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Speaking of Culberson and his efforts to derail the University Line. His pet project of I-10 which was rebuilt with  close to 20 lanes has now a 20 minute longer commute than three years ago. Just say

Look, I really don't want to be argumentative, but what do they do now. Do they double deck the freeway or add ten more lanes so it can carry more cars. There are solutions (commuter trains), for one

No one here gets excited about those buildings...

Houston has expanded very fast, and it could have worked well if planned better. It makes no sense to me to build freeways "and leave room for future expansion." Why not build the final product right off the bat? It would have been MUCH cheaper and more efficient to do it that way. It's a lot like how we do "patch" jobs with potholes. We block off sections of roads for weeks or months at a time, just to pour that sand/gravel BS all over it (and creating a rough bump in the process), leave it like that for a few more weeks or months, and THEN patch up the final product that more often than not isn't in much, if any better shape than the original pothole was in the first place. It's beyond "ridiculous," and I have a hard time believing the "experts" who are making these decisions are this incompetent...especially since it's all modeled on similar patterns of inefficiency whether it's what we build, where we build or how we build it.

The "room for future expansion" referred to the roads predominantly between 610 and Beltway 8: including Bellaire, Westheimer, Richmond, and others. Westheimer is eight lanes wide, Bellaire was built with six but reduced to a four (with no left hand turn lanes of any type) and was going through a major expansion on my last two trips to Houston (early March + late August).

Besides, "future expansion" is usually standard procedure. No matter how great something when it is when it's built, it's going to need to be renovated or expanded. Buildings get expanded and renovated. Any structure, as a rule, should last at least 30 years without major renovation or expansion.

I think the vast majority of people would agree that LA has both a better location and quality of life than Houston. It's certainly more of a destination. Of course, they could use a real mass transit system too. We're going to end up like that if we don't get smart about our growth from here on.

Who is "most people"? "Most people" have never lived in LA, only seen it on TV. They probably don't know what Houston is even really like, even.

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That's cool, we all have our ways of writing this stuff. I wasn't directly quoting anyone...I guess I have a Bennett Brauer fetish.

Exactly. I was going to link to a video of that but decided against it.

 

Oh...my question was why do you think the oil companies (amongst others) lobby politicians?

They lobby about legislation and regulation related to their particular industry, just like industry in general.

 

More specifically, they might lobby to open up more lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

They currently lobby on pending regulation on hydraulic fracturing and reinjection. They lobby on greenhouse gas rules. They lobbied and reshaped the upstream oil and gas rules published last year.

 

Also, they lobby in Washington regularly just in case there was some outlandish idea to target their industry with an industry-specific tax or worse(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW_FXjbt6wY); with the oil industry being such a big target/deep pocket, and viewed as a tempting source of "revenue" by politicians, that not lobbying or contributing to advocacy efforts would be like not buying an alarm system, locks, or even doors for a $10 million mansion.

 

Lobbying is not only legal, but necessary for crafting better legislation. Even if you have an equal amount of money spent on lobbying for a particular issue, and no side makes significant headway against the other, you still will end up with better regulations at the end; the combined knowledge and experience of industry and stakeholders mean that they understand the reality of the situation better than any government agency could ever hope to, so their input is necessary for good regulation. Petitioning the government is open to anyone, as it should be. And by law, if you make public comments on pending regulations, you comments must be addressed by the agency.

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It's a bit of strange hypocrisy that some people have:

New Development on widened Interstates: "Grr! Clearly the politician behind this was in cahoots with the developers of these developments! This is SICK and WRONG and we should never do this again. Widened highways, that is."

New Development on light rail corridors: "Sound the trumpets and beat the drum! Rail was built and new things have come! This is PURE and GOOD and we should do more of this. Light rail, that is."

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They were doing a good job until the conservative base who were scared the country was becoming too liberal poured billions into making the country more conservative. It worked over time.

 

You need to study history a little more.  The US has always been a conservative nation.  It's part and parcel of that whole pilgrim thing you should have studied in school.  Or has history been completely replaced by "social studies" in ths schools now?.  If anything we've become more liberal (in the modern sense of the word) over time.

 

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The cost of housing isn't solely dependent on how compact a city is. NYC, SF, WAS, CHI, LA, etc. are "more expensive than Houston" for a variety of reasons...location, quality of life, etc. Los Angeles is spread out also, but the average home prices there are also double Houston's.

 

The urbanized area of Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim is the most densely populated urban area in the United States.

 

Edited by Houston19514
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In connection with some of the comments in this thread, I think it's relevant to note that in the years 2007-2010, Harris County had net positive migration from the central county/counties of all of the top 15 metro areas in the country except Washington DC (and even that one is positive for Harris County if you reasonably consider the central counties to be DC/Arlington & Fairfax, VA/Prince George's & Montgomery County, MD).

 

(1) The combination of New York/Bronx/Kings and Queens Counties (New York City)

(2) Los Angeles County

(3) Cook County, Illinois (Chicago)

(4) Dallas County, TX

(5) [Harris County]

(6) Philadelphia County, PA

(7)

(8) Miami-Dade County FL

(9) Fulton County, GA (Atlanta)

(10) Suffolk County, MA (Boston)

(11) San Francisco County, CA

(12) Riverside/San Bernadino Counties, CA

(13) Maricopa County, AZ (Phoenix)

(14) Wayne County, MI (Detroit)

(15) King County, WA ( Seattle)

 

 

http://flowsmapper.geo.census.gov/flowsmapper/map.html

 

 

 

 

 

Denver County

 

 

Edited by Houston19514
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The urbanized area of Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim is the most densely populated urban area in the United States.

I would have thought some of the cities in the Northeast (and maybe SF also) would be more dense, but you're absolutely right. I guess LA was a bad example, so I'll go with Seattle. Their metro population density is slightly less than ours, but their home prices are more than double ours. My point is that home prices are based on a number of factors.

