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Trouble for METRO Solutions Phase 2?


GovernorAggie

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It looks like people just won't stop until the project is dead. The cynic in me actually kinda hopes they get their wish. I'm wearing down of all the potshots. I just hope they hold the other agencies around here to the same standards. HCFCD, HCTRA, TxDOT, and everyone else.

FWIW, I don't think that the METRORail as currently implemented and planned is the optimal solution. The heavy rail optimal solution was voted down in 1983, by the same Houston voters who complain now that METRO isn't building what they were planning in 1983 (by the way, heavy rail apparently costs a boatload more to operate than LRT). The irony is that if and when METRO Solutions goes away, 20 years from now when METRO or whoever is the transit agency proposes something lower and even less efficient than the current in-street light rail (because that's all the Feds will likely participate on by then to spread the dollars around) those same people who voted the plan down in 1983 and killed the project on the books today will work to defeat the then-proposal and suggest the versions that they themselves defeated previously.

And the beat goes on...

http://www.khou.com/news/Did-Metro-try-to-deceive-feds-to-get-900-million-91003459.html

Even if FTA comes back and says that they still think that the numbers work out for the project over the long term, there will be another thing that people will try.

With that said, if the project is in fact defeated or drastically reduced, I am not one to predict doom and gloom for Houston. However, my memory won't be short for those who go through these same motions in 20 years.

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That story and all of its implications were pretty damning, and to have multiple congressmen from within METRO's jurisdiction pressing for the FTA to take nearly a billion dollars of federal funding away from their own districts does not bode well. Still, I intuitively think that Prof. Smith's long-term sales tax forecasts are too low. The optimist in me wants to say that forcing METRO to hold off on these two under-engineered routes until they're in a more financially stable position would provide them the opportunity to consider a more robust form of implementation.

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I just hope they hold the other agencies around here to the same standards. HCFCD, HCTRA, TxDOT, and everyone else.

Forgot to mention:

HCTRA gets its money mostly from toll revenues, and so whereas sales tax revenues such as are important to METRO are most affected by volatile indicators like the level of underemployment and household wealth, the number of tolled trips is mostly influenced by population, total employment, and low gas prices. Houston is still growing, people are still driving, and that's good for HCTRA. And at least as of a few years ago when I last looked at their financials, there was minimal debt and everything appeared to be in order. They've also got (or at least had at the time) a good reputation for keeping a clean house.

HCFCD gets its money from property taxes, so provided that they have decent internal controls, they may get have to adjust their 5-year capital improvement plan, but it shouldn't be a huge problem. There's probably a mechanism to raise the tax rate if they really needed to, as well.

TxDOT is an altogether different story. They have crappy internal controls and craptastic leadership, and everybody knows it. A couple years back, they had about a billion dollars turn up missing...all of which was already allocated for capital improvement and maintenance that had to be scaled back. Still, their revenues come from a variety of sources, so they're more protected from recessionary conditions than is METRO; they are far more exposed to state and national politics, though, so if anybody actually started to care that TxDOT was so screwed up, it could hurt them. It strikes me as unlikely, though, on account of that their mission enjoys broader political support than does METRO's (and whether you like it or not, this is Texas and that's the truth).

METRO catches it from all sides and has legitimate problems related to the economy and problems that are of its own concoction. Under Shirley DeLibero they could at least play politics well, talk out of both sides of their mouth, and sell their vision; it probably helped that they were spending their own money and got to call the shots, and also that the line had less impact on residential neighborhoods...meaning that issues with owners of adjacent commercial properties were negotiated in a back room setting as opposed to 'town hall' settings. Whether you liked her personally or not, DeLibero was very effective at doing what she had been tasked to do, which was to build us a starter line. But a system is a much more sensitive animal; METRO has to step on more toes, except that they've communicated poorly with their stakeholders (both intergovernmental and voting citizens) at every conceivable opportunity. They've burned bridges, even with the people that voted for the light rail referendum in the first place. Meanwhile, they hedged their fuel costs at the peak of the market, suffering some pretty devastating losses just as their revenue base was put into check by a recession. It's just one thing after another with them. Bill White had only gotten frustrated with them towards the end of his term as Mayor, and obviously he's not very keen on drawing attention to what was going on under the people he appointed (Rick Perry is in a similar situation on TxDOT, so these issues are a kind of no-man's land). But...if my previous post seemed optimistic, it is on account of that Annise Parker seems to have a handle on the situation. I hope to see improvement, and sooner than later...but it still won't solve METRO's finances (or the City's).

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Why people be all scared of taxes an' stuff?

You can't build a rail without money, and seriously, considering some of the companies that have supported the campaigns of Culberson and Poe both, and considering some of the unique accounting practices they likely employ for tax or other financial benefits, these two are the least likely heroes of the anti-book-cooking crusade.

I remember Poe from his blood thirsty hangin' judge days, and Culberson never met a train he didn't want to spit on. And a printer whose name is Magaziner is a little too suspicious too, like he changed his name to suit his profession or worse, chose his profession to match his name - either way it points to a little mental instability. This motley band of decidedly unmerry pranksters is the last I'll choose to believe on the issue. I'll wait till an independent auditor verifies these numbers before I get upset about anything, and even if they do, I'm still unlikely to give a crap. Creative accounting is the wave of the future. If it works for private enterprise, why can't it work for public entities too?

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Why people be all scared of taxes an' stuff?

Who's saying that they're scared of taxes? In principle, it's all fine and dandy to say...METRO needs to build this, and so they need to tax us more. In practice, it'd require sweeping changes to the way that sales taxes are collected and distributed by various entities throughout the state of Texas, and probably an emergency session of the legislature at that. Basically...it ain't gonna happen.

You can't build a rail without money, and seriously, considering some of the companies that have supported the campaigns of Culberson and Poe both, and considering some of the unique accounting practices they likely employ for tax or other financial benefits, these two are the least likely heroes of the anti-book-cooking crusade.

It's probably not wise to speculate that on the basis of that certain individuals might be pushing the envelope of the tax code (or just taking advantage of incentives as they were intended), that they won't go after another organization that is being underhanded in ways that have nothing to do with taxes or accounting.

