Houston is dependent on Katy only as a function of the style of freeway-oriented growth prevalent in Houston, the direct result of billions of dollars of subsidy.

That is an unrealistic expectation. Higher density leads to higher home prices, and the affordability of Houston is its primary comparative advantage over other cities.

Downtown Houston is dependent upon anything within a reasonable commute time of it, including both households and businesses.

It's delusional think the Katy Freeway was only intended to be utilized by the existing population. Anybody who believes that freeways are not designed to accommodate growth along its corridors is either naive or disingenuous.

Anybody that would design a freeway (or any form of transportation infrastructure) without taking into account the reality that the infrastructure will generate growth around it is either naive or disingenuous.

Having said that, only the original population was voting for the politicians that backed the Katy Freeway reconstruction. Future residents don't get a vote. Also, as an existing resident of the inner loop, I used the Katy Freeway to do a reverse commute for several years. I most certainly was not alone. Most mornings, I found it more congested outbound than inbound. If it'd been the slightest bit more congested, I'd have moved to the suburbs to be closer to work, depriving the urban core of my retail expenditures.

Feel free to provide specific examples correcting my "error."

You claimed that commuter rail serving downtown would cause the percentage of regional employment located there to increase. This is false. Read post #6.

According to that paper, people with more human capital tend to live in denser areas. If this is their preference, then I would hope Houston would be willing to accommodate such people. I understand your desire to have an ever-growing pool of illegal migrant workers around to do manual labor, but as someone who grew up in Houston I have -at the very least- an emotional investment in seeting Houston continue to attract educated workers also. If densification helps snag them, then I am all for it.

It is my hope that Houston rejects the notion that some kinds of people are more welcome to our region than others, as it has in the past. Classism disgusts me.

It is not outside the realm of reason to think that employment in the core can grow at a faster clip. If even a fraction of the amount of $ put into Houston freeways over the past 50 years were taken and put into mass transit in the core, it could easily attract workers and employers seeking to avoid spending too much time in congestion.

If we never built freeways and still adhered to the streetcar model of Houston in the 1920's, Houston would be a profoundly-congested and very expensive little town with most of its employment in the CBD. If that's something that you consider as desirable, then I'm pretty much done debating you. The same goes if you think that we'd have been better off with a freeway plan on par with Austin's.

Mass transit very frequently results in longer total trip times than would be the case utilizing private automobiles. The exceptions to that, such as Park & Ride and carpooling in HOV lanes, are transit options I tend to prefer, on account of that they are efficient, flexible, and cost-effective. Light rail (as has been implemented by METRO) and especially busses on surface streets are also considerably slower than a private vehicle on the same or parallel streets, but I still cut the local bus routes a break because they are so relatively inexpensive compared to the alternative on a fixed-guideway.

The sad reality (for you) is that the denser a development is, the higher the cost per unit, holding all other factors constant. If you want to cram a bunch of people in close proximity to downtown and make it so that they have little choice but to ride expensive transit to their place of employment, regional growth gets stunted. There's just no getting around that. And if you think that it's OK because we'd have more of some kinds of people and less of other kinds of people...well I roll my eyes at you, sir. :rolleyes:

Infrastructure = subsidy.

Not necessarily. You would (seem to) prefer that the users of infrastructure pay for infrastructure. On this, as I keep on telling you, we are in agreement.

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Um...Bridgelands isn't Katy. Katy is Katy. See City of Katy website. When you talk about development beyond Katy, it really needs to be beyond the City of Katy for me to recognize that as truth. Otherwise, its either naive or disingenuous.

That was just an example. There are other examples which you would know if you had lived in the area for any period of time. OF course, whether or not you choose to recognize Bridgelands as Katy is irrelevant, as anyone from the area would cite it as an example of development spurred by the expansion of I-10.

I don't think that very many living in Bridgelands are going to describe themselves as living in Waller or Katy.

Maybe, but I really don't think you know what you are talking about.

That is an unrealistic expectation. Higher density leads to higher home prices, and the affordability of Houston is its primary comparative advantage over other cities.

Possibly true in zoned cities, but not here. Houston's most dense areas are its most affordable.

Downtown Houston is dependent upon anything within a reasonable commute time of it, including both households and businesses.

Density can respond to the congestion problem. Are there denser cities than Houston with better commute times?

You claimed that commuter rail serving downtown would cause the percentage of regional employment located there to increase. This is false. Read post #6.

I simply claimed that it is impossible to accurately predict the future. Can you prove otherwise?

It is my hope that Houston rejects the notion that some kinds of people are more welcome to our region than others, as it has in the past. Classism disgusts me.

I agree. Lack of car ownership should not be a barrier to being able to live and work in Houston.

If we never built freeways and still adhered to the streetcar model of Houston in the 1920's, Houston would be a profoundly-congested and very expensive little town with most of its employment in the CBD. If that's something that you consider as desirable, then I'm pretty much done debating you. The same goes if you think that we'd have been better off with a freeway plan on par with Austin's.