 

Thanks though, for the clarification...I just learned something.

Edited by por favor gracias
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It's a bit of strange hypocrisy that some people have:

New Development on widened Interstates: "Grr! Clearly the politician behind this was in cahoots with the developers of these developments! This is SICK and WRONG and we should never do this again. Widened highways, that is."

New Development on light rail corridors: "Sound the trumpets and beat the drum! Rail was built and new things have come! This is PURE and GOOD and we should do more of this. Light rail, that is."

 

Some people who prefer rail development to automobile development would actually prefer not to have any new development at all...but rail is more efficient and leaves less of a footprint than automobiles. A lot of people care very deeply about that, including myself.

 

I'm personally not a fan at all of the kind of light rail we have here, the way it interferes with our current infrastructure and probably causes as much traffic as it "alleviates." I would like to see Houston invest in a mid to high speed subway/commuter rail system.

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The "room for future expansion" referred to the roads predominantly between 610 and Beltway 8: including Bellaire, Westheimer, Richmond, and others. Westheimer is eight lanes wide, Bellaire was built with six but reduced to a four (with no left hand turn lanes of any type) and was going through a major expansion on my last two trips to Houston (early March + late August).

Besides, "future expansion" is usually standard procedure. No matter how great something when it is when it's built, it's going to need to be renovated or expanded. Buildings get expanded and renovated. Any structure, as a rule, should last at least 30 years without major renovation or expansion.

Who is "most people"? "Most people" have never lived in LA, only seen it on TV. They probably don't know what Houston is even really like, even.

I wasn't really referring to your use of "future expansion"...I just made a point about how we've been doing things. I'm glad you mentioned Bellaire Blvd. You'll "never guess"...STILL under construction. They actually JUST NOW got us on the new concrete on the south side of the thoroughfare. So I'm thinking (I'm 35 now) by the time I retire, they might actually have the job complete...IF we're "lucky."

 

Sheesh...

 

At some point, we are going to have to consider population control. The way I see it, it's much easier asking 7 billion of us to "cooperate" than 10, 20 or 50 billion of us.

 

Regarding my "most people" comment, you're right...but there are reasons for that. I think it's obvious that LA is just a more desirable place than Houston for most people who have been to both places. People are generally more into beautiful scenery, great weather, great beaches and Hollywood than the petrochemical industry. Do you disagree with what I'm saying?

Edited by por favor gracias
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Regarding my "most people" comment, you're right...but there are reasons for that. I think it's obvious that LA is just a more desirable place than Houston for most people who have been to both places. People are generally more into beautiful scenery, great weather, great beaches and Hollywood than the petrochemical industry. Do you disagree with what I'm saying?

 

Almost everyone I know who moved to California, including me, has moved back here. Lower taxes, more affordable housing, better beaches, better weather, all of those contributed to a real desire to get out of California and back to Texas. I'm sort of joking about the beaches, but I like the weather here better than in California.

 

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Exactly. I was going to link to a video of that but decided against it.

 

They lobby about legislation and regulation related to their particular industry, just like industry in general.

 

More specifically, they might lobby to open up more lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

They currently lobby on pending regulation on hydraulic fracturing and reinjection. They lobby on greenhouse gas rules. They lobbied and reshaped the upstream oil and gas rules published last year.

 

Also, they lobby in Washington regularly just in case there was some outlandish idea to target their industry with an industry-specific tax or worse(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW_FXjbt6wY); with the oil industry being such a big target/deep pocket, and viewed as a tempting source of "revenue" by politicians, that not lobbying or contributing to advocacy efforts would be like not buying an alarm system, locks, or even doors for a $10 million mansion.

 

Lobbying is not only legal, but necessary for crafting better legislation. Even if you have an equal amount of money spent on lobbying for a particular issue, and no side makes significant headway against the other, you still will end up with better regulations at the end; the combined knowledge and experience of industry and stakeholders mean that they understand the reality of the situation better than any government agency could ever hope to, so their input is necessary for good regulation. Petitioning the government is open to anyone, as it should be. And by law, if you make public comments on pending regulations, you comments must be addressed by the agency.

 

You're making my point...they are bribing politicians to get what they want. You mentioned "crafting better legislation"...what's "better" for them isn't necessarily better for us, or any other inhabitants of this planet for that matter. Just because lobbying is legal doesn't make it right. I don't know about you, but I have a BIG problem with the notion that people can basically buy policy. I'm certainly not impressed with the results. I have no problem at all with people petitioning the government...at least they're doing so with their free will as opposed to money.

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Almost everyone I know who moved to California, including me, has moved back here. Lower taxes, more affordable housing, better beaches, better weather, all of those contributed to a real desire to get out of California and back to Texas. I'm sort of joking about the beaches, but I like the weather here better than in California.

 

 

I'll go in with you on "lower taxes and more affordable housing," and I'll add "more jobs"...as the primary reasons why so many people are moving here have to do with economics. If everything else was equal (or perhaps even just a little less of a gap between cost of living here and there), I feel very confident in saying that more people would consider California a more desirable place than Texas.

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Never been stuck in traffic on 10 using the Katy Tollway, I use it even on late nights to avoid the drunks.. 

 

Money is what makes the world go round and time is money. I consider myself lucky to have lived in both a sleepy suburb and in the left ventricle of this town. There is a psychological limit to commuter driving, around 30 to 45 minutes; anything longer is considered a super-commute (something I did for work on occasion). In terms of the 10 expansion and Culberson's role in it, I think he did well in est'n a bread & butter legacy for the shape of his district. Politicians are only as good as their constituents, in the sense that sprawling development is a defacto form of segregation with implicit symptoms of racism. So I can see how divisive the personal motive issue can be for some but the reality is and without regard to his rail line politics, the 10 redevelopment was a form of socialism that really works as a rising economic tide for west Houston and thereby all of Houston. I also understand that to be a politician you have to take some pretty unpopular positions (now, but not 13 years ago) like he has; when you get to know people, and I mean really get to know People, on a personal level you realize that we all suffer in some way or ways. It's why I live downtown now and am contemplating selling my car for a car subscription; the socialism downtown is just healthier, walking and all that parklife. Plus the big secret was that suburbs are where the Haves traditionally wanted to live, now we got "diversified housing stock" and "multiple bids on the first day." I sure hope we overbuild cause my rent needs a relief valve. Praise no zoning!

