Monday, April 23, 2012

Time for More Houston Area Survey Nonsense

It's the silly season in Houston as the Kinder Houston Area Survey is being released and all of the bad analysis along with it.


Mass Transit Gains Momentum in Houston Area Survey, Jeannie Kever, Chron.com

This year's Kinder Houston Area Survey found strong support for mass transit and a growing number of people who say they want to live within walking distance of work and shopping, reflecting what survey founder Stephen Klineberg predicts will become a fundamental shift in one of the nation's most car-centric cities.
I agree, people DO want more mass transit in Houston. But what the survey doesn't (as a matter of fact, NEVER) asks is what they are willing to give up for it, or whether they think that "Metro Solutions" is the correct mass transit plan.

It's easy to say "I want more mass transit" and then not apply a cost. That's what the survey does every year, ask people questions with no eye on the cost of the solutions. It also doesn't ask people if the transit they want is the at-grade light-rail system that's currently being built. My guess, admittedly fueld by anecdotal evidence, is that what people are asking for is a multi-modal system that includes decent bus and rail options to get them to a variety of locations within the Houston region and not just to some aging, wheezing romaticized version of "downtown" as Houston's current brain-trust envision it.

Residents of The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Katy etc. don't want to move inside the Loop. What they want is to have workable transit options to job centers in the Metro area, then to be returned to their walkable suburbs to spend time with their kids, go to Skeeters games and generally live their lives outside of the circle of Houston Tomorrow's urban planning group. Unfortunately Metro is continuing to move forward with a plan that doesn't meet the transportation desires of the community. The result of all of this is a lightly-ridden Danger Train that's not doing anything to alleviate congestion. This, for the most part, is because Metro's current transportation design doesn't take a majority of the people where they want to go.

Finally, let's address the "congestion" fallacy: The idea that congestion will magically dissappear once Metro has put into place this great, Multi-Billion dollar, mass transit system that will instantly whisk all of us where they want us to go. This is the great lie of urban planners everywhere. Ever been to a "great transit" city say...Paris, London, Madrid, New York? Have you ever noticed that they are some of the most congested traffic cities in the world? Don't buy into the "light rail will cure Houston's congestion" fallacy. It won't, and all of the shoddy analysis of the Kinder survey won't change that fact. If anything, it's making things worse.

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