METRO did what private-sector real estate developers do all the time; they're providing the rosy numbers and withholding the ones that sink the project, crossing their fingers, and hoping that their stakeholders don't ask questions. They aren't lying, just misleading...and passing the buck to the guys from the FTA who were supposed to be doing due diligence if they get away with it.

I remember Poe from his blood thirsty hangin' judge days, and Culberson never met a train he didn't want to spit on. And a printer whose name is Magaziner is a little too suspicious too, like he changed his name to suit his profession or worse, chose his profession to match his name - either way it points to a little mental instability. This motley band of decidedly unmerry pranksters is the last I'll choose to believe on the issue.

Yeah and his eyes looked like they were too close together, too. And his nose was a little crooked. He's obviously up to something. :wacko:

Yeah, I don't like him either. He's peripheral to the whole issue. But ad hominems don't advance anybody's cause. Drink some coffee and get back to us.

I'll wait till an independent auditor verifies these numbers before I get upset about anything, and even if they do, I'm still unlikely to give a crap. Creative accounting is the wave of the future. If it works for private enterprise, why can't it work for public entities too?

Once again, this story had nothing to do with "creative accounting", botched internal controls, or anything illegal. (You're thinking of TxDOT.) Moreover, that kind of thing doesn't work for (widely-held) private entities...nowadays less than ever, or are you not familiar with SOX?

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I agree that the rail needs to be rethought, but don't replace it with Signature Bus service. That's just holding Houston back some more and adding to road congestion. I wonder what the 1983 plan looked like, because I've read it would have been a bargain for Houston now, especially with the areas that the 1983 plan was suppose to reach.

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Who's saying that they're scared of taxes? In principle, it's all fine and dandy to say...METRO needs to build this, and so they need to tax us more. In practice, it'd require sweeping changes to the way that sales taxes are collected and distributed by various entities throughout the state of Texas, and probably an emergency session of the legislature at that. Basically...it ain't gonna happen.

This was a response to the article, not anything said in this thread thus far. I suppose it would have been a good idea to clarify that from the start, but then that would have diminished the impact of my ignorant rube voice. In other words, the shock expressed by Poe and Culberson on behalf of the taxpayer is disingenuous.

It's probably not wise to speculate that on the basis of that certain individuals might be pushing the envelope of the tax code (or just taking advantage of incentives as they were intended), that they won't go after another organization that is being underhanded in ways that have nothing to do with taxes or accounting.

METRO did what private-sector real estate developers do all the time; they're providing the rosy numbers and withholding the ones that sink the project, crossing their fingers, and hoping that their stakeholders don't ask questions. They aren't lying, just misleading...and passing the buck to the guys from the FTA who were supposed to be doing due diligence if they get away with it.

Well then, it sounds like METRO is at least two steps ahead of Poe's and Culberson's corporate sponsers in the ethics race.

Yeah and his eyes looked like they were too close together, too. And his nose was a little crooked. He's obviously up to something. wacko.gif

Yeah, I don't like him either. He's peripheral to the whole issue. But ad hominems don't advance anybody's cause. Drink some coffee and get back to us.

You're right about the coffee. At the time I wrote my attack, I was only half a cup in, and even now I've got several more to go before my head's straight. So, I still think they're stupid.

Once again, this story had nothing to do with "creative accounting", botched internal controls, or anything illegal. (You're thinking of TxDOT.) Moreover, that kind of thing doesn't work for (widely-held) private entities...nowadays less than ever, or are you not familiar with SOX?

Sorbanes-Oxley or however it's spelled? Yeah, I'm moderately familiar - probably just enough to be dangerous though. I know it's a result of Enron's accounting malfeasance, and I understand it puts tighter controls on creative accounting, but I also know there are some gifted number crunchers who can find ways around the strict regulations. It doesn't matter though, and this little aside is kind of moot anyhow; as you pointed out, what METRO is doing isn't illegal, they're just betting on the long shot.

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Of course, another setback. I seriously doubt these five lines will get built anytime soon.

I just don't see how these people are so against rail... in every shape and form... (In 1983 we didn't want heavy rail, in 2010 we don't want light rail, do we really want to keep expanding our freeways forever?) huh.gif

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Of course, another setback. I seriously doubt these five lines will get built anytime soon.

I just don't see how these people are so against rail... in every shape and form... (In 1983 we didn't want heavy rail, in 2010 we don't want light rail, do we really want to keep expanding our freeways forever?) huh.gif

I remember on the city-data forum quite some time back, jfre81 suggested we level the entirety of the inner loop and pave it over to resemble one big parking lot/highway extravaganza.

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The heavy rail optimal solution was voted down in 1983, by the same Houston voters who complain now that METRO isn't building what they were planning in 1983 (by the way, heavy rail apparently costs a boatload more to operate than LRT).

I must comment on this statement, as it so far off the mark as to be clearly made up. I would ask you to describe the 1983 proposal...since you describe it as 'optimal'...but I doubt you know anything about it. Even though I am one of the few on this forum who actually VOTED in the referendum, I had to google it to make sure that my facts were straight. Let's look at this 'optimal' system...

To begin with, the proposal called for 18 miles of heavy rail to be built at a cost of $2.65 BILLION in 1983 dollars. That would be the equivalent of $5.63 BILLION in 2009. Think about that. $147 million per mile back in 1983! $313 million per mile in today's dollars, or roughly the same price as the entire Red Line! ONE mile! I used lots of caps and exclamation points, because this outrageous cost is what doomed the 1983 proposal. And, it wasn't even close. The vote was 62%-38%.

Now, where did that 18 miles go? Well, it started at Crosstimbers and Hardy and ran south into downtown, a distance of roughly 6 miles. Keep in mind that the North Side in 1983 was some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. No voter could see himself riding a train from Crosstimbers to downtown. Then it ran underground through downtown and came up in midtown, and then run along the Southwest Freeway to Beltway 8. Worse, the north section would be built first...you know, the part no one would want to ride.