 

A greenbelt park would be really cool for the entire metro region. Sprawl can be fixed with good architecture; even old sprawl heading southwest from Montrose to Sharpstown to Sugar Land has a great history of examples where thoughtful place making washed ashore in time. Oh yeah and that greenbelt park saves your little nature too, know we call that?

 

-Win-Win

 

 

Edited by names
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It's a bit of strange hypocrisy that some people have:

New Development on widened Interstates: "Grr! Clearly the politician behind this was in cahoots with the developers of these developments! This is SICK and WRONG and we should never do this again. Widened highways, that is."

New Development on light rail corridors: "Sound the trumpets and beat the drum! Rail was built and new things have come! This is PURE and GOOD and we should do more of this. Light rail, that is."

 

To that point, a study by the Brooking Institute found that in the Chicago metro area the typical job is accessible by 22.8% of the population in less than 90 minutes via mass transit. 

 

This is in a metro area with a strong downtown center, a well developed rail system, and a metro area approx. the same size as Houston.

 

Hardly a ringing endorsement for mass transit as the primary means of moving people

Edited by livincinco
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It's a bit of strange hypocrisy that some people have:

New Development on widened Interstates: "Grr! Clearly the politician behind this was in cahoots with the developers of these developments! This is SICK and WRONG and we should never do this again. Widened highways, that is."

New Development on light rail corridors: "Sound the trumpets and beat the drum! Rail was built and new things have come! This is PURE and GOOD and we should do more of this. Light rail, that is."

 

I think it is sick and wrong for politicians to act in the interest of developers rather than the citizens of the city and the will of the voters. 

 

You see more lobbying for highways than rail because highways lead to cheap, undeveloped land where developers make more money. 

 

Rail is generally (and especially in the University Line's case) built on already developed/expensive land where developers make less money and see less potential, which is why you don't see any lobby for rail here.  Of course, you'll have the renegade politician who lobbies for rail because people in his district will benefit from it (oh the horror) but this is a rarity. 

 

Although rail is much cheaper in the long term (over a period of centuries) and has a more permanent effect, it's not where the money is short term. 

 

It's just the political system we live in unfortunately.

Edited by mfastx
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I think it is sick and wrong for politicians act in the interest of developers rather than the citizens of the city.

You see more lobbying for highways than rail because highways lead to cheap, undeveloped land where developers make more money.

Rail is built on already developed/expensive land where developers make less money, which is why you don't see any lobby for rail here. Of course, you'll have the renegade politician who lobbies for rail because people in his district will benefit from it (oh the horror) but this is a rarity.

Although rail is much cheaper in the long term (over a period of centuries) and has a more permanent effect, it's not where the money is short term.

It's just the political system we live in unfortunately.

Well, considering that the Interstate 10 widening did help people in Culberson's district (and interstates do service more people and industry than light rails do) I wouldn't write off Interstates for that. And while land in the Loop is expensive, I don't know if the developers "make less money": otherwise you would see less teardowns and rebuilds into townhomes or denser. I don't even know if rail being cheaper is true. At least in the case of Union Pacific, I've seen them do rather extensive projects on the rail, and the tracks and ties are both newer than even two decades ago since all of them have been replaced. Every last of the nasty, graffiti covered cars in the New York Subway was withdrawn and replaced with newer models in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And back to freight rails again, an Interstate that hasn't been touched since the 1960s will be a rough ride (and they do exist), a freight line that hasn't been touched since the 1960s will be horrifying with the train going dead slow so that it doesn't tip over. CRINGE! as cars gently rise up and down. WINCE! as the engine wobbles side to side. GASP! as what appears to be a train rolling in what appears to be untouched land.

tl;dr, it's not necessarily "cheaper". As was mentioned earlier, you could even use the ancient Roman roads as an "example" of how highways will last centuries, but it doesn't work that way for roads or rails.

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We just have too many freaking people in this city.  

 

Anyways, all the freeways need to be widen like the Katy Freeway, because most people use them, and this city is too spread out.  You need a car to get you everywhere the most convenient way, and more likely than not the quickest way too.

 

Rail could perhaps service some business centers, like downtown and the Medical Center (which are big), but places like the Energy Corridor are too spread out.  So you get there by train, for example, and then I suppose you can rent a bike (if possible) or walk (if you're fit and have time to kill) or get on a bus or take a taxi to get to your exact destination.

 

We have a problem, it will get worse, and no easy solution, or any solution at all.  I think that's why people like places like Austin, not that many people in it like Houston.  Just my opinion.

 

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To that point, a study by the Brooking Institute found that in the Chicago metro area the typical job is accessible by 22.8% of the population in less than 90 minutes via mass transit. 

 

This is in a metro area with a strong downtown center, a well developed rail system, and a metro area approx. the same size as Houston.

 

Hardly a ringing endorsement for mass transit as the primary means of moving people

That study doesn't find that the "typical job is accessible by 22.8% of the population." It finds that 22.8% of all of the jobs in the Chicago metro area are accessible to the average Chicagoan via mass transit in under 90 minutes. It reflects where jobs lie within the Chicago metro area more than the extent of transit coverage. NYC and Washington D.C. fair much better than Chicago (and everyone else, including Houston) using this measure.