I don't think I made either claim.

Mass transit very frequently results in longer total trip times than would be the case utilizing private automobiles. The exceptions to that, such as Park & Ride and carpooling in HOV lanes, are transit options I tend to prefer, on account of that they are efficient, flexible, and cost-effective. Light rail (as has been implemented by METRO) and especially busses on surface streets are also considerably slower than a private vehicle on the same or parallel streets, but I still cut the local bus routes a break because they are so relatively inexpensive compared to the alternative on a fixed-guideway.

All of the options you prefer are dependent upon a massively subsidized freeway system. Please provide different examples of transit you prefer.

The sad reality (for you) is that the denser a development is, the higher the cost per unit, holding all other factors constant. If you want to cram a bunch of people in close proximity to downtown and make it so that they have little choice but to ride expensive transit to their place of employment, regional growth gets stunted. There's just no getting around that. And if you think that it's OK because we'd have more of some kinds of people and less of other kinds of people...well I roll my eyes at you, sir. :rolleyes:

What makes you think density stunts regional growth? Do you have specific examples?

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All of the options you prefer are dependent upon a massively subsidized freeway system.

Not to be contrarian, but more interested in discussion:

You have referred to this several times, but what exactly do you mean by "subsidized?" Aren't all forms of mass transit massively subsidized, even moreso than freeways? There are very few transit systems in the world that cover their operating costs (and none that I'm aware of that cover their capital cost) with farebox revenues.

Freeways are generally built entirely with gasoline taxes, which are essentially fees collected from the people who drive on them. Of course, I imagine a freeway is somewhat "subsidized" from that standpoint in that it probably takes more $$ to build and maintain than is collected from the taxes on the gasoline burned on it.

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All cities have comparative strengths and weaknesses that factor into labor migration decisions. Our city and Dallas, have been the fastest-growing cities in the country in recent history, while cities such as San Francisco have been stagnant for want of places to physically house people.

Yeah, because we're surrounded by flat land and they're not.

I submit to you that we ought not discriminate on the grounds of an individual's preferences, and that the objective ought to be maintaining regional numerical population growth that tops nearly every other city in the country. It is not difficult to accomplish, as Texas cities demonstrate very effectively. The trick is to treat all comers with equality or undue penalty for being. Let there be no annointed class.

What the heck are you talking about? When did I "anoint" a certain class? I said that we should be trying to attract people who want to work in an urban center as well as people who like the suburban lifestyle. How is that discrimination?

Is a consolidated Manhattan greater than an unconsolidated Manhattan? Upon what criteria do you base your conclusions?

Read my post again. There are emergent properties that come about when a certain number of things are in a single place. Most people would find one Manhattan more exciting than five downtown Philadelphias.

Side note: Your desire to sound more intelligent than everyone else is causing you to sound silly.

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Read my post again. There are emergent properties that come about when a certain number of things are in a single place. Most people would find one Manhattan more exciting than five downtown Philadelphias.

Sure, Manhattan is more exciting than 5 philadelphias or 5 Houstons.

Do you think that "exciting" is the first thing people are looking for in a place to live? Imagine a working class family of 5 with 2 dogs and a cat that are looking for a place to live. I think "exciting" is not on the top of the list for them. They are probably looking for afforfable, safe, clean, family/church oriented with a big back yard and good schools.

You are probably looking for "exciting".

Edited by jgriff
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Sure, Manhattan is more exciting than 5 philadelphias or 5 Houstons.

Do you think that "exciting" is the first thing people are looking for in a place to live? Imagine a working class family of 5 with 2 dogs and a cat that are looking for a place to live. I think "exciting" is not on the top of the list for them. They are probably looking for afforfable, safe, clean, family/church oriented with a big back yard and good schools.

You are probably looking for "exciting".

It never ceases to amaze me what people on this forum will read into something you write.

The point of everything I've written on this thread is that Houston should have something for as many types of people as possible. We should offer something for suburb-minded families like the one you describe (we seem to be doing very well at this). We should offer something for ambitious people in their twenties who are looking for excitement. And everything in between.

Next time jgriff, try understanding what someone is saying before typing off a response.

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It never ceases to amaze me what people on this forum will read into something you write.

The point of everything I've written on this thread is that Houston should have something for as many types of people as possible. We should offer something for suburb-minded families like the one you describe (we seem to be doing very well at this). We should offer something for ambitious people in their twenties who are looking for excitement. And everything in between.

Next time jgriff, try understanding what someone is saying before typing off a response.

Wow, sorry to offend. I didn't mean any offense. Not sure why you took it that way.

Are you not looking for "exciting"? I don't think I misunderstood that.

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Wow, sorry to offend. I didn't mean any offense. Not sure why you took it that way.

Are you not looking for "exciting"? I don't think I misunderstood that.

I'm not looking for anything, jgriff. I have my home. But there are people looking for an exciting place to live, and I think Houston should offer that if it has the capability. We have the third largest downtown in the country... with a little work, it could be the third most exciting. That would be a great boon to us as we try to attract companies outside the oil industry.