Only the downtown section would be underground. Most of the southwest portion would be a noisy ugly elevated el.

Now, let's look at your accusation that the same voters voted this down. Harris County currently has a population over 4 million. Back in 1983, the population was around 2.4 million. 1.6 million residents, 40% of the county, were not even here yet. Further, the vote occurred 27 years ago. Anyone under the age of 45 was too young to even vote in 1983. 73% of Harris County residents are under the age of 45. So, if only 27% of the county was of voting age in 1983, and 40% didn't live here yet, only 16% of today's residents were even eligible to vote back then. Considering the vote was likely in the 10% range, perhaps 1.6% of today's eligible voters might have actually voted in 1983. That may be as few as 10,000 voters or less.

In conclusion, your claim that the 1983 plan was 'optimal' is merely a wild-eyed guess, and your claim that the same voters who complain now is unsupported by the facts, and frankly, an impossibility. The 1983 political climate bore no resemblance to today's. The 1983 plan was an outrageous sum of money for almost nothing in return. Houston in 1983 was paralyzed by gridlock. The voters were not willing to spend that sum of money on a solution that solved nothing. It was not voted down by "conservatives". It was voted down by everyone.

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METRO has issued a statement in response to the KHOU report:

http://www.ridemetro.org

It alternates with the service interruption announcement, so refresh the page until it comes up.

I don't know about y'all, but I trust the agency - which was just reviewed top-to-bottom by the mayor's team - over the allegations of an outside critic who has been wrong plenty of times before.

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METRO has issued a statement in response to the KHOU report:

http://www.ridemetro.org

It alternates with the service interruption announcement, so refresh the page until it comes up.

I don't know about y'all, but I trust the agency - which was just reviewed top-to-bottom by the mayor's team - over the allegations of an outside critic who has been wrong plenty of times before.

Excellent point. I would not trust anything from Channel 11. They are an embarrassment.

Edited by Houston19514
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I must comment on this statement, as it so far off the mark as to be clearly made up. I would ask you to describe the 1983 proposal...since you describe it as 'optimal'...but I doubt you know anything about it. Even though I am one of the few on this forum who actually VOTED in the referendum, I had to google it to make sure that my facts were straight. Let's look at this 'optimal' system...

To begin with, the proposal called for 18 miles of heavy rail to be built at a cost of $2.65 BILLION in 1983 dollars. That would be the equivalent of $5.63 BILLION in 2009. Think about that. $147 million per mile back in 1983! $313 million per mile in today's dollars, or roughly the same price as the entire Red Line! ONE mile! I used lots of caps and exclamation points, because this outrageous cost is what doomed the 1983 proposal. And, it wasn't even close. The vote was 62%-38%.

Now, where did that 18 miles go? Well, it started at Crosstimbers and Hardy and ran south into downtown, a distance of roughly 6 miles. Keep in mind that the North Side in 1983 was some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. No voter could see himself riding a train from Crosstimbers to downtown. Then it ran underground through downtown and came up in midtown, and then run along the Southwest Freeway to Beltway 8. Worse, the north section would be built first...you know, the part no one would want to ride.

Only the downtown section would be underground. Most of the southwest portion would be a noisy ugly elevated el.

Now, let's look at your accusation that the same voters voted this down. Harris County currently has a population over 4 million. Back in 1983, the population was around 2.4 million. 1.6 million residents, 40% of the county, were not even here yet. Further, the vote occurred 27 years ago. Anyone under the age of 45 was too young to even vote in 1983. 73% of Harris County residents are under the age of 45. So, if only 27% of the county was of voting age in 1983, and 40% didn't live here yet, only 16% of today's residents were even eligible to vote back then. Considering the vote was likely in the 10% range, perhaps 1.6% of today's eligible voters might have actually voted in 1983. That may be as few as 10,000 voters or less.

In conclusion, your claim that the 1983 plan was 'optimal' is merely a wild-eyed guess, and your claim that the same voters who complain now is unsupported by the facts, and frankly, an impossibility. The 1983 political climate bore no resemblance to today's. The 1983 plan was an outrageous sum of money for almost nothing in return. Houston in 1983 was paralyzed by gridlock. The voters were not willing to spend that sum of money on a solution that solved nothing. It was not voted down by "conservatives". It was voted down by everyone.

I knew there would be at least one HAIFer to correct my statements down to the detail, but I stand by the sentiment--especially since this is a discussion forum instead of a binding policy-writing summit. I appreciate the level of effort involved to provide all that background information, though. I know about the 1983 alignment (the Priority Corridor, IIRC). And the cost of the system to me is no shock. That is what that type of service costs today in the U.S. (the newest system, Honolulu, is projected to be over $5 billion for 22 miles). The optimal SOLUTION (not "system" if we're being exact), IN MY OPINION--not held out to be THE answer of all answers--WAS and still is heavy rail that's separated (or even light rail that's separated). The limitations on our current system--traffic light timing, block length limiting train consist length, etc. are well known by everyone here.

Now, was the Priority Corridor the "optimal" ALIGNMENT and DESIGN? Well that's up for debate, but it wouldn't have been the first project put through questionable areas, and it won't be the last. And it being elevated is an issue that people already also have with TxDOT--it's not a new issue, and it hadn't stopped elevated facilities from being built. In a perfect world, I think that METRORail would be in it's own ROW at grade (or below grade).

I also never said anything about it being voted down by conservatives. We've seen the story about the folks on the Southeast line who have problems with the rail--I'm guessing that they're not conservatives, and neither are the people who have been fighting the "not over until it's under" fight on the East End.

I did say that it was the same 'people'...but I guess I forgot that on HAIF I should've been a little more exact, so I will rephrase..."'the almost similar-but-not-quite type of voter point-of-view' voted against HRT and then turned around 25 years later and asked how come there's no HRT..."

I also recognize that Harris County was smaller yesteryear, so no, i wouldn't expect to get everyone's voting record and see that, "yep, Doris A. Smith voted against the 1983 project, but now she's on record against LRT in favor of HRT." Nor do I expect that the same voters and percentages, etc. will be the same for the total 6-7 million people who will live in Harris County in 2030 who voted up or down on an item.

