Comment of the Day: Looking at Our Spread

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LOOKING AT OUR SPREAD “It’s interesting when friends from back east visit, because they almost universally observe that Houston is ’empty’ (to quote directly). Given the amount of space in this city, the idea that we need to build things far from everything (and then build more roads to get people to them) is really kind of bizarre.” [John (another one), commenting on Comment of the Day: Heading for Points Greener]

17 Comment

  • Did John ever consider the close in land is not for sale?

  • It is just low density. It keeps our land prices down, living space up, and life a little more convenient.

  • @Mind The Gap – that’s what I tell them. I’m just pointing out that Houston is pretty unusual in this respect. The idea that we *have* to spread out into infinity is flawed; lots of cities grow without doing that.

    I’d have to take issue with the “convenient” idea, though. Being able to walk, ride a train, or bike to work conveniently is pretty darn convenient, and I really doubt it’s going to be an option for many people working at Springwoods Village.

  • Which cities back East don’t sprawl? Sure, they have denser centers, but NYC, Boston, Philly, DC, etc… all sprawl. I lived in Boston for many years. The city itself has less than 650,000 inhabitants while the other 5,000,000 in the metro region live in FOUR different states (Massholes, Rhode Rages, Mainiacs, and the Dixie of New England (New Hampshire).

  • mindthegap

    High land values cause high density.

    How valuable would the land under chase tower be if it was in Angleton?

    Land values are a function of the demand for being at a location and the price of traveling to that location. The reason why Houston is not dense is because we have made it so cheap to travel from everywhere to the places that people want to be.

    As for convenient, I would find it far more convenient if a I could walk more places. Convenience is multi-faceted and to some extent subjective.

  • The kinds of folks who will live in Springwoods would cut off a limb before doing anything other than driving to work.

  • Maybe it has to do with the fact that we are Texans and many of us would rather live on acreage with peace and quiet instead of all jammed together like a typical city. We are forced to live in the city for work opportunities, sadly. So we do what we can to make ‘city life’ tolerable!

  • Don’t forget about geography. There are no mountains, major rivers, etc, to confine Houston. Back east they have things like the Appalachians and its foothills to more or less confine things into smaller spaces. Easterners also have a long tradition of more-or-less communal living that would be anathema to most folks around here.

  • Philadelphia sprawls incredibly. Look at Exton, PA if Springwoods Village annoys you.

  • Convenience. I’ve lived in Philly, Boston & Chicago. Convenience was being able to walk (and/or hop on the train) to the store, to work, to the gym, to the park, to bars & restaurants. Convenience was not having to worry about gas, time in traffic. There are trade-offs in life, and if you want the big house and long commute, then have at it. But to call that convenience makes me scratch my head a bit.

  • Jack-

    That’s a myth. Texas is pretty urban/suburban these days and Southeast Texas is no exception. Compare Cinco Ranch with Weston, MA or Greatwood with New Canaan, CT or Cypress with Scarsdale, NY or The Woodlands with the Main Line cities outside of Philadelphia. Our suburbs are packed compared to many in the Northeast where it isn’t unusual to find true estates on multiple acres.

  • @ Sara. To me, the things you listed sound like a Major Inconvenience. To walk (and/or hop on the train) to the store, to work, to the gym, to the park, to bars & restaurants…It’s much easier and quicker to hop in a car and do all of those things, and you don’t have to carry heavy bags from the grocery store. Running errands is generally confined to the area where one lives so long distance driving is not an issue.

  • I think there is a misconception about the “convenience” of transit and living in a dense area. Yes, there are some places that are close by that you can just walk to in five minutes or less. But like Houston, to get to work and other destinations it can take just as long. Like Houston, it can takes 30 minutes to an hour to get to work, by transit. Like Houston, it takes 10-15 minutes to get to the grocery store from the house. The only difference is the mode of transportation.

  • Sara: In Houston, convenience is what you make it. That’s the beauty of this town. I live in Brays Oaks. I work in Sharpstown. My commute (1 exit on the Southwest Freeway) takes 15 minutes in rush hour. Say you wash dishes for minimum wage at a retaurant in Uptown. You could live in an apartment in Gulfton and have an equally easy commute. Or say you work in a mail room downtown – I can point to any number of neighborhoods not far from downtown, where you could afford the rent. Sure, you need a car to take advantage of these quick commutes. But so what? Buy a fuel-efficient 15 year old subcompact. You won’t have to pay more than $2000 and you can finance it.
    Compare this to New York City, where I used to live. I worked near Union Square in Manhattan. No way could I dream of affording an apartment anywhere near there. I was pretty much priced out of the entire Island of Manhattan. And owning a car is a huge pain in the Big Apple, so I was relegated to living in Astoria Queens, and taking the subway to Manhattan every day. My commute took an hour on a good day.

    It’s hard to be priced out of an entire quarter of Houston, like I was in New York. Most people who endure long commutes here, do so by choice. They want a bigger house. They dont want to be near some run down apartments. They want better schools…. They’re not forced to live far out.

  • @ Jessie M –

    Well, those modes of transportation have widely varying costs… car-dependent environments are essentially a tax on everyone who uses them.

    I think having options help. There is no practical way for me to get to work besides driving (Metro would take about 2 hours each way). Compare that to one of my friends who on any given day can choose to ride DC’s Metro, grab a bike from the bikeshare station up the block and drop it off at the station near work, or even walk if he’s got a lot of time. Or, drive and pay for parking if that’s more convenient. Those options all have pros and cons, but they’re options.

    Houstonians have very few options for getting around.

  • John: Houston has those options. You can ‘live where your life is’ and not have to drive far (at all) to work, walk to food, entertainment, etc. Downside? Expensive so you give up the huge house/yard.
    Or pay next to $0 for a giant house in the burbs, but drive drive drive to get wherever you might want to go.
    Or pick something in-between.
    Seems good to me.

  • not good, those burb dwellers are not paying their fair share for the energy use and road wear their lifestyles command since our gas taxes are waaaay too low.