This doesn't mean we need to ignore the suburbs. The two can coexist.

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You have referred to this several times, but what exactly do you mean by "subsidized?" Aren't all forms of mass transit massively subsidized, even moreso than freeways? There are very few transit systems in the world that cover their operating costs (and none that I'm aware of that cover their capital cost) with farebox revenues.

I guess they thought that the development around rail lines would be worth it. I don't know. A few places have totally free mass transit.

Freeways are generally built entirely with gasoline taxes, which are essentially fees collected from the people who drive on them.

Supposedly it's about half paid for by gas taxes...the rest comes from the federal budget. Plus most of the initial startup costs were financed by the feds. Also, I hate to nitpick, but gas taxes are fees collected from anyone who uses gas -- not just anyone who drives on freeways.

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That was just an example. There are other examples which you would know if you had lived in the area for any period of time. OF course, whether or not you choose to recognize Bridgelands as Katy is irrelevant, as anyone from the area would cite it as an example of development spurred by the expansion of I-10.

It was a poor example. According to the Bridgeland website, the entrance is 2.5 miles away from US 290 and 11 miles away from I-10.

It'll likely have at least a 20-year buildout period, assuming they don't start expanding like The Woodlands did. The development of Bridgeland was predicated not upon the expansion of I-10 but primarily upon the construction of the Grand Parkway (a road paid for by user fees on land that is largely donated to HCTRA by private owners seeking to increase the value of the remainder of their land). This becomes immediately evident if you look at their long-range plans with respect to commercial development. Now that the expansion of US 290 has been delayed--and this is something that they had been really counting on--they are even more dependent upon HCTRA's plans. See for yourself:

http://bl.vismark.us/DTS/lots/maps/vicinity.asp

Maybe, but I really don't think you know what you are talking about.

Here's my five-point counter-argument: 1) it is bordered by Cypress Creek, 2) the bulk of it, and particularly those parts selling before US 290 or the Grand Parkway is completed, are going to be within Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, 3) one of two very large recreational lakes is called Cypress Lake, 4) Cypress Ranch High School is being built across Fry Road from the entrance to Bridgelands, and 5) ...finally...drum roll please... the mailing address of the visitor center is:

BRIDGELAND

16919 North Bridgeland Lake Parkway

Cypress, Texas 77433

And frankly, it barely even matters because if the original criterion was "development beyond Katy," the distance to the Bridgelands entrance is 23.4 miles, and the distance to downtown Katy (the actual Katy, after which "Katy" was named), is 27.2 miles.

Possibly true in zoned cities, but not here. Houston's most dense areas are its most affordable.

Perhaps, but the discussion is regarding growth and development patterns. The new-build (or replacement cost) is considerably higher than the market price of depreciated housing stock in such places as those, where few developers would dare to build new residential within any reasonable planning horizon.

That kind of density is also not very supportive of your arguments anyway, because as such urbanistas as Andres Duany have pointed out, it is typically shut off from the street, built to be auto-centric, and is surrounded primarily by other residential uses as well as by occasional strip centers set far back from the street.

Density can respond to the congestion problem. Are there denser cities than Houston with better commute times?

Density in and of itself is not a solution to anything, and southwest Houston (which you tried to cite above) is the perfect example.

As for city-by-city comparisons, the response will vary somewhat depending upon how you want to measure density, account for geographic barriers such as water (NYC, Boston, San Francisco, S. Florida, Chicago, Seattle), hills and mountains (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Austin), national parks, forests, swamps, etc. (Los Angeles, S. Florida, Salt Lake City), indian reservations (Phoenix), etc., and account for multiple CBDs in one--or effectively one--metro area (Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minneapolis/St. Paul, DC/Baltimore).

Generally speaking, measures of density are most valid for academic or policy purposes at the neighborhood level. For instance, promoting density at a regional level on the basis that it works at the neighborhood level would be a fallacy of composition.

I simply claimed that it is impossible to accurately predict the future. Can you prove otherwise?

I am not and do not claim to be a god. For instance, I can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bridgeland is closer to downtown Houston than is Katy, because the time-space continuum might be warped somewhere along the way to one and not the other, dramatically altering reality without affecting how we perceive and measure it. With that same disclaimer in mind, I can not claim to prove anything. However I am willing to make projections based upon solid economic theory supported by professional experience and empirical evidence, and to allow a reasonably slim margin for error.

I agree. Lack of car ownership should not be a barrier to being able to live and work in Houston.

It isn't. Stephen Fox, an architecture professor at Rice University, lives and works in Houston and does not own a car. He brags about it incessantly.

In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, 9.5% of employees within the Houston MSA commuted in a vehicle other than a car, truck, or van. An additional 13.0% of employees carpooled. And only 3% of workers claimed that no vehicles were available to them, but that means that about two out of three pedestrians and transit riders are well off enough to have the option of using a car but choose of their own free volition not to use it (or anyone else's) for a commute.