But again, I still stand by heavy rail as the optimal solution to rail implementation in Houston. At-grade, street median, light rail is a good option for intracity, streetcar, distribution-type connections. Houston is just too spread out and is projected to grow by millions of people. I just personally think that LRT as currently implemented will not be an efficient line-haul rail service. A comparison is that Westheimer/1093 gets you from downtown to Katy and beyond. However, demand requires both the Katy Freeway and Westpark Tollway in addition to other surface streets. The Katy likely costed more than 10x Westheimer to do the same basic job of getting people from downtown to Katy, but it's clearly the optimal way of getting to the western suburbs (and yes, I'm aware that there are other implications on the Katy, i.e. the national and intermational traffic that uses it in addition to commuters). In principle, rail is no different in my opinion.

Edited by GovernorAggie
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I just personally think that LRT as currently implemented will not be an efficient line-haul rail service. A comparison is that Westheimer/1093 gets you from downtown to Katy and beyond. However, demand requires both the Katy Freeway and Westpark Tollway in addition to other surface streets. The Katy likely costed more than 10x Westheimer to do the same basic job of getting people from downtown to Katy, but it's clearly the optimal way of getting to the western suburbs (and yes, I'm aware that there are other implications on the Katy, i.e. the national and intermational traffic that uses it in addition to commuters). In principle, rail is no different in my opinion.

:blink:

Posts like this one are why people need to read what they've written before hitting the "Add Reply" button.

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This is all such a shame on so many levels. If any of this turn out to be true, I say shame on METRO. I also however, say shame on Houstonians for consistently voting for staunch rail opponents. I will be the first to acknowledge METRO's flaws but I've been in Houston long enough now, and there is a level of hostility toward METRO that I have never truly understood. For the most part, METRO works and I am quicky reminded of that whenever I return to the city from traveling. I see our modern bus fleet, and our park and ride network, and ridership numbers compared to some other cities and I'm confounded even more over the hostility I've witnessed over the many years.

If there was wrongdoing by METRO, I wonder what was the true motivation behind it. Not meaning to excuse dishonest behavior but I think many of us lose conciousness of the incredible powerful opposition METRO has faced, at the very least, over the past 21 years. Yet, it still functions relatively well.

I say Houstonians as a whole have never really gotten a grasp of the fact that infrastructure is not cheap. It never has been and it is never going to be. The most common argument I've heard in Houston against rail is cost. It was too expensive in 1983 for too many of us, and it is too expensive today for too many of us. Meanwhile most other large American cities (large cities of the world for that matter) are progressing or have progressed on because they seem to understand that despite it's imperfection, there are benefits to a extensive rail network....despite it being more expensive than buses and bikes.

Yes, I am going to be dire and say whether I'm in Houston or not, I hope I live to see the day when the citizens of this city live to regret the decisions made regarding rail here. I hope many of them come to understand the damage Bob Lanier, Tom Delay, and John Culberson caused the city they love so much. In 20 years when gas is more expensive than it is today, I wonder if our children will applaud our decisions regarding a extensive rail network, MOSTLY because it has never been cheap enough.

Good luck METRO. For the benefit of the entire region, I hope you've been honest, despite my understanding of the temptation to not have been. Honesty is the best policy. That's what I've been told at least.

*note* On your mark, get set,..........GO TheNiche! ;)

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I knew there would be at least one HAIFer to correct my statements down to the detail, but I stand by the sentiment--especially since this is a discussion forum instead of a binding policy-writing summit. I appreciate the level of effort involved to provide all that background information, though. I know about the 1983 alignment (the Priority Corridor, IIRC). And the cost of the system to me is no shock. That is what that type of service costs today in the U.S. (the newest system, Honolulu, is projected to be over $5 billion for 22 miles). The optimal SOLUTION (not "system" if we're being exact), IN MY OPINION--not held out to be THE answer of all answers--WAS and still is heavy rail that's separated (or even light rail that's separated). The limitations on our current system--traffic light timing, block length limiting train consist length, etc. are well known by everyone here.

Now, was the Priority Corridor the "optimal" ALIGNMENT and DESIGN? Well that's up for debate, but it wouldn't have been the first project put through questionable areas, and it won't be the last. And it being elevated is an issue that people already also have with TxDOT--it's not a new issue, and it hadn't stopped elevated facilities from being built. In a perfect world, I think that METRORail would be in it's own ROW at grade (or below grade).

I also never said anything about it being voted down by conservatives. We've seen the story about the folks on the Southeast line who have problems with the rail--I'm guessing that they're not conservatives, and neither are the people who have been fighting the "not over until it's under" fight on the East End.

I did say that it was the same 'people'...but I guess I forgot that on HAIF I should've been a little more exact, so I will rephrase..."'the almost similar-but-not-quite type of voter point-of-view' voted against HRT and then turned around 25 years later and asked how come there's no HRT..."

I also recognize that Harris County was smaller yesteryear, so no, i wouldn't expect to get everyone's voting record and see that, "yep, Doris A. Smith voted against the 1983 project, but now she's on record against LRT in favor of HRT." Nor do I expect that the same voters and percentages, etc. will be the same for the total 6-7 million people who will live in Harris County in 2030 who voted up or down on an item.

But again, I still stand by heavy rail as the optimal solution to rail implementation in Houston. At-grade, street median, light rail is a good option for intracity, streetcar, distribution-type connections. Houston is just too spread out and is projected to grow by millions of people. I just personally think that LRT as currently implemented will not be an efficient line-haul rail service. A comparison is that Westheimer/1093 gets you from downtown to Katy and beyond. However, demand requires both the Katy Freeway and Westpark Tollway in addition to other surface streets. The Katy likely costed more than 10x Westheimer to do the same basic job of getting people from downtown to Katy, but it's clearly the optimal way of getting to the western suburbs (and yes, I'm aware that there are other implications on the Katy, i.e. the national and intermational traffic that uses it in addition to commuters). In principle, rail is no different in my opinion.

