Where The Action Is, in and Around Houston

WHERE THE ACTION IS, IN AND AROUND HOUSTON Map of Grand Pkwy. SegmentsFrom Dug Begley’s report on next weekend’s dual openings of the North Line light-rail extension and the Hempstead-to-Katy Segment E of the Grand Parkway: “[Judge] Emmett frequently notes that about 500,000 people live within Loop 610, about 1.5 million live between Loop 610 and the Sam Houston Tollway and about 2 million live outside the tollway within Harris County. ‘We’re seeing a lot of people moving inside the Loop,’ Emmett said. ‘That growth is going on. But for every person moving in, about four people are locating outside the beltway. Nothing is going to change that growth pattern.” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Map: Grand Parkway Association

24 Comment

  • I can’t stand when people say this when “outside the beltway” is so nebulous. When you’re comparing something finite (inside 610, or 610-Beltway)… okay, then let’s talk numbers. If you’re going to define anything “outside” within our “region” that continues to expand… then you might as well say “Heck, people are moving to La Grange… better start planning on building a loop out that way one day.”

  • Brian, the statement does seem to bound the “outside the tollway” demarcation with “within Harris County.”

  • Ha, I know of one very simple thing that could change that growth pattern Ed Emmet says is in fallible and forever set it stone: increase the gas taxes in line with infrstructure needs and polluiton abatement.

    …but of course we’ll bankrupt the country before we let that happen so he does have me on that one.

  • Joel, we won’t need government intervention to make the price of energy infeasible to the extreme-commuter lifestyle of exurban Houston. Supply and demand will drive the price of a gallon of gas closer to $10 in our lifetimes (assuming you’re not, say, in your 70s now). The house in Waller County becomes a lot more expensive when a 50 mile round trip commute costs $25.

  • Pretty self serving and dishonest manipulation of statistics to support Ed Emmett’s County first, City second way of managing Harris County. Yes, there are way more people coming to the burbs in Harris County. But, there is way more land outside of Beltway 8 in Harris County than inside the loop. My eyeballing of a map would lead me to guess that there is probably 4 times as much land outside beltway 8 in Harris County than inside 610. At best, the rates of growth when measured against acreage is probably the same between inside the loop and outside beltway 8. But Emmett wants everyone to believe that the City is just the red headed step child of the great and sprawling county.

  • Assuming a circle, area goes as the square of the radius (pi*rˆ2) so yes there will be more area in the outlying areas. So it is expected that given more area in the suburbs you would have more ‘total’ population. The increase in population, per Mr Emmett, increases linerarly up to 3 times but note that the area in the same space increases as the square or 9 times. I’m thinking that the density of popluation may be the more interesting variable to look at.

  • Thanks Old School, that’s what I was joking about above. It’s insane to compare a small fraction of land versus the rest and say “well, lots more people can fit in this bigger area”. Well really?!?! That’s such an intellectual observation.

    Basically, Emmett is showing that he doesn’t know how to lead… he’s merely a yes man throwing road down in donated ROW’s to accommodate what developers want (access to cheap land) so they can build cheaply and sell quickly.

    Emmett will leave the problems of more pollution, grid lock, police and fire coverage over a larger area, and pretty much everything else to the next generation. Those issues are too complicated for our local leaders right now… they only understand simple things… like loops.

  • How many of those in the outskirts are commuting to the inner-Loop for work every day? Grand Parkway is going to be overrun with traffic in ten years and it’s mainly going to be due to all the new development that’s going to go up because it was built. It’s the old question about what comes first. Is Grand Parkway meeting a demand that exists or is it going to create new demand that might not have existed before it was built?

  • Anse,

    “Is Grand Parkway meeting a demand that exists or is it going to create new demand that might not have existed before it was built?”

    Does it matter? The former means that we already need it because the demand is there already and the existing infrastructure is insufficient. The latter means that Houston is booming and we can fill up any new infrastructure as we build it. Both seem like justification for building it, so to me it doesn’t matter which is the case.

  • ““[Judge] Emmett frequently notes that about 500,000 people live within Loop 610, about 1.5 million live between Loop 610 and the Sam Houston Tollway and about 2 million live outside the tollway within Harris County.” Duh! Really got a sharp mind there, Judge, reciting numbers that are obvious to all ….

    You have to look at more than just population numbers …. things like population density, disposable income, educational and job opportunities to see why people are choosing to move into these areas. The main reason for moving outside of the tollway are obvious …. it’s generally cheaper for their underpaid middle-aged employees to afford acceptable housing and hopefully public K12 educations are better (not always a given). Some of the larger corporations move out as well because …. well, it’s cheaper (and most likely closer to the boss’s home and weekend ranch/lake home).