Of course, METRO's jurisdiction doesn't cover the entire region, so if you just look at the City of Houston, a more valid Census geography for these purposes, you find that 11.0% don't commute in a car, truck, or van, that 14.6% carpool, and that 5.5% have no vehicle available to them.

The real issue IMO is that no group of persons ought to be subsidizing the lifestyle of any other group of persons. Now, I know that you're just going to refrain with the comments on subsidized freeways, and I'm just going to say once more that I agree with you on that, so lets just avoid that hassle. There is a tendency for policy debates like these to get polarized, so that if I don't like what you propose, then you automatically assume that I must be in favor of something in favor of those that have preferences opposite your own. That is not my position...I simply don't really care what you or anybody else wants, and I'd prefer that you and everybody else not really care what I want.

All of the options you prefer are dependent upon a massively subsidized freeway system. Please provide different examples of transit you prefer.

My preferences stand on the merits that I've described. All are subsidized, and as I keep on telling you, I wish to replace those subsidies with user fees.

What makes you think density stunts regional growth? Do you have specific examples?

The fastest growing and the most stagnant of the major metropolitan areas in the United States are those with the lowest housing costs. Low housing costs in the fastest growing metropolitan areas are influenced by a lack of political or geographic barriers to development and effective transportation systems increasingly financed by user fees. And while I am not prepared to make the claim that density in and of itself stunts growth, I will make the claim that policies promoting more density over less density do stunt growth, the reason being that the growth is relatively more expensive.

When you consider that 1) capital investments in real estate are fixed, while 2) labor is mobile, it is intuitive that capital investment will simply tend to go where there is a preexisting concentration of labor with lower barriers to entry, thereafter pulling firms and labor away from cities with higher barriers to entry with the promise of lower costs.

There's a lot of applicable data in this article, which was posted earlier today in a different thread by poster SamHouston.

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I agree. Lack of car ownership should not be a barrier to being able to live and work in Houston.

Excellent rebuttal.

I'm not looking for anything, jgriff. I have my home. But there are people looking for an exciting place to live, and I think Houston should offer that if it has the capability. We have the third largest downtown in the country... with a little work, it could be the third most exciting. That would be a great boon to us as we try to attract companies outside the oil industry.

This doesn't mean we need to ignore the suburbs. The two can coexist.

Exactly. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Side note: Your desire to sound more intelligent than everyone else is causing you to sound silly.

:D

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Yeah, because we're surrounded by flat land and they're not.

No, in the case of SF, it really and truely has to do with rampant NIMBYism (if not BANANAism). There's effectively no new construction in that city.

What the heck are you talking about? When did I "anoint" a certain class? I said that we should be trying to attract people who want to work in an urban center as well as people who like the suburban lifestyle. How is that discrimination?

Because targeting a said category of persons on the basis of consumer preference implies that disproportionate resources are committed to such persons as are committed to other categories of people. Some category of person is therefore disenfranchised. My position is that no category of person ought to be sought (by the government). Let people come and go freely. If such liberty of movement displeases some category of people, they themselves are welcome to excercise that liberty.

Read my post again. There are emergent properties that come about when a certain number of things are in a single place. Most people would find one Manhattan more exciting than five downtown Philadelphias.

I recognize the emergent properties and benefits of density in that form. I also recognize the benefit of such properties as they apply to employment subcenters, suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas of a metropolitan area. Insofar as public policy is concerned, it has been my position that the most effective way to foster a CBD or urban core in the long term is by allowing and providing for both urban and suburban growth in uninhibited form insofar as infrastructure costs are internalized those locating in various places.

Policy makers must be cautious of triggering unintended consequences, just as they must be cautious of providing disproportionate allocations of resources.

Side note: Your desire to sound more intelligent than everyone else is causing you to sound silly.

Then laugh. B)

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It was a poor example. According to the Bridgeland website, the entrance is 2.5 miles away from US 290 and 11 miles away from I-10.

I don't think the Grand Parkway would have the same appeal if not for the existence of I-10. But no matter, there is evidently a lot of Katy development you are not aware of along I-10.

And claiming that Bridgeland is dependent upon 290s expansion does nothing for the idea that development is not dependent upon freeway expansion.

That kind of density is also not very supportive of your arguments anyway, because as such urbanistas as Andres Duany have pointed out, it is typically shut off from the street, built to be auto-centric, and is surrounded primarily by other residential uses as well as by occasional strip centers set far back from the street.

You have claimed that sprawl is the only way to have the population numbers necessary to support a Houston-sized CBD in part due to the expense of density.

My argument is simply that it could be possible to achieve such numbers via density, and have cited a Houston-specific example of inexpensive density. I made no claim either way about the perceived quality of that density (just as you made no claim about the perceived quality of your sprawl), only that it exists and, in Houston at least, exists relatively inexpensively.