In your attempt to paint ALL critics with the same brush, you have lumped disparate voters together to make your point, a point that could not be more wrong. Again, I was there. I was as interested in rail in 1983 as I am today. Three types of voters comprised the landslide bloc that voted down rail in 1983. The no tax/no rail of any kind group, the group stuck in highway gridlock that wanted more comprehensive solutions and relief, and the common sense group that was pro-transit, but not at that outrageous cost and not an ill thought out allignment. You now claim that some members of those groups complain that we should have built heavy rail in 1983. Again, this is incorrect. The no tax/no rail group is STILL against all rail in any configuration at any cost. The gridlock group might contain people like Tory Gattis, who support expanded freeways and toll roads and commuter buses, and POSSIBLY a well-thought out rail plan, but not a too-costly heavy rail setup. The last group would generally include both light rail supporters and heavt rail supporters. However, as a member of the last group, I am not in favor of heavy rail as an inner city transit solution in a city with population densities generally at 7,000 per square mile or less. It is simply overkill. Only a minuscule portion of this last group might fit your claim. Most would not.

Your use of the word 'optimal' dooms your posts to ridicule. There is nothing 'optimal' about the 1983 plan...NOTHING. Not the design, not the layout, not the cost. Granted, the current layout is not optimal, either, but it is much better than the original. Frankly, the current setup with subways through downtown, med center and the Galleria would be optimal, but METRO must operate in the real world with modern day political and cost realities, not the fantasy world of citykid's solutions, or the revised history of yours. Running inner city transit down abandoned right of ways simply because it is an open space, even though no commuters actually live near it, is not 'optimal'. It is a waste of money and resources. The 1983 plan did that. While Westpark is reasonably near residents, Hardy is not. Other routes must be used, lest you end up with a pretty train that no one uses. This is why the current rail runs down the medians of major streets, as opposed to the centers of freeways and abandoned rail ROWs. Pedestrians walk and live along streets, not freeways and railroads. I do not expect citykid to understand that, but I do expect you to get it.

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In your attempt to paint ALL critics with the same brush, you have lumped disparate voters together to make your point, a point that could not be more wrong. Again, I was there. I was as interested in rail in 1983 as I am today. Three types of voters comprised the landslide bloc that voted down rail in 1983. The no tax/no rail of any kind group, the group stuck in highway gridlock that wanted more comprehensive solutions and relief, and the common sense group that was pro-transit, but not at that outrageous cost and not an ill thought out allignment. You now claim that some members of those groups complain that we should have built heavy rail in 1983. Again, this is incorrect. The no tax/no rail group is STILL against all rail in any configuration at any cost. The gridlock group might contain people like Tory Gattis, who support expanded freeways and toll roads and commuter buses, and POSSIBLY a well-thought out rail plan, but not a too-costly heavy rail setup. The last group would generally include both light rail supporters and heavt rail supporters. However, as a member of the last group, I am not in favor of heavy rail as an inner city transit solution in a city with population densities generally at 7,000 per square mile or less. It is simply overkill. Only a minuscule portion of this last group might fit your claim. Most would not.

Your use of the word 'optimal' dooms your posts to ridicule. There is nothing 'optimal' about the 1983 plan...NOTHING. Not the design, not the layout, not the cost. Granted, the current layout is not optimal, either, but it is much better than the original. Frankly, the current setup with subways through downtown, med center and the Galleria would be optimal, but METRO must operate in the real world with modern day political and cost realities, not the fantasy world of citykid's solutions, or the revised history of yours. Running inner city transit down abandoned right of ways simply because it is an open space, even though no commuters actually live near it, is not 'optimal'. It is a waste of money and resources. The 1983 plan did that. While Westpark is reasonably near residents, Hardy is not. Other routes must be used, lest you end up with a pretty train that no one uses. This is why the current rail runs down the medians of major streets, as opposed to the centers of freeways and abandoned rail ROWs. Pedestrians walk and live along streets, not freeways and railroads. I do not expect citykid to understand that, but I do expect you to get it.

In an effort to preserve some credibility, I admit to wrongly painting every critic of the 1983 with a broad brush. Point taken. Also, point taken on it being unrealistic to build this type of system.

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In an effort to preserve some credibility, I admit to wrongly painting every critic of the 1983 with a broad brush. Point taken. Also, point taken on it being unrealistic to build this type of system.

I wonder, though, will it ever become realistic again to build good infrastructure? On tax day, I saw a few articles pointing out that fewer Americans are paying zero taxes, and the average tax burden has actually dropped the last few years, yet there is the constant drumbeat to lower taxes. Without taxes, infrastructure breaks down. While support for mass transit in Houston is at an all time high (trust me), it is a fragile support, as any cost overrun brings a new chorus from the anti-tax and anti-transit crowd. Even Tory's article linked above was quick to accept the naysayers' claim that the books were cooked, and all too quick to call for shrinking the system. While I am confident that what you meant to call 'optimal' was the 1983 plan's downtown subway and elevated sections, METRO cannot even run light rail at grade before everyone starts screaming to shrink it.

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This is all such a shame on so many levels. If any of this turn out to be true, I say shame on METRO. I also however, say shame on Houstonians for consistently voting for staunch rail opponents. I will be the first to acknowledge METRO's flaws but I've been in Houston long enough now, and there is a level of hostility toward METRO that I have never truly understood. For the most part, METRO works and I am quicky reminded of that whenever I return to the city from traveling. I see our modern bus fleet, and our park and ride network, and ridership numbers compared to some other cities and I'm confounded even more over the hostility I've witnessed over the many years.

If there was wrongdoing by METRO, I wonder what was the true motivation behind it. Not meaning to excuse dishonest behavior but I think many of us lose conciousness of the incredible powerful opposition METRO has faced, at the very least, over the past 21 years. Yet, it still functions relatively well.

It's one thing to live here and use their system, but have you ever tried actually working alongside them professionally? You'd expect a little tension in the public-private partnerships such as I was involved in, but even people in the City's Planning Department complain about how difficult METRO is. Poor communication, abysmal contracts management, a myopic agenda, and too-little public accountability. The hostility towards them is not undeserved.