    Looking at age demographics is also revealing. The young professionals and betteroff empty-nesters are opting for the central areas of town because there are things to do other than work …. the suburbs have been known for being “dead-zones” for anything more cultural than “Friday Night Lights” and perhaps the latest school play. Abet, some of the outer areas realize this and are struggling to make themselves cultural centers but that is eons off. The ‘burbs just aren’t the draw they once were in this age of instant gradification …..

  • If the county is managed in favor of the unincorporated areas, shouldn’t the City start annexing?

  • It’s almost like The Judge is trying to fudge things around to make it sound that there are more people in the unincorporated county than in the city. Not so – Houston alone is more than half the population (and hence more than half of his actual constituents). Even by his own numbers as many people live inside the Beltway than out, and that divide omits the significant amount of the city that’s beyond the belt.

  • @Anse and Eric – I saw an excerpt from a report released by the Grand Parkway Association that openly proclaimed the Grand Parkway is not being created to meet existing demand, but as an economic development tool.

  • Don’t forget that part of the City of Houston lies within Fort Bend County.

  • What about counting households? Families with children boost the population growth numbers in Cinco Ranch, etc. Many of the urban dwellers are single or have no children… Since few of the suburban children drive cars, I believe the County Judge is skewing the results to make the suburbs look more important and needy for roads.

  • All that he’s stating is the rather obvious point that only a small percentage of the population of the city/metro lives inside the loop and that transit infrastructure needs to serve the whole population. Amazing how upset people get when this fact is pointed out.

  • Ed Emmett can kick rocks. That guy is a clown, just like the rest of those county crooks.

  • As much growth is occurring in the urban core, it cannot be ignored that differences in land prices and construction costs between the urban core and the suburbs effectively preclude the possibility that the urban core will become desirable to middle-class families with children or retired people living on a modest fixed income.

    It also has to be acknowledged that commuting patterns have changed since 1950. There are multiple workers per household, they don’t always work in the urban core, and they aren’t so dedicated to a single company that they can reliably plan their lives around the idea of being close to work. And yet, homeownership has been subsidized, so people make a choice about where to buy and live, and then when their life circumstances change, sometimes they have to live with longer commutes.

    So hell yeah, there’s demand for transportation that goes in every direction; it’s not a threat that can be ameliorated by policy that tries to shift employment to the urban core because suburban employment centers already exist; it’s too late; and so the demand for suburb-to-suburb transportation exists and not easy to satisfy without actually exacerbating the condition. It’s a fact of life. You can’t deny it. DEAL WITH IT.

    My impression is that in the same way as that high energy prices stimulate innovative ways to take more energy out of the ground inexpensively, the same holds true for energy use. If there were a spike in fuel costs and it threatened the viability of such a wide swath of housing, then people will adapt in paradigm-shifting ways. But probably not the way that urbanists would like. They’ll start carpooling in driverless taxis. There will be more remote workers, even remote schooling. We will witness trip destruction, total freedom from congestion, AND enable consumers to move further and further into the countryside and to be more wasteful of land and non-fuel resources than they have ever been previously. (And when that results in the next seeming environmental or cultural or economic Armageddon, they’ll innovate their way out of that, too.)

  • #18: You speak as if there were a monolithic we, who will innovate our way out of every scrape. In fact we won’t have to – we’ll have already done it, ‘cuz that’s just how the world always works!
    I wonder. The actual innovators have been negligibly few, most of us being just their beneficiaries and occasionally, victims. What if they are the resource that’s not readily renewable? Or the pace of innovation cannot keep up with the trouble the rest of us in our great numbers can now cause?
    And are we not interested in more than just our own survival? Nah, says the right, our concern for other species – for averting further “environmental Armageddons” – was just a late second-millennium caprice – throw them under the bus! That will surely make the task easier. Most of us are busy expecting actual Armageddon, anyway. Like, soon. And we are excited about it: our God is an awesome god!
    But even that’s a little bit disquieting: can such an anti-science, anti-intellectual attitude – which is what the anti-environmental fervor is – really signal an innovation renaissance?