Generally speaking, measures of density are most valid for academic or policy purposes at the neighborhood level. For instance, promoting density at a regional level on the basis that it works at the neighborhood level would be a fallacy of composition.

It doesn't matter. I am pretty sure that to prove my point, I would only need to find a geographic area smaller than Houston+suburbs that has a CBD roughly the size of the one that we have now, and which has similar avg commute times. I think that would be enough to counteract the claim that sprawl is necessary to ensure the population numbers required to ensure a CBD of Houston's size.

Of course, METRO's jurisdiction doesn't cover the entire region, so if you just look at the City of Houston, a more valid Census geography for these purposes, you find that 11.0% don't commute in a car, truck, or van, that 14.6% carpool, and that 5.5% have no vehicle available to them.

That doesn't mean that not having a car isn't a barrier to being able to live and work in Houston. To be really convinced, I'd be interested in non-car-related commute times for Houston vis a vis other places.

That is not my position...I simply don't really care what you or anybody else wants, and I'd prefer that you and everybody else not really care what I want.

As I said before: If we're going to encourage one or the other, I choose the one I prefer the most (and you have done the same, whether or not you know what you're doing).

I will make the claim that policies promoting more density over less density do stunt growth, the reason being that the growth is relatively more expensive.

When you consider that 1) capital investments in real estate are fixed, while 2) labor is mobile, it is intuitive that capital investment will simply tend to go where there is a preexisting concentration of labor with lower barriers to entry, thereafter pulling firms and labor away from cities with higher barriers to entry with the promise of lower costs.

These high barriers to entry are due to the fact that specific policies promoting density always involve zoning. That is not the case in Houston.

Insofar as public policy is concerned, it has been my position that the most effective way to foster a CBD or urban core in the long term is by allowing and providing for both urban and suburban growth in uninhibited form insofar as infrastructure costs are internalized those locating in various places.

What's weird is that I totally agree, but I (unlike you, perhaps? I don't know) simply don't see Houston as being an example of that.

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I don't think the Grand Parkway would have the same appeal if not for the existence of I-10. But no matter, there is evidently a lot of Katy development you are not aware of along I-10.

And claiming that Bridgeland is dependent upon 290s expansion does nothing for the idea that development is not dependent upon freeway expansion.

I'm aware of plenty of Katy development along I-10. I'm not aware of anywhere near so much development "beyond Katy" along I-10. That was your claim; you were unable to support it.

Bridgeland will be dependent upon freeway expansion to remain viable. I never made any statement to the contrary. It is not dependent upon the reconstruction of I-10, and in fact is dependent upon transportation infrastructure paid for with user fees, just the way you like it.

You have claimed that sprawl is the only way to have the population numbers necessary to support a Houston-sized CBD in part due to the expense of density.

My argument is simply that it could be possible to achieve such numbers via density, and have cited a Houston-specific example of inexpensive density. I made no claim either way about the perceived quality of that density (just as you made no claim about the perceived quality of your sprawl), only that it exists and, in Houston at least, exists relatively inexpensively.

Any analysis of policy must be forward-looking. It is not possible to construct dense neighborhoods such as those--much less that would fit within your urban paradigm--at a capital cost less 30 years of built-in depreciation.

It doesn't matter. I am pretty sure that to prove my point, I would only need to find a geographic area smaller than Houston+suburbs that has a CBD roughly the size of the one that we have now, and which has similar avg commute times. I think that would be enough to counteract the claim that sprawl is necessary to ensure the population numbers required to ensure a CBD of Houston's size.

:mellow:

Yeah, you go ahead and do that. Have fun.

That doesn't mean that not having a car isn't a barrier to being able to live and work in Houston. To be really convinced, I'd be interested in non-car-related commute times for Houston vis a vis other places.

That data is unavailable through the U.S. Census Bureau's American Factfinder information portal. It would require a trip to Washington D.C. to obtain the appropriate cross-tabulations.

As I said before: If we're going to encourage one or the other, I choose the one I prefer the most (and you have done the same, whether or not you know what you're doing).

I favor lifestyle preference neutrality in public policy. Explain your position regarding your perception of my supposed mis-position.

These high barriers to entry are due to the fact that specific policies promoting density always involve zoning. That is not the case in Houston.

The barriers to entry are attributable to a number of causes, ranging from zoning to building codes to permitting and impact fees to historical protections to regional geography to perceived political risk from planning policies that lack transparency to insurance costs to unionization to environmental regs, and so on. Higher densities in various cities aren't always the result of policy, but it is evident that the relative scarcity of developable land (for whatever reason) forces higher-density developments, and that in such cities, home prices tend to be considerably higher (especially in apples-to-apples comparisons of housing products).

What's weird is that I totally agree, but I (unlike you, perhaps? I don't know) simply don't see Houston as being an example of that.

Houston is most definitely an imperfect example, but it probably is the closest one out of all the major cities in the United States. Gas taxes, toll roads, MUDs, no zoning within the City, its massive ETJ, or unincorporated areas, deed restrictions as neighborhood-level controls to which prospective residents have a choice and must agree to adhere to. That's Houston. It's not San Francisco.