That's not to say that they don't do anything well. Our regional HOV/HOT and Park & Ride services may not be sexy, but they do wonders to reduce the average commute time and are extraordinarily cost effective. METRO was a pioneer in using these approaches, and their system is larger than any other city that I'm aware of. And that is stupendous. But it also gives their opposition fodder if they're moving towards more expensive alternative technologies that do not perceptibly increase mobility, but rather act to replace components of their system that were already functioning adequately.

I say Houstonians as a whole have never really gotten a grasp of the fact that infrastructure is not cheap. It never has been and it is never going to be. The most common argument I've heard in Houston against rail is cost. It was too expensive in 1983 for too many of us, and it is too expensive today for too many of us. Meanwhile most other large American cities (large cities of the world for that matter) are progressing or have progressed on because they seem to understand that despite it's imperfection, there are benefits to a extensive rail network....despite it being more expensive than buses and bikes.

I guess that depends on how you measure such a vague concept as "progress". I can look at a city like Atlanta (which is in most senses comparable to Houston), review their ridership figures, their average commute time, the percentage of commuters that travel by mass transit, and the amount of money that they're paying into their transit agency, and conclusively say that they have inferior mass transit.

Yes, I am going to be dire and say whether I'm in Houston or not, I hope I live to see the day when the citizens of this city live to regret the decisions made regarding rail here. I hope many of them come to understand the damage Bob Lanier, Tom Delay, and John Culberson caused the city they love so much. In 20 years when gas is more expensive than it is today, I wonder if our children will applaud our decisions regarding a extensive rail network, MOSTLY because it has never been cheap enough.

Good luck METRO. For the benefit of the entire region, I hope you've been honest, despite my understanding of the temptation to not have been. Honesty is the best policy. That's what I've been told at least.

Bob Lanier was definitely not a supporter of rail, but I think that you'd be challenged to find a more pivotal character in the redevelopment of Houston's inner loop. There was an article about that in The Ephemeral City: Cite Explores Houston As for Tom DeLay and John Culberson, they represented their districts (such as they are) and did right by them as far as I can tell; their constituents have all kinds of good reasons to be happy about the transportation infrastructure they got.

And as for the 20-year scenario, just bear in mind that if gasoline is horribly expensive, odds are that natural gas will be too. And that's where we get most of our electricity. However people are moved, higher energy costs do not bode well for commuters; nor would congestion, so thank goodness we aren't Atlanta.

Ultimately, though, if our children want rail-based transit, then let them finance and build rail-based transit. We should build whatever makes sense for our near future.

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I remember on the city-data forum quite some time back, jfre81 suggested we level the entirety of the inner loop and pave it over to resemble one big parking lot/highway extravaganza.

roffle

I was being facetious and all, but it seems like that's what these people really want.

Hopefully they can work this out and find a way to go underground with most if not all of the University Line, maybe even running it under lower Westheimer instead. But the longer we screw around with this, the more we're going to regret it in the future. We are reaching, particularly inside 610, a density level where driving everywhere and riding buses hung up in the same traffic is not going to work.

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I knew there would be at least one HAIFer to correct my statements down to the detail, but I stand by the sentiment--especially since this is a discussion forum instead of a binding policy-writing summit. I appreciate the level of effort involved to provide all that background information, though. I know about the 1983 alignment (the Priority Corridor, IIRC). And the cost of the system to me is no shock. That is what that type of service costs today in the U.S. (the newest system, Honolulu, is projected to be over $5 billion for 22 miles). The optimal SOLUTION (not "system" if we're being exact), IN MY OPINION--not held out to be THE answer of all answers--WAS and still is heavy rail that's separated (or even light rail that's separated). The limitations on our current system--traffic light timing, block length limiting train consist length, etc. are well known by everyone here.

Now, was the Priority Corridor the "optimal" ALIGNMENT and DESIGN? Well that's up for debate, but it wouldn't have been the first project put through questionable areas, and it won't be the last. And it being elevated is an issue that people already also have with TxDOT--it's not a new issue, and it hadn't stopped elevated facilities from being built. In a perfect world, I think that METRORail would be in it's own ROW at grade (or below grade).

I also never said anything about it being voted down by conservatives. We've seen the story about the folks on the Southeast line who have problems with the rail--I'm guessing that they're not conservatives, and neither are the people who have been fighting the "not over until it's under" fight on the East End.

I did say that it was the same 'people'...but I guess I forgot that on HAIF I should've been a little more exact, so I will rephrase..."'the almost similar-but-not-quite type of voter point-of-view' voted against HRT and then turned around 25 years later and asked how come there's no HRT..."

I also recognize that Harris County was smaller yesteryear, so no, i wouldn't expect to get everyone's voting record and see that, "yep, Doris A. Smith voted against the 1983 project, but now she's on record against LRT in favor of HRT." Nor do I expect that the same voters and percentages, etc. will be the same for the total 6-7 million people who will live in Harris County in 2030 who voted up or down on an item.

But again, I still stand by heavy rail as the optimal solution to rail implementation in Houston. At-grade, street median, light rail is a good option for intracity, streetcar, distribution-type connections. Houston is just too spread out and is projected to grow by millions of people. I just personally think that LRT as currently implemented will not be an efficient line-haul rail service. A comparison is that Westheimer/1093 gets you from downtown to Katy and beyond. However, demand requires both the Katy Freeway and Westpark Tollway in addition to other surface streets. The Katy likely costed more than 10x Westheimer to do the same basic job of getting people from downtown to Katy, but it's clearly the optimal way of getting to the western suburbs (and yes, I'm aware that there are other implications on the Katy, i.e. the national and intermational traffic that uses it in addition to commuters). In principle, rail is no different in my opinion.

This is all such a shame on so many levels. If any of this turn out to be true, I say shame on METRO. I also however, say shame on Houstonians for consistently voting for staunch rail opponents. I will be the first to acknowledge METRO's flaws but I've been in Houston long enough now, and there is a level of hostility toward METRO that I have never truly understood. For the most part, METRO works and I am quicky reminded of that whenever I return to the city from traveling. I see our modern bus fleet, and our park and ride network, and ridership numbers compared to some other cities and I'm confounded even more over the hostility I've witnessed over the many years.