  • Automobiles are the biggest money pit in history. The cost to maintain the car or truck, combined with the huge cost of infrastructure is pulling the country towards economic collapse. Its simple folks, despite your fees, taxes and tools , your not paying enough to continue to expand roads and highways. This is a hijack of public money to subsidize an unsustainable practice of more concrete, traffic and pollution. It would seem logical to me that 20 lanes of concrete, not to mention interchanges are more expensive to build and maintain than a double track, grade separated rail system. The suburbs of Houston have kept the region from planning properly for transportation, some refuse to join Metro, others started their own agencies only to under fund them. Of course people travel all over this city, which is why we have a “Metropolitan Transit Authority”. Its no different in NY, just look at the transit maps, you’ll have a tough time trying to find a place you can’t get to without transit. Cars are nice don’t get me wrong but a city built around a 90% car transit plan is STUPID and IMPOSSIBLE to maintain. The judge is a place holder and has been ever since his appointment to the seat, with the help of West Houston we have a “tea-party” situation in our local county and city governments. A few short sided, greedy, power hungry, insensitive people with a vast LACK of knowledge have convinced the rest of us that there way of doing business and government is for the benefit of us all. WAKE UP!!!!! these people are morons with a blank check, to an overdraft account. We have to stop voting for people who only look and act the part, we must support true visionaries or we we will be the mostly white, middle class southern version of Detroit. peace

  • My 2011 Tahoe cost about $1300 a month to own and operate. Monthly note $827, Gas $250, Insurance $128, Plus another $80 for annual maintenance. This is driving about 1300 miles per month. When it is paid off it’ll be worth $10,000 maximum, so yeah vehicles are horrible investment. It would be a much better world if everyone was on a moped

  • @ ben: I drive a moped, and I second your comment. It WOULD be better off if everyone drove a moped.

    The problem is, everybody doesn’t drive a moped and we have a city that is not built for mopeds. We have millions upon millions of cars and trucks to cope with. We have distances to bridge between homes and employers and schools that are too far. We have drivers that are not mentally tuned-in to bicycles much less their motorized counterparts. But perhaps worst of all, people give a damn about their longevity. To that end, permit me a rant:

    In a third-world country, life is cheap; it is normal for people to die; it is normal to pull the plug; and it is normal to mourn and to move on. In America it is normal to perform surgeries on 90-year-olds because Medicare covers them and because doctors don’t give a damn about the survivability, and then people are bedridden for years until they die a horrible and painful death, and anybody that says that they shouldn’t have been entitled to the surgery or to the consequent fight for their lives is considered to be some kind of heartless bastard. In a third-world country, a child is on the back of a motorbike and gets head-injured and for the rest of their probably-short life will be stowed away as a ward of the state, forgo all schooling and decent healthcare. In America, we give them everything; we must! We feel like it would be indignified for them not to have the opportunity to acquire a high school degree.

    I appreciate the idea of widespread moped use (I REALLY DO!!!), but most people are dicks. Even in the third-world country paradigm that I bring up (and live in), as soon as a car can be afforded by a household, they buy one. And they do so mindful of the cost (including in some places, tariffs up to 100% of the value of the car), the financing, the depreciation, the fuel, the insurance, registration and licensing, that they are targeted by police for being not just dicks but wealthy dicks that can afford to give large bribes, and that accessing their garage entails a trip down an alley packed with food stalls that have to relocate out of the way every time somebody in a car creeps down said alley toward their home. And mindful of this, they buy cars anyway. It’s because the ‘American Dream’ isn’t American at all, but rather that America happened to have been the wealthiest country at the time that the phrase was coined. People are dicks. All people. And we have to cope with that fact because they’ll still be dicks even if they have inadequate infrastructure upon which to act out their dickishness.

  • @ luciaphile: I do not speak for all people because doing so would consume my life with futile effort. I do not consider my attitude anti- this or pro- that; I only try to describe what happens on a macro scale such as I perceive it. And whether what I say is satisfactory to some inane extreme has no bearing on my patterns of reasoning. Their satisfaction is incidental and perhaps politically expedient; but that said, such sorts of persons would probably reject the whole of what I have written here on this thread.

    I can tell you that if the folks that invented fracking had not done so, others would have. Maybe it would have taken another couple of years. It’s not really that big of a deal. This is historically normal. Many inventions have had multiple patent filing occur independent of one another in very short spans of time — very simply because innovation is inevitable and is such a commodity, a force of human nature. Another example: the decline in gasoline consumption per mile traveled has not occurred as the result of one or two people but rather as a result of collective decisions made by individuals that further their wealth. Innovation and technological adoption will happen with or without profit, although probably faster if there is profit. People like money. The idea of having it is a motivator. Having money means that while other people are being driven around in small carpool groups by driverless taxis ordered up on the latest iPhone app, the innovator can be driven around privately by an inferior human; and one might hope, a eunuch so as not to imperil their sexual partners with the temptation to abandon the nerdy innovator for the washed-up-high-school-athlete type.

    Yes, people like the idea of having money….

  • Oh no, The Niche, eunuchs aren’t necessarily to be trusted. Read your Chinese history! Your plan is vulnerable.