 

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2011/5/12%20jobs%20and%20transit/0512_jobs_transit.pdf

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Another thing to consider is that the overall cost of using automobiles includes MUCH more than just building the roads that service them. Car payments, insurance, gas, repairs/maintenance, parking/tolls, law violations, the 270 "major" accidents (plus 2 to 3 times as many "minor" ones) every day in the Houston metro area alone...and then there are other issues like dealing with hundreds and thousands of other drivers who may or may not be paying attention for a variety of reasons, driving on good or poor roads in good or poor conditions, pollution...I can go on and on. The point is that we are spending somewhere around (I think more than) 2 trillion dollars every year in this country on roads, automobiles and all of their baggage.

 

Just because we're used to something (or THIS wrapped up in it perhaps) doesn't mean it's what's best for us or that it's not time for radical change as to how we accommodate future growth from here on.

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That study doesn't find that the "typical job is accessible by 22.8% of the population." It finds that 22.8% of all of the jobs in the Chicago metro area are accessible to the average Chicagoan via mass transit in under 90 minutes. It reflects where jobs lie within the Chicago metro area more than the extent of transit coverage. NYC and Washington D.C. fair much better than Chicago (and everyone else, including Houston) using this measure.

 

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2011/5/12%20jobs%20and%20transit/0512_jobs_transit.pdf

 

It seems Livincinco's point is still a good one.  Chicago's low job accessbility by transit is hardly a ringing endorsement for mass transit.  Even more interesting, Houston performs better on this metric than a number of cities we have been told ad nauseum have far superior transit systems, e.g.:  Dallas, Atlanta, Philadephia, Chicago, Los Angeles...

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Another thing to consider is that the overall cost of using automobiles includes MUCH more than just building the roads that service them. Car payments, insurance, gas, repairs/maintenance, parking/tolls, law violations, the 270 "major" accidents (plus 2 to 3 times as many "minor" ones) every day in the Houston metro area alone...and then there are other issues like dealing with hundreds and thousands of other drivers who may or may not be paying attention for a variety of reasons, driving on good or poor roads in good or poor conditions, pollution...I can go on and on. The point is that we are spending somewhere around (I think more than) 2 trillion dollars every year in this country on roads, automobiles and all of their baggage.

When we're doing large-scale price comparisons like that, we can't say "This is expensive, let's get rid of it" because it's the same type of fallacy that says "Wow, look at how much of a pittance education gets in taxpayer money than the military. We need to even it out some." (there's a little Flash cartoon with one of the Ben & Jerry's guys doing something like that, though I'm not going to bother looking it up because I feel it's misleading anyway). It doesn't work, and if you're trying to say that roads are bad for the economy, then...well, I don't know what to tell you.

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I think it is sick and wrong for politicians to act in the interest of developers rather than the citizens of the city and the will of the voters. 

 

You see more lobbying for highways than rail because highways lead to cheap, undeveloped land where developers make more money. 

 

Rail is generally (and especially in the University Line's case) built on already developed/expensive land where developers make less money and see less potential, which is why you don't see any lobby for rail here.  Of course, you'll have the renegade politician who lobbies for rail because people in his district will benefit from it (oh the horror) but this is a rarity. 

 

Although rail is much cheaper in the long term (over a period of centuries) and has a more permanent effect, it's not where the money is short term. 

 

It's just the political system we live in unfortunately.

 

I disagree completely with that statement.  Go look at the financial statements of a company like Camden, which focuses on developing apartment complexes in urban areas.  Camden showed an operating profit of over 42.5% of revenue during 2013.  That's an insanely high profit margin in comparison to most businesses and is way more profitable than home builders are.

 

http://www.snl.com/Cache/1001182773.PDF?Y=&O=PDF&D=&fid=1001182773&T=&iid=103094

 

I also think that long term maintenance costs of rail tend to get understated by proponents.  For example, BART, is a 40 year old system and they have spent a significant amount of money on maintenance and upgrades of stations as well as the need to replace the majority of the cars.  Additionally, BART has indicated that it's projected repair needs to the system are estimated at $15 billion over the next 20 years.

 

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/article/Bay-Area-Rapid-Transits-push-to-invest-in-state-of-good-repair-capacity-improvements--31616

 

Not by any means stating that rail's long term maintenance costs are higher than highways, but it's very important to make heavy rail vs. light rail distinctions related to cost and it's just disingenuous to talk in terms of centuries without recognizing the major costs involved in keeping a system running for even 50 years.

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That study doesn't find that the "typical job is accessible by 22.8% of the population." It finds that 22.8% of all of the jobs in the Chicago metro area are accessible to the average Chicagoan via mass transit in under 90 minutes. It reflects where jobs lie within the Chicago metro area more than the extent of transit coverage. NYC and Washington D.C. fair much better than Chicago (and everyone else, including Houston) using this measure.

 

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2011/5/12%20jobs%20and%20transit/0512_jobs_transit.pdf

 

Agreed, so let's extend that point to Houston.  Houston is more highly decentralized in terms of jobs than Chicago is, and based on current office construction, is trending towards a higher degree of decentralization.  Isn't it reasonable to expect that even a major (100+ mile rail network such as in Chicago) would achieve a comparable at best level of coverage?

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Well, considering that the Interstate 10 widening did help people in Culberson's district (and interstates do service more people and industry than light rails do) I wouldn't write off Interstates for that. And while land in the Loop is expensive, I don't know if the developers "make less money": otherwise you would see less teardowns and rebuilds into townhomes or denser.

Firstly, let me make a couple of disclaimers. 1) I am for interstate projects and think maintaining our freeways is necessary and 2) I would rather heavy rail be built than light rail so I am arguing more because of the principle rather than me thinking that surface light rail is the best fit for the University line corridor.

It's just hard for me to imagine that developers make as much money buying already developed/owned land rather than completely undeveloped land and building hundreds of the same house on it. Not only that, there are a lot more of those types of developers that build suburban areas than urban areas. 