If there was wrongdoing by METRO, I wonder what was the true motivation behind it. Not meaning to excuse dishonest behavior but I think many of us lose conciousness of the incredible powerful opposition METRO has faced, at the very least, over the past 21 years. Yet, it still functions relatively well.

I say Houstonians as a whole have never really gotten a grasp of the fact that infrastructure is not cheap. It never has been and it is never going to be. The most common argument I've heard in Houston against rail is cost. It was too expensive in 1983 for too many of us, and it is too expensive today for too many of us. Meanwhile most other large American cities (large cities of the world for that matter) are progressing or have progressed on because they seem to understand that despite it's imperfection, there are benefits to a extensive rail network....despite it being more expensive than buses and bikes.

Yes, I am going to be dire and say whether I'm in Houston or not, I hope I live to see the day when the citizens of this city live to regret the decisions made regarding rail here. I hope many of them come to understand the damage Bob Lanier, Tom Delay, and John Culberson caused the city they love so much. In 20 years when gas is more expensive than it is today, I wonder if our children will applaud our decisions regarding a extensive rail network, MOSTLY because it has never been cheap enough.

Good luck METRO. For the benefit of the entire region, I hope you've been honest, despite my understanding of the temptation to not have been. Honesty is the best policy. That's what I've been told at least.

*note* On your mark, get set,..........GO TheNiche! ;)

Both of you make great points. Points that I have been making for years on here as well. Heavy rail (or a similar system) is they way to go, even if its $5+billion, Its for the better good of your cities future. As mentioned before other cities (similar size, smaller, larger) have better built systems why can Houston? I know its spread out and people use that as an excuse, but their are other cities in the same boat that have still put a system together. Would $5 billion (guessing) be that hard for a city like Houston to raise for a system that will be a permanent fixture in the city? I don't feel like thinking about the economics of it all, but it seems to me that the cost of implementing a heavy rail system should go down overtime.

Is Houston just not a worth enough city for a heavy rail system?

Edited by citykid09
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Both of you make great points. Points that I have been making for years on here as well. Heavy rail (or a similar system) is they way to go, even if its $5+billion, Its for the better good of your cities future. As mentioned before other cities (similar size, smaller, larger) have better built systems why can Houston? I know its spread out and people use that as an excuse, but their are other cities in the same boat that have still put a system together. Would $5 billion (guessing) be that hard for a city like Houston to raise for a system that will be a permanent fixture in the city? I don't feel like thinking about the economics of it all, but it seems to me that the cost of implementing a heavy rail system should go down overtime.

Is Houston just not a worth enough city for a heavy rail system?

evidently my response got deleted. citykid you appear to be missing the point of the khou expose. metro reported false numbers to the feds and now the feds are asking them for the latest info, which may cause the proposed federal funding to be eliminated.

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evidently my response got deleted. citykid you appear to be missing the point of the khou expose. metro reported false numbers to the feds and now the feds are asking them for the latest info, which may cause the proposed federal funding to be eliminated.

To further recap, it appears there in fact may not be any story at all. It did not escape the FTA's attention that a recession has occurred, so revised sales tax revenue projections have been created and submitted.

I know this has been linked to already, but I have a feeling most people didn't read it.

http://blogs.chron.com/houstonpolitics/2010/04/metro_city_officials_deny_effo.html

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In your attempt to paint ALL critics with the same brush, you have lumped disparate voters together to make your point, a point that could not be more wrong. Again, I was there. I was as interested in rail in 1983 as I am today. Three types of voters comprised the landslide bloc that voted down rail in 1983. The no tax/no rail of any kind group, the group stuck in highway gridlock that wanted more comprehensive solutions and relief, and the common sense group that was pro-transit, but not at that outrageous cost and not an ill thought out allignment. You now claim that some members of those groups complain that we should have built heavy rail in 1983. Again, this is incorrect. The no tax/no rail group is STILL against all rail in any configuration at any cost. The gridlock group might contain people like Tory Gattis, who support expanded freeways and toll roads and commuter buses, and POSSIBLY a well-thought out rail plan, but not a too-costly heavy rail setup. The last group would generally include both light rail supporters and heavt rail supporters. However, as a member of the last group, I am not in favor of heavy rail as an inner city transit solution in a city with population densities generally at 7,000 per square mile or less. It is simply overkill. Only a minuscule portion of this last group might fit your claim. Most would not.

Your use of the word 'optimal' dooms your posts to ridicule. There is nothing 'optimal' about the 1983 plan...NOTHING. Not the design, not the layout, not the cost. Granted, the current layout is not optimal, either, but it is much better than the original. Frankly, the current setup with subways through downtown, med center and the Galleria would be optimal, but METRO must operate in the real world with modern day political and cost realities, not the fantasy world of citykid's solutions, or the revised history of yours. Running inner city transit down abandoned right of ways simply because it is an open space, even though no commuters actually live near it, is not 'optimal'. It is a waste of money and resources. The 1983 plan did that. While Westpark is reasonably near residents, Hardy is not. Other routes must be used, lest you end up with a pretty train that no one uses. This is why the current rail runs down the medians of major streets, as opposed to the centers of freeways and abandoned rail ROWs. Pedestrians walk and live along streets, not freeways and railroads. I do not expect citykid to understand that, but I do expect you to get it.

Why are you adding me in to your little speech as not understanding what you are say? I understand exactly what you are saying. You can speak the economics of it all everyday of your life but where would that get you? We all know that cost is the big drawback but it seems that all other cities are able to get past that in away that Houston never has. I look at it as a long term investment, it may cost a hell of a lot now, but it will be worth it to stay competitive with its peers.

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Why are you adding me in to your little speech as not understanding what you are say? I understand exactly what you are saying. You can speak the economics of it all everyday of your life but where would that get you? We all know that cost is the big drawback but it seems that all other cities are able to get past that in away that Houston never has. I look at it as a long term investment, it may cost a hell of a lot now, but it will be worth it to stay competitive with its peers.