Edited by TheNiche
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No, in the case of SF, it really and truely has to do with rampant NIMBYism (if not BANANAism). There's effectively no new construction in that city.

And nothing to do with the water that surrounds it on three sides, and the other cities that block it off to the south.

:rolleyes:

Because targeting a said category of persons on the basis of consumer preference implies that disproportionate resources are committed to such persons as are committed to other categories of people. Some category of person is therefore disenfranchised.

Attracting as many people as possible does not mean that anyone is "disenfranchised." When a city tries to attract, say, tech jobs, it is not disenfranchising all people who are not in tech. You are becoming the Al Sharpton of urban policy.

it has been my position....

whoop-dee-do

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It doesn't matter. I am pretty sure that to prove my point, I would only need to find a geographic area smaller than Houston+suburbs that has a CBD roughly the size of the one that we have now, and which has similar avg commute times. I think that would be enough to counteract the claim that sprawl is necessary to ensure the population numbers required to ensure a CBD of Houston's size.

You say that as if it will be an easy task. I hope you will undertake it. The problem for this undertaking is that there are very few CBD's roughly the size of Houston's... LA, maybe Atlanta, maybe Seattle. That's pretty close to the entire list. Now among those, only Seattle might have a smaller geographic area and I'm guessing they probably have longer avg commute times.

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And nothing to do with the water that surrounds it on three sides, and the other cities that block it off to the south.

San Francisco has lots of problems. Foremost is NIMBYism, as evidenced by the fact that it is possible to develop in Oakland, which is subject to effectively the same constraints, but not in SF.

Attracting as many people as possible does not mean that anyone is "disenfranchised." When a city tries to attract, say, tech jobs, it is not disenfranchising all people who are not in tech. You are becoming the Al Sharpton of urban policy.

Here we go again, with cities trying to attract this or that. :rolleyes:

I don't want to try to attract people, I don't want to try to keep people out. I don't want to try to incentivize the entry of any particular kinds of people. I want for there to be policies set up so as to ensure limited or no barriers to entry for those persons willing to pay for the costs of their lifestyle. I don't care what their preferences are, I don't care whether they move here, and I don't care if others move out.

If Al Sharpton is color-blind, then I suppose I'm becoming the Al Sharpton of urban policy. I don't believe he is.

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I'm aware of plenty of Katy development along I-10. I'm not aware of anywhere near so much development "beyond Katy" along I-10. That was your claim; you were unable to support it.

When development occurs beyond Katy, it will be due entirely to the expansion of I-10, which is not yet fully complete to the best of my knowledge. Right now the boom is happening in Katy, and is due to the expansion of I-10.

Bridgeland will be dependent upon freeway expansion to remain viable. I never made any statement to the contrary. It is not dependent upon the reconstruction of I-10, and in fact is dependent upon transportation infrastructure paid for with user fees, just the way you like it.

I hope you're not referring to the gas tax. 290 is not a toll road, and neither is Hwy 99. Any person living in Bridgelands who wants to commute in the direction of town will have to at some point either take 290 or the recently expanded I-10.

That data is unavailable through the U.S. Census Bureau's American Factfinder information portal. It would require a trip to Washington D.C. to obtain the appropriate cross-tabulations.

I guess so. At any rate, I don't think the experiences of one Rice professor disprove the notion that it is difficult to live and work in Houston without a car.

I favor lifestyle preference neutrality in public policy. Explain your position regarding your perception of my supposed mis-position.

The solutions you tout for Houston's commute-time transit woes are dependent upon an existing infrastructure, geared towards the private automobile, based on billions of dollars of subsidy. It's easy to claim "preference neutrality" now that there has been 50 years of extreme bias in your favor. This is disingenuous at the very least.

The barriers to entry are attributable to a number of causes, ranging from zoning to building codes to permitting and impact fees to historical protections to regional geography to perceived political risk from planning policies that lack transparency to insurance costs to unionization to environmental regs, and so on. Higher densities in various cities aren't always the result of policy, but it is evident that the relative scarcity of developable land (for whatever reason) forces higher-density developments, and that in such cities, home prices tend to be considerably higher (especially in apples-to-apples comparisons of housing products).

But we really don't have any of those problems in Houston, do we?

Houston is most definitely an imperfect example, but it probably is the closest one out of all the major cities in the United States. Gas taxes, toll roads, MUDs, no zoning within the City, its massive ETJ, or unincorporated areas, deed restrictions as neighborhood-level controls to which prospective residents have a choice and must agree to adhere to.

I see what you're saying. I just think it could be better.

That's Houston. It's not San Francisco.

There are lots of places that Houston is not. Unfortunately, simply comparing it to someplace you don't prefer isn't enough when it comes to creating a truly great city that can accommodate anyone who wants to live there.