 

I don't even know if rail being cheaper is true. At least in the case of Union Pacific, I've seen them do rather extensive projects on the rail, and the tracks and ties are both newer than even two decades ago since all of them have been replaced. Every last of the nasty, graffiti covered cars in the New York Subway was withdrawn and replaced with newer models in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And back to freight rails again, an Interstate that hasn't been touched since the 1960s will be a rough ride (and they do exist), a freight line that hasn't been touched since the 1960s will be horrifying with the train going dead slow so that it doesn't tip over. CRINGE! as cars gently rise up and down. WINCE! as the engine wobbles side to side. GASP! as what appears to be a train rolling in what appears to be untouched land.

tl;dr, it's not necessarily "cheaper". As was mentioned earlier, you could even use the ancient Roman roads as an "example" of how highways will last centuries, but it doesn't work that way for roads or rails.

 

When I say rail is cheaper I am assuming that it doesn't need a total rebuild after 30 years or so, rather minor improvements.  And rail is more permanent in the  sense that citizens/developers can rely on the fact that if a rail line is constructed, it will be there for centuries.  Which, contrary to what some believe, is actually a good thing.

 

In addition, carrying passengers via rail in the vast majority of cases (and in the long term, always) cheaper than carrying them by bus, which is the alternative Culberson wants.  It's painfully obvious he knows nothing about transit, as he is apparently is pushing for a lower ridership, higher cost route along 59.  He also further cemented his lack of knowledge about public transit when his office compared Metrorail to the system in Atlanta (and called it "light rail," lol) when it isn't even the same technology.  It's quite discouraging that someone with so little knowledge about public transportation is in a position to make such key decisions on it.

 

If you are fine with our elected officials worrying more about the wishes of developers than the citizens they represent (and no, I do not consider a few citizens directly along the light rail line to outweigh the entire region - who would probably be all in favor of the line if Culberson told them it was a good idea).

 

I disagree completely with that statement.  Go look at the financial statements of a company like Camden, which focuses on developing apartment complexes in urban areas.  Camden showed an operating profit of over 42.5% of revenue during 2013.  That's an insanely high profit margin in comparison to most businesses and is way more profitable than home builders are.

 

http://www.snl.com/Cache/1001182773.PDF?Y=&O=PDF&D=&fid=1001182773&T=&iid=103094

Fair point, but I'd like to see profit margins of suburban developers, do you know where I could find those?

 

I also think that long term maintenance costs of rail tend to get understated by proponents.  For example, BART, is a 40 year old system and they have spent a significant amount of money on maintenance and upgrades of stations as well as the need to replace the majority of the cars.  Additionally, BART has indicated that it's projected repair needs to the system are estimated at $15 billion over the next 20 years.

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/article/Bay-Area-Rapid-Transits-push-to-invest-in-state-of-good-repair-capacity-improvements--31616

 

Not by any means stating that rail's long term maintenance costs are higher than highways, but it's very important to make heavy rail vs. light rail distinctions related to cost and it's just disingenuous to talk in terms of centuries without recognizing the major costs involved in keeping a system running for even 50 years.

Those are very unusually high numbers, sounds like they are doing a total system overhaul if that is the case.  In that article they cite extensions being <$1 billion and yet "repairs" to stations and new rolling stock being that insanely high number?

 

Of course every 50 years or so rolling stock and station upgrades will be necessary, but to my knowledge they usually do not cost more than the original line.  Hell, give me $15 billion and I'll build 3 or 4 heavy rail lines in Houston that would serve the area beautifully.

Edited by mfastx
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If Culberson and co seriously compared Houston's light rail to atlantas commuter rail then wow.. Maybe Culberson should take a trip to the atl. What is the possibility they were comparing our light rail with atlantas new streetcar system which uses similar vehicles to our LRT trains?

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It's just hard for me to imagine that developers make as much money buying already developed/owned land rather than completely undeveloped land and building hundreds of the same house on it. Not only that, there are a lot more of those types of developers that build suburban areas than urban areas.

 

 

Most of the home developers are public companies so their financials are listed on their websites.  I looked at Pulte for example and they had about a 4.5% operating profit. 

 

You can choose to believe the conspiracy theories or you can believe that there are a lot more builders working on lower margins to build suburban homes, because historically the demand for suburban houses has been much higher than the demand for luxury urban apartments.

 

That's the problem with all the suburban conspiracy theories.  People opposed to suburbs need to create an excuse for the reason that the overwhelming demand is in the suburbs, so they come up with all kinds of conspiracies.  Maybe people move there because that's how they want to live.

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Most of the home developers are public companies so their financials are listed on their websites.  I looked at Pulte for example and they had about a 4.5% operating profit. 

 

You can choose to believe the conspiracy theories or you can believe that there are a lot more builders working on lower margins to build suburban homes, because historically the demand for suburban houses has been much higher than the demand for luxury urban apartments.

 

That's the problem with all the suburban conspiracy theories.  People opposed to suburbs need to create an excuse for the reason that the overwhelming demand is in the suburbs, so they come up with all kinds of conspiracies.  Maybe people move there because that's how they want to live.

 

You must be confusing me with someone else.  I am not opposed to suburban development. 

 

I understand that there are many more builders building in suburban areas, which is precisely why the lobby for building highways to nowhere is so strong. 

 

So what is the conspiracy theory again?  That the suburban development lobby is stronger?

 

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Now you just sound like a nut.

Population control? You're first, how does that sound?

Not so good, I bet.

 

por favor gracias, on 07 Feb 2014 - said:
At some point, we are going to have to consider population control. The way I see it, it's much easier asking 7 billion of us to "cooperate" than 10, 20 or 50 billion of us.
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It seems Livincinco's point is still a good one.  Chicago's low job accessbility by transit is hardly a ringing endorsement for mass transit.  Even more interesting, Houston performs better on this metric than a number of cities we have been told ad nauseum have far superior transit systems, e.g.:  Dallas, Atlanta, Philadephia, Chicago, Los Angeles...