He added you because you always have those far out and extra expensive ideas. Good to have an imagination though. ;)

Edited by Trae
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this is disappointing whatever the outcome.

disappointing if metro mislead, as that would hurt them so much (and it should hurt them if they did it).

disappointing if the story is false, as that would show some congressmen and TV reporters not doing their due diligence before making outlandish claims. I guess the congressmen can get away with it by adding a caveat to their statement "if this happened" absolving them of anything. when their real statement should be "I have no comment on this until I see both sides". Hell, especially Poe, he used to be a judge, it was his duty to hear all sides of a story before making a judgment, I really hope he didn't make such snap decisions when he was a judge.

Anyway, I hope it isn't true, I hope what Chron and metro are saying is the truth, and that 11 just got it wrong. I'm inclined to believe 11 got it wrong because it would be a lot stinkier around here, I would expect all local stations to cover it hard and it would probably even be worthy of national coverage.

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The whole "it's big, it's spread out" meme is an old, tired copout. All major metros have multiple centers of employment, transportation etc. They're making it work in Los Angeles, where car-centric low density sprawl was pretty much invented, and if it can work in LA it can work here. Or anywhere.

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We all know that cost is the big drawback but it seems that all other cities are able to get past that in away that Houston never has. I look at it as a long term investment, it may cost a hell of a lot now, but it will be worth it to stay competitive with its peers.

$1.5B in stimulus money went to a high-speed rail link from Orlando to Tampa. It's not far fetched.

I think the problem is that almost all of the people who move to Houston are not in it for the long haul, which is fine, but they have also somehow convinced themselves that to protect their boom-and-bust short term interests they must be dogmatically against any long term improvement/investments.

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I think the problem is that almost all of the people who move to Houston are not in it for the long haul, which is fine, but they have also somehow convinced themselves that to protect their boom-and-bust short term interests they must be dogmatically against any long term improvement/investments.

I don't follow your logic here. Can you elaborate, possibly with a hypothetical scenario? I don't plan to retire here, but I think rail could improve the city, so I'm for it.

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Prove it.

You want me to prove that I think that? Is this some kind of new troll delusion?

I don't follow your logic here. Can you elaborate, possibly with a hypothetical scenario? I don't plan to retire here, but I think rail could improve the city, so I'm for it.

Hrm...I'm afraid I'm not sure what it is that you're not understanding.

Edited by N Judah
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I think the problem is that almost all of the people who move to Houston are not in it for the long haul, which is fine, but they have also somehow convinced themselves that to protect their boom-and-bust short term interests they must be dogmatically against any long term improvement/investments.

Yeah, there are so many people fleeing Houston that the metro has grown 109% since 1980 (2.75 million to 5.78 million). But, Portland, Oregon, where no doubt everyone moves to stay for the long haul, has only grown 67% in the same period. Wonder why that is?

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Hrm...no, it seems like you understand, and it is possible that you are an exception. That might be what "almost all" means (vs. a too-inclusive "all without exception" phrasing, for example). So fear not, you are accounted for.

No, I think the problem with your statement is twofold:

1) Most people who move here are only here because they have to be, and not that they want to be, and they'll leave as soon as it's possible to do so.

2) If statement one is true, then the temporary nature of most people's stay means they don't give a crap about the place any longer than for the time they'll stay.

It reflects reflects a really poor attitude about place, and it's enormously selfish behavior. I think the big contention is that your statement in fact doesn't represent almost all people, it represents just you. The rest of us don't want to be dragged down on your sinking ship, and we don't want you speaking for us either. If you had written it to say "some people I know" or "something I heard my malcontent friend say", I don't think anyone would have jumped on your statement.

Hey the 'home of easy credit' is the place to be. I never said it wasn't!

So, you're only here because this is the only city you could buy a house and get a Zales card?

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A troll delusion is you thinking that I'm asking you to prove that you think something, as opposed to asking you to validate your assertion with data.

Yawn. Learn to read. If I think the carpetbaggers are hustlers, does that strike a little too close to home? Don't take it so personally.

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Yawn. Learn to read. If I think the carpetbaggers are hustlers, does that strike a little too close to home? Don't take it so personally.

You didn't argue that the carpetbaggers are hustlers, whatever that's supposed to mean. You formed an argument using the crap premise that, "almost all of the people who move to Houston aren't in it for the long haul." Then you got dog-piled by four people that recognized it as a crap premise. And when asked to defend the premise, you resorted to an obvious straw man tactic, then called me a troll, an ad hominem, and then followed it all up with the 'carpetbagger' non sequitur.

If you choose not to argue logically, then you must be prepared to have your vapid rhetoric marginalized by the likes of me. If that's what you consider troll-like behavior, then I am a troll (to you). I don't care.

:thefinger:

Edited by TheNiche
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You formed an argument using the crap premise that, "almost all of the people who move to Houston aren't in it for the long haul."

Well, it's true -- I do think that almost all of the people who move to Houston aren't in it for the long haul. I said exactly as much.

Anyway, citykid09, I also support the idea of long term investment. I think Houston should have a subway system that is a true feat of engineering. There is a lot of federal money floating around nowadays and this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity. That is what I think.

Edited by N Judah
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Well, it's true -- I do think that almost all of the people who move to Houston aren't in it for the long haul. I said exactly as much, and unfortunately for you, you can't tell me what to think. Sorry!

I'm not telling you what to think. I'm calling your premise into question.

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Trust me I would rather be "unhappy" in Houston than "happy" in other places. If by "happy" you mean having multiple jobs, high blood pressure and/or lower to much buying power! blink.gif This what many people I know elsewhere are going through. Sometimes a bit of perspective can go a long way.

Edited by JJVilla
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Well, it's true -- I do think that almost all of the people who move to Houston aren't in it for the long haul. I said exactly as much.

Actually, you did not say "exactly as much"

You stated it as a fact, not as an opinion.

Either way, a statement such as that cries out for some support. . . anything, anything at all to back up the premise?

Edited by Houston19514
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