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You say that as if it will be an easy task. I hope you will undertake it. The problem for this undertaking is that there are very few CBD's roughly the size of Houston's... LA, maybe Atlanta, maybe Seattle. That's pretty close to the entire list. Now among those, only Seattle might have a smaller geographic area and I'm guessing they probably have longer avg commute times.

Not really...Houston is one of the largest cities in terms of size, so that takes care of geography. So I just need to find any city with a CBD roughly the size of Houston's. I might as well give up the "commute times" thing since, if anything, willingness to spend lots of time in traffic to get to an enticing CBD disproves the idea that workers will eschew the CBD in favor of the suburbs if the cost of getting there is too much.

Attracting as many people as possible does not mean that anyone is "disenfranchised." When a city tries to attract, say, tech jobs, it is not disenfranchising all people who are not in tech.

I think you're right...city living is not a zero-sum game.

Edited by N Judah
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When development occurs beyond Katy, it will be due entirely to the expansion of I-10, which is not yet fully complete to the best of my knowledge. Right now the boom is happening in Katy, and is due to the expansion of I-10.

"The" boom is happening in Houston. Katy is participating in light of I-10. Cypress is participating in spite of US 290. Interestingly, residential and commercial growth has been more moderate up towards Kingwood, along US 59, in spite of the fact that the area has a very wide and relatively uncongested freeway.

Clearly, freeway capacity and congestion is not the only factor influencing growth; therefore your unqualified statement that the boom happening in Katy is due to the expansion of I-10 is at best inadequate and at worst misleading.

I hope you're not referring to the gas tax. 290 is not a toll road, and neither is Hwy 99. Any person living in Bridgelands who wants to commute in the direction of town will have to at some point either take 290 or the recently expanded I-10.

I'm not. The gas tax is an imperfect user fee, and its imperfections are such that I would prefer a new approach, such as tolling all state-funded roads to make up for its abolishment.

A person living in Bridgeland and wants to commute in the direction of town will utilize the US 290 corridor, whether they're using the free main lanes or the future HCTRA toll road along Hempstead Highway. You missed my point, however. The development of Bridgeland is dependent upon the future construction of the Grand Parkway and the Hempstead toll road. Without those, the development of the Bridgelands and other nearby communities will be stalled.

I guess so. At any rate, I don't think the experiences of one Rice professor disprove the notion that it is difficult to live and work in Houston without a car.

I didn't say that it wasn't difficult. I said that it was clearly possible, citing both statistical and anecdotal evidence, with the anecdote even coming from someone with preferences similar to your own. Frankly, if you want to get into this, I'm going to argue that the transit infrastructure that he utilizes is severely underpriced and that in order to promote an equitible and efficient regional transportation infrastructure, the one percent sales tax charged to the METRO service area will have to go away, and he'll have to pay an arm and a leg in addition to his great inconvenience in order to maintain the lifestyle of his preference.

The solutions you tout for Houston's commute-time transit woes are dependent upon an existing infrastructure, geared towards the private automobile, based on billions of dollars of subsidy. It's easy to claim "preference neutrality" now that there has been 50 years of extreme bias in your favor. This is disingenuous at the very least.

Houston is not a VCR. It doesn't have a rewind button. What's here is here, and the present is our starting point.

But we really don't have any of those problems in Houston, do we?

We do, as do all major cities, without exception. We have the least, however.

I see what you're saying. I just think it could be better.

As do I.

There are lots of places that Houston is not. Unfortunately, simply comparing it to someplace you don't prefer isn't enough when it comes to creating a truly great city that can accommodate anyone who wants to live there.

Ummm... :mellow:

If someone already wants to live here, what would be the necessity of accomodating them?

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Clearly, freeway capacity and congestion is not the only factor influencing growth; therefore your unqualified statement that the boom happening in Katy is due to the expansion of I-10 is at best inadequate and at worst misleading.

It is not the only factor, but it is the most important factor. The Katy boom followed the I-10 expansion (or prospect thereof), and -again- I would like to reiterate that this is the type of thing only noticeable if you had any idea what it was like before.

A person living in Bridgeland and wants to commute in the direction of town will utilize the US 290 corridor, whether they're using the free main lanes or the future HCTRA toll road along Hempstead Highway. You missed my point, however. The development of Bridgeland is dependent upon the future construction of the Grand Parkway and the Hempstead toll road. Without those, the development of the Bridgelands and other nearby communities will be stalled.

I'm not disagreeing that development would be stalled without freeways (or the prospect of additional freeways).

I didn't say that it wasn't difficult. I said that it was clearly possible, citing both statistical and anecdotal evidence, with the anecdote even coming from someone with preferences similar to your own.

Anything's possible. The question is whether or not living car-free is a barrier to being able to live and work in Houston.

Frankly, if you want to get into this, I'm going to argue that the transit infrastructure that he utilizes is severely underpriced and that in order to promote an equitible and efficient regional transportation infrastructure, the one percent sales tax charged to the METRO service area will have to go away, and he'll have to pay an arm and a leg in addition to his great inconvenience in order to maintain the lifestyle of his preference.