 

The only city on that list other than Chicago I would say has a "far" superior transit system to Houston is Philadelphia, and (according to the Brooking Institute link) they, like Chicago have a higher degree of "job sprawl" than Houston well outside the central business district. Dallas, Atlanta and LA are heavily automobile-oriented cities...but they all have better mass transit options than Houston for sure.

 

Every city has a different layout, and some mass transit-oriented cities (and some automobile-oriented cities, too) fare better than others and for a variety of reasons. Some have better planning than others. I don't think it's a "strike" against mass transit because of poor planning. There's just not enough of it at this point. I'd be willing to bet that if Chicago's rail map looked anything like their road map, they'd fare much better with accessibility.

 

I think livincinco's point (and mine too, for that matter) is a better barometer as to how we've been planning and building our cities than anything else.

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When we're doing large-scale price comparisons like that, we can't say "This is expensive, let's get rid of it" because it's the same type of fallacy that says "Wow, look at how much of a pittance education gets in taxpayer money than the military. We need to even it out some." (there's a little Flash cartoon with one of the Ben & Jerry's guys doing something like that, though I'm not going to bother looking it up because I feel it's misleading anyway). It doesn't work, and if you're trying to say that roads are bad for the economy, then...well, I don't know what to tell you.

Given today's political climate, you're sadly correct...but it is true that roads and automobiles are bad for the economy in a variety of ways. It's not just that they're expensive...they're also dirty and detrimental to our health and our environment...they are more dangerous than mass transit as long as it's built correctly...they take up more of our time and space than we give credit for as we have to routinely service them and put gas in them, and then there are drive around crowded parking lots, etc. We have to go through the state to get/renew our licenses and buy/sell our vehicles. There are quite a few routine unexpected inconveniences that we all have to put up with from our automobiles. The accidents, the construction, the poor signage, the vehicle in front of you that you can't see or get around...we sometimes have to waste the better part of a day or longer (and possibly have to get a "rental" car) waiting for repairs. They take up a lot of room, too. Think about how much smaller (and how much less of a "need" there would be to build out so far) Houston would be if we didn't have the car dealerships, gas stations, auto parts/repair shops, parking lots/garages, etc. This city may not extend past the Beltway.

 

It's sad, but true...and we need to do something about it soon. If it was up to me, I wouldn't "get rid of roads and automobiles" at this point. I would start building trains and subways all over town and base any future growth down those corridors. Perhaps when low-density or poorly positioned homes deteriorate in older neighborhoods over time, we could demolish them and restore these areas back to their natural habitats as much as possible...perhaps converting a few to parks, but primarily focus on building smarter and learning the lessons from inefficient development when and where applicable over time. I'm not sure we should eliminate roads altogether, though. There will always be a need for emergency vehicles that are going to need to go "off-schedule" when need be.

 

All that said, the smartest growth would be no growth IMO.

I disagree completely with that statement.  Go look at the financial statements of a company like Camden, which focuses on developing apartment complexes in urban areas.  Camden showed an operating profit of over 42.5% of revenue during 2013.  That's an insanely high profit margin in comparison to most businesses and is way more profitable than home builders are.

 

http://www.snl.com/Cache/1001182773.PDF?Y=&O=PDF&D=&fid=1001182773&T=&iid=103094

 

I also think that long term maintenance costs of rail tend to get understated by proponents.  For example, BART, is a 40 year old system and they have spent a significant amount of money on maintenance and upgrades of stations as well as the need to replace the majority of the cars.  Additionally, BART has indicated that it's projected repair needs to the system are estimated at $15 billion over the next 20 years.

 

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/article/Bay-Area-Rapid-Transits-push-to-invest-in-state-of-good-repair-capacity-improvements--31616

 

Not by any means stating that rail's long term maintenance costs are higher than highways, but it's very important to make heavy rail vs. light rail distinctions related to cost and it's just disingenuous to talk in terms of centuries without recognizing the major costs involved in keeping a system running for even 50 years.

The developers might get their biggest bang for their buck in urban areas (especially "hot" ones or gentrification areas), but there is a lot of undeveloped land all around Houston that is being converted to low-density homes, and the developers are doing very well for themselves there too.

 

One thing's for sure, there's no cheap way to move 300 million Americans.

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Agreed, so let's extend that point to Houston.  Houston is more highly decentralized in terms of jobs than Chicago is, and based on current office construction, is trending towards a higher degree of decentralization.  Isn't it reasonable to expect that even a major (100+ mile rail network such as in Chicago) would achieve a comparable at best level of coverage?

According to the link from the Brooking Institute, Chicago (and Philadelphia) is more highly decentralized in terms of jobs than Houston...and Houston is centralizing and decentralizing.

 

I agree that a 100 or so mile train/subway network couldn't physically serve everyone, but if we expand that network and focus on smarter growth...we could get there over time.

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Now you just sound like a nut.

Population control? You're first, how does that sound?

Not so good, I bet.

 

por favor gracias, on 07 Feb 2014 - said:
At some point, we are going to have to consider population control. The way I see it, it's much easier asking 7 billion of us to "cooperate" than 10, 20 or 50 billion of us.

 

"Sounds like" you like talking smack to people you label "nuts."

 

I think I can handle "being the first" to bring up population control. There's a first time for everything, right?

 

Assuming you realize we physically can't populate the Earth to a certain point, why wait until there are billions or trillions more of us?

Edited by por favor gracias
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You've heard of population pyramids, right, and how developing countries start making a "square" base on the bottom? Eventually, it will even out and the Earth's population will max out. It won't reach "trillions" and when it does, we will be so far out of touch that roads and rails as we see them today will be obsolete.

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You've heard of population pyramids, right, and how developing countries start making a "square" base on the bottom? Eventually, it will even out and the Earth's population will max out. It won't reach "trillions" and when it does, we will be so far out of touch that roads and rails as we see them today will be obsolete.

False

Does LA really have better "location" and "quality of life" than Houston? That's subjective, but if we were justifying price of living, it's not "worth" twice the cost.

Um, yea

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Exactly. I was going to link to a video of that but decided against it.

They lobby about legislation and regulation related to their particular industry, just like industry in general.

More specifically, they might lobby to open up more lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.

They currently lobby on pending regulation on hydraulic fracturing and reinjection. They lobby on greenhouse gas rules. They lobbied and reshaped the upstream oil and gas rules published last year.

Also, they lobby in Washington regularly just in case there was some outlandish idea to target their industry with an industry-specific tax or worse(

); with the oil industry being such a big target/deep pocket, and viewed as a tempting source of "revenue" by politicians, that not lobbying or contributing to advocacy efforts would be like not buying an alarm system, locks, or even doors for a $10 million mansion.

Lobbying is not only legal, but necessary for crafting better legislation. Even if you have an equal amount of money spent on lobbying for a particular issue, and no side makes significant headway against the other, you still will end up with better regulations at the end; the combined knowledge and experience of industry and stakeholders mean that they understand the reality of the situation better than any government agency could ever hope to, so their input is necessary for good regulation. Petitioning the government is open to anyone, as it should be. And by law, if you make public comments on pending regulations, you comments must be addressed by the agency.

Lobbying is necessary? Wow. If anything it should be outlawed

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Almost everyone I know who moved to California, including me, has moved back here. Lower taxes, more affordable housing, better beaches, better weather, all of those contributed to a real desire to get out of California and back to Texas. I'm sort of joking about the beaches, but I like the weather here better than in California.

Better weather??? Stop, just stop.

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I disagree completely with that statement. Go look at the financial statements of a company like Camden, which focuses on developing apartment complexes in urban areas. Camden showed an operating profit of over 42.5% of revenue during 2013. That's an insanely high profit margin in comparison to most businesses and is way more profitable than home builders are.

http://www.snl.com/Cache/1001182773.PDF?Y=&O=PDF&D=&fid=1001182773&T=&iid=103094

I also think that long term maintenance costs of rail tend to get understated by proponents. For example, BART, is a 40 year old system and they have spent a significant amount of money on maintenance and upgrades of stations as well as the need to replace the majority of the cars. Additionally, BART has indicated that it's projected repair needs to the system are estimated at $15 billion over the next 20 years.

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/article/Bay-Area-Rapid-Transits-push-to-invest-in-state-of-good-repair-capacity-improvements--31616

Not by any means stating that rail's long term maintenance costs are higher than highways, but it's very important to make heavy rail vs. light rail distinctions related to cost and it's just disingenuous to talk in terms of centuries without recognizing the major costs involved in keeping a system running for even 50 years.

What about the costs for highways? Bart carries 450,000 people a day FYI

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Most of the home developers are public companies so their financials are listed on their websites. I looked at Pulte for example and they had about a 4.5% operating profit.

You can choose to believe the conspiracy theories or you can believe that there are a lot more builders working on lower margins to build suburban homes, because historically the demand for suburban houses has been much higher than the demand for luxury urban apartments.

That's the problem with all the suburban conspiracy theories. People opposed to suburbs need to create an excuse for the reason that the overwhelming demand is in the suburbs, so they come up with all kinds of conspiracies. Maybe people move there because that's how they want to live.

There's no conspiracy just truth. Suburbs were created because of collision of developers, the federal government, and GM, and government acts of FDR. Also this mantra of the American dream which has filled the brains of gullible joes. And to a large extent racism and segregation.

Now you just sound like a nut.

Population control? You're first, how does that sound?

Not so good, I bet.

por favor gracias, on 07 Feb 2014 - said:

At some point, we are going to have to consider population control. The way I see it, it's much easier asking 7 billion of us to "cooperate" than 10, 20 or 50 billion of us.

Overpopulation is the biggest problem we have as a nation.

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You've heard of population pyramids, right, and how developing countries start making a "square" base on the bottom? Eventually, it will even out and the Earth's population will max out. It won't reach "trillions" and when it does, we will be so far out of touch that roads and rails as we see them today will be obsolete.

I don't know...both developing countries and developed countries are increasing the world's population. There were 3 billion of us in 1960, now there's already over 7 billion. If there was truly a "pyramid" pattern, I hope that doesn't mean there will just be one of us left at the top. ;)

 

It's not just about population numbers anyways...it's also about resource consumption and quality of life.

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Most of the home developers are public companies so their financials are listed on their websites.  I looked at Pulte for example and they had about a 4.5% operating profit. 

 

You can choose to believe the conspiracy theories or you can believe that there are a lot more builders working on lower margins to build suburban homes, because historically the demand for suburban houses has been much higher than the demand for luxury urban apartments.

 

That's the problem with all the suburban conspiracy theories.  People opposed to suburbs need to create an excuse for the reason that the overwhelming demand is in the suburbs, so they come up with all kinds of conspiracies.  Maybe people move there because that's how they want to live.

 

There are more homes being built in the suburbs than in town, but it's not like the developers ask or poll people where they want to live. They are practically giving away homes and land in the suburbs compared to the price of living in town...I think THAT is the "driving" factor for "demand," and that a lot of "suburbanites" would rather live in the city, but can't afford to.

 

If developers make so much more money by building inside the loop, then why are so many of them building outside of town and selling bigger homes for a fraction of the money?

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There are more homes being built in the suburbs than in town, but it's not like the developers ask or poll people where they want to live. They are practically giving away homes and land in the suburbs compared to the price of living in town...I think THAT is the "driving" factor for "demand," and that a lot of "suburbanites" would rather live in the city, but can't afford to.

 

If developers make so much more money by building inside the loop, then why are so many of them building outside of town and selling bigger homes for a fraction of the money?