And I would argue that in order to promote an equitable transportation infrastructure, the same amount of $ put into freeway subsidies in Houston should be put into his transit infrastructure. After that happens, I will agree with you completely.

Houston is not a VCR. It doesn't have a rewind button. What's here is here, and the present is our starting point.

It's not as good as it could be. Where did we go wrong? Understanding history of public policy is fundamental to answering that question.

If someone already wants to live here, what would be the necessity of accomodating them?

To get the pure population growth you desire, we should be willing to do whatever we can to accommodate as many people as possible. If a person gets a job here that they want, but opt not to take it due to lifestyle considerations (to the point where we are driving out certain types of businesses), then I think we are missing out as a city. Needless to say I am the last person who thinks we should kowtow to anyone and everyone, but if it happens enough we should at least think about it.

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It is not the only factor, but it is the most important factor. The Katy boom followed the I-10 expansion (or prospect thereof), and -again- I would like to reiterate that this is the type of thing only noticeable if you had any idea what it was like before.

Regardless of the infrastructure, if regional employment stops growing, Katy stops growing, and when regional employment ramps up, Katy does well. Freeways are not the most important factor.

As for whether or not I have any idea what it was like before...well I'm going to venture the guess that six years ago, there was a whole lot more prairie and fewer homes and businesses. Lots fewer. Tell me, oh wise and all-knowing...nay, only-knowing one, am I correct?

Seriously N Judah, you need to put Katy in perspective here. Katy has been booming and that doesn't make it special. Actually, construction has dropped off lately, reflecting another driver of growth, which had been lax mortgage underwriting. This had been a national event and its effects also were not confined to Katy. I'm intimately familiar with League City for instance, and its a whole other place than it had been when I first moved up to Houston, much less from back when I used to visit grandparents in that area. The same is true of Pearland, Sugar Land, Cypress, Spring, and a massive swath of The Woodlands. Pretty much all of the developable shore along Lake Conroe has been gobbled up in their "boom", and speaking to the Realtors marketing subdivisions up there, they're managing to make sales to people that commute daily to downtown Houston and the Texas Medical Center, an indicator perhaps that traffic congestion and distance traveled are secondary or tertiary to many people's prefered lifestyle.

Anything's possible. The question is whether or not living car-free is a barrier to being able to live and work in Houston.

No. Public policy has allocated subsidies for transit users disproportionately in excess of what has been allocated to highway users. In relative terms, public policy favors transit users at the expense of those that commute in private vehicles.

And I would argue that in order to promote an equitable transportation infrastructure, the same amount of $ put into freeway subsidies in Houston should be put into his transit infrastructure. After that happens, I will agree with you completely.

I would agree. We ought to allocate zero funds to new highways and transit, and all further transportation projects ought to be self-supporting, paid for with user fees. Additionally, all existing projects ought to become tolled in order to cover operating and maintenance expenses.

It's not as good as it could be. Where did we go wrong? Understanding history of public policy is fundamental to answering that question.

The history is understood. Misallocations of capital investment in the past cannot be reversed. Nor can the developmental impacts simply be relocated. We must go forward utilizing all the resources at our disposal, including those that in hindsight weren't very good ideas. ...well, except of course for those assets that do more harm than good, such as the light rail. That would likely be torn up so as to enhance mobility.

To get the pure population growth you desire, we should be willing to do whatever we can to accommodate as many people as possible. If a person gets a job here that they want, but opt not to take it due to lifestyle considerations (to the point where we are driving out certain types of businesses), then I think we are missing out as a city. Needless to say I am the last person who thinks we should kowtow to anyone and everyone, but if it happens enough we should at least think about it.

I don't desire pure population growth. We shouldn't do whatever we can to accomodate as many people as possible because in doing so, we'd bankrupt ourselves and actually drive local businesses out of our city; just because an infrastructure exists doesn't mean that people will use it.

If a person opts not to take a job in Houston due to a lifestyle consideration, that is OK by me insofar as government was not actively impeding that lifestyle, for instance by disproportionately taxing it or enacting policies aimed specifically at discouraging it. And for the record, I don't consider a lifestyle discouraged if the government very simply isn't addressing it...then it is being ignored, as it damned well should be. If there are no artificial barriers to entry, and they opt not to live here because paying their own way in the pursuit of happiness is more expensive here than elsewhere, then they ought to live elsewhere and be happy.

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Niche, what are you talking about?

San Fran, Manhattan, and Boston are hardly closed to developers. Development is taking place rapidly in all of these cities right now on a scale that is equal to or greater than Central Houston (downtown, uptown, tmc, greenway, allen pkwy, midtown, etc...).

Now, the only people that get shut out of development in those towns are the small players because costs are much higher and buildable tracts are much smaller. Even then, there are plenty of flippers in these towns but they focus on rehabs rather than tear downs like in Central Houston. In my opinion, I am grateful for that!

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