You don't think that developers pay very close attention to where people want to live?  Their business is selling houses to people, so understanding their target market is arguably the most important thing for them to know.  The developer that doesn't understand that is probably going to go out of business pretty quickly.

 

Let me give you a little basic economics here.  Land costs on the perimeter are lower than land costs in the loop.  No question about that and that's due to the fact that there is an abundance of available land.  So let's take a hypothetical buyer, they may want to live inside the loop, but they want a house with a yard in a nice neighborhood with good schools which outside the loop is going to cost X and inside the loop is going to cost 3X.  There are some people that are going to choose to pay 3X, but the majority of the people are going to pay X and live further away.  The market has shown us that.  Since the area inside the loop is a defined area, it is much more sensitive to price pressure if demand increases.  We've seen that in the last year, prices have gone up significantly due to increased demand in that area.

 

On the perimeter, prices are much more elastic because of the ability to increase supply to match increased demand.  As a result, with increased prices, the house inside the loop now becomes 4X instead of 3X.  That probably causes a smaller percentage of people to buy inside the loop and a higher percentage to move outside.  Where people "want" to live is irrelevant, because "want" doesn't consider costs.  Many people "want" to live inside the loop, but choose not to because, at the end of the day, the "want" isn't strong enough to pay the higher housing costs.

 

That's not a conspiracy, that's just basic economics.

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According to the link from the Brooking Institute, Chicago (and Philadelphia) is more highly decentralized in terms of jobs than Houston...and Houston is centralizing and decentralizing.

 

I agree that a 100 or so mile train/subway network couldn't physically serve everyone, but if we expand that network and focus on smarter growth...we could get there over time.

 

I haven't checked, but I'll accept your comment that Chicago jobs are more decentralized than Houston.  So what does that tell us?  In spite of an extensive rail system, Chicago's job market has decentralized and is heavily located in areas that are not served by transit.  There's a frequent assumption made on this site, that decentralization in Houston has been caused by the lack of transit, but Chicago seems to be experiencing the same problem even though transit exists.  That leads me to question the validity of that assumption.

 

I really don't see any evidence that Houston is centralizing jobs at the moment.  If you look at the most Collier's report on office construction, you'll find that there's virtually no office construction occurring inside the loop at the moment.  There's over 10m sq ft of construction occurring in the metro and it's pretty widely dispersed with a large percentage of it occurring on the Katy Freeway corridor, in Westchase, and in the far Northwest.

 

That indicates to me that developers still value suburban locations and the lower construction costs involved in building that type of facility more than the idea of being in a centralized downtown.

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You don't think that developers pay very close attention to where people want to live?  Their business is selling houses to people, so understanding their target market is arguably the most important thing for them to know.  The developer that doesn't understand that is probably going to go out of business pretty quickly.

 

Let me give you a little basic economics here.  Land costs on the perimeter are lower than land costs in the loop.  No question about that and that's due to the fact that there is an abundance of available land.  So let's take a hypothetical buyer, they may want to live inside the loop, but they want a house with a yard in a nice neighborhood with good schools which outside the loop is going to cost X and inside the loop is going to cost 3X.  There are some people that are going to choose to pay 3X, but the majority of the people are going to pay X and live further away.  The market has shown us that.  Since the area inside the loop is a defined area, it is much more sensitive to price pressure if demand increases.  We've seen that in the last year, prices have gone up significantly due to increased demand in that area.

 

On the perimeter, prices are much more elastic because of the ability to increase supply to match increased demand.  As a result, with increased prices, the house inside the loop now becomes 4X instead of 3X.  That probably causes a smaller percentage of people to buy inside the loop and a higher percentage to move outside.  Where people "want" to live is irrelevant, because "want" doesn't consider costs.  Many people "want" to live inside the loop, but choose not to because, at the end of the day, the "want" isn't strong enough to pay the higher housing costs.

 

That's not a conspiracy, that's just basic economics.

 

I agree with some of what you're saying here...I just took issue with the use of the words "overwhelming demand" (from your post #129) to describe the movement to the suburbs. For some, that's absolutely the case. For others, it's more like "what they're settling for because of economic reasons." I'm not at all "opposed to the suburbs"...I grew up in Kingwood, and I had a blast there for the first 15 years of my life. I wish every human being had a chance to grow up in a place like that (at least like Kingwood was in the 80's and 90's...it's completely different now).

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I haven't checked, but I'll accept your comment that Chicago jobs are more decentralized than Houston.  So what does that tell us?  In spite of an extensive rail system, Chicago's job market has decentralized and is heavily located in areas that are not served by transit.  There's a frequent assumption made on this site, that decentralization in Houston has been caused by the lack of transit, but Chicago seems to be experiencing the same problem even though transit exists.  That leads me to question the validity of that assumption.

 

I really don't see any evidence that Houston is centralizing jobs at the moment.  If you look at the most Collier's report on office construction, you'll find that there's virtually no office construction occurring inside the loop at the moment.  There's over 10m sq ft of construction occurring in the metro and it's pretty widely dispersed with a large percentage of it occurring on the Katy Freeway corridor, in Westchase, and in the far Northwest.

 

That indicates to me that developers still value suburban locations and the lower construction costs involved in building that type of facility more than the idea of being in a centralized downtown.

 

I mentioned earlier that I think Chicago's poor percentage has more to do with their planning than anything. If their rail map looked anything like their road map, that percentage would naturally go way up.

 

Houston is both centralizing and decentralizing. There are several office towers either on the drawing boards or going up in the downtown, GWP, River Oaks and Galleria areas. I refer to all of that as "central Houston." That said, there is a ton of office development outside those areas, too. I'm kind of indifferent to the skylines on the outskirts of town. At this point, there are so many people living within 10 miles of those areas...as long as we adapt and move closer to our jobs, it can actually be more efficient this way than by situating basically EVERYTHING being inside the loop (and galleria area). I just don't want to see any more development past our current boundaries. There is so much more space within the metro area as it is.

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