Houston 2015

Want to talk about your favorite places besides Kansas City? Post any development news or questions about other cities here.
flyingember
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Houston 2015

Postby flyingember » Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:07 am

We stayed with my brother again near downtown. He lives one block from a rail stop and less than a block from a bus stop.

Was mostly a kid trip. Went to the zoo and children's museum and one small beach on the bay

The streets in and out of downtown there's a lot of one-way 4-lane streets with one parking lane, one full time bus + turn only lane and a second bus + hov lane during peak hours. so you end up with one lane for your classic one person only commuters

they might have more but I saw one two-way bike lane on a one-way street. The city is flat so bike lanes are easy to put in.

downtown sidewalks are crazy wide in many places. there was space for outdoor seating that made no impact on using them. didn't see a lot of bike parking spots but they did exist, the wide sidewalks made them easy to put in

downtown has less on street parking compared to KC. They have a lot more time controls with delivery vehicle only time at spots.

there was way more street-level retail than KC has. a lot of small convenience stores

there was a HUGE amount of new development. I lost count just the number of tower cranes. between downtown and midtown I would say there was no less than 20 major projects underway. And while the older projects were 5 stories, the new ones were all a minimum of 7-8. There were multiple superblock projects right at train stops with hundreds of units going in. Going outward there were a large amount of 3-story projects like what's at 5th and Oak across the old part of town, all 10-15 minutes out from downtown. You would have a neighborhood of single family homes and 15-unit complexes.

there's not a lot of pre-war construction. it's very much a 1960s+ city.

Their traffic is crazy bad outside of downtown. It was easier to drive in the urban core than get into the edge suburbs.
HOV lanes are wonderful. Ended up in one and zipping by miles of traffic for free one time.

Their train line shows how routing closer to important destinations and redoing major amenities to better face a train line is a key aspect to transit. Like their zoo has one entrance closer to a train stop only open weekends and holidays. Their new train service has a stop between the convention center and the baseball stadium.

the train line sold me again on having a dedicated transit lane through midtown. Having a dedicated lane for MAX lines alone makes sense. If I were the KCATA I would put a bus-only lane in today on Main and Troost

they have a free ~6am-6pm downtown bus loop downtown

you can see a lot more people out walking around. in 95 degree heat

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby Highlander » Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:54 pm

flyingember wrote:there was a HUGE amount of new development. I lost count just the number of tower cranes. between downtown and midtown I would say there was no less than 20 major projects underway. And while the older projects were 5 stories, the new ones were all a minimum of 7-8. There were multiple superblock projects right at train stops with hundreds of units going in. Going outward there were a large amount of 3-story projects like what's at 5th and Oak across the old part of town, all 10-15 minutes out from downtown. You would have a neighborhood of single family homes and 15-unit complexes.

there's not a lot of pre-war construction. it's very much a 1960s+ city.

Their traffic is crazy bad outside of downtown. It was easier to drive in the urban core than get into the edge suburbs.
HOV lanes are wonderful. Ended up in one and zipping by miles of traffic for free one time.


That crazy bad traffic is what drives the HUGE amount of new development. Live a few years in the burbs down here and put up with crazy bad traffic (it's worse than just crazy bad - it's reckless and hostile) and you eventually want to decrease your commute and exposure to an injury accident and move closer in. The highways are pretty much on a "lord of the flies" setting - almost no attempt to regulate speed or reckless driving. Oddly enough, they cops do patrol that HOV lane like it's a sacred golden highway though.

Houston's economy, however, regardless of how much the media would like to believe otherwise, is still inexorably tied to oil and the oil price - and it's in an unmitigated free fall. The projects with the tower cranes were most likely approved when the price of oil was $100/barrel and well before the precipitous drop to where it resides today. It will be interesting to see how well these projects do with thousands of people with high paying jobs being given pink slips. My company recently started two new large office buildings out near Beltway 8 but since the construction started, and the cranes are still there, profits have been halved and we are cutting about 1000 people in Houston - and we are talking jobs that range from $100-250,000 in salary so it will hit the community hard. My company is not unique in that way - every oil company down here is going through it (except Exxon - they are amazingly well managed for a large company).

All that said, I hope you enjoyed the zoo - Houston actually has a good zoo, albeit, very compact but the city itself is still my least favorite big city in the US. Seven years into my stay here and the place hasn't grown on me a bit - I have nothing nice to say about the city.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby ztonyg » Mon Oct 19, 2015 10:30 pm

I was there about 3 weeks ago and I have to agree with the above poster. I came away very unimpressed. Houston easily has the worst downtown of the large Texas cities I visited (Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio). There were not a lot of street level restaurants (restaurants seemed to reside inside large "mall-like" structures with limited pedestrian access). The light rail line was nice and clean, and there was a lot of development. However, the city seemed to sprawl forever.

I live in Phoenix, and while I'm not in love with a lot of aspects of Phoenix, Phoenix's downtown (and the overall feeling and cohesiveness of the metro area) is far and away superior to Houston.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby brewcrew1000 » Tue Oct 20, 2015 8:24 am

ztonyg wrote:I was there about 3 weeks ago and I have to agree with the above poster. I came away very unimpressed. Houston easily has the worst downtown of the large Texas cities I visited (Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio). There were not a lot of street level restaurants (restaurants seemed to reside inside large "mall-like" structures with limited pedestrian access). The light rail line was nice and clean, and there was a lot of development. However, the city seemed to sprawl forever.

I live in Phoenix, and while I'm not in love with a lot of aspects of Phoenix, Phoenix's downtown (and the overall feeling and cohesiveness of the metro area) is far and away superior to Houston.


If Houston has the worst downtown in all of Texas, does it make it the worst downtown in the entire US? I think San Jose CA has a pretty crappy downtown

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby ztonyg » Tue Oct 20, 2015 11:31 am

San Jose, CA has more street level dining, shopping, entertainment. Especially closer to the arena as well as along the light rail line.

It's not an amazing downtown, but it's certainly not one of the worst.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby brewcrew1000 » Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:07 pm

I've read a couple articles about the Houston Flooding some are saying the lack of zoning, huge sprawl and tons of impervious surface from the Mega Highways and frontage roads have contributed to the major effects of the flooding. Without a doubt Houston would have flooded no matter what but I think some of these other factors have magnified it.

I could see Houston losing a bunch of people after this event but it won't be as bad as New Orleans since the Economy is much better but then again maybe a lot of the energy companies based in Houston move to Dallas, Austin and San Antonio after this event.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby flyingember » Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:53 pm

I saw something that said they designed their streets to hold water and save homes. The water table is mere feet down. Pervious surfaces don't help in a big storm, they just need to store the water until it has space to go out to sea.

They built a large network of water paths crossing the city but forgot the neighborhoods play a big part. It's a hierarchy. Go look at Houston neighborhoods in a satellite and you can tell they're missing the feeder system in too many places. So if you live near a bayou that is full the only place the water has to go is through your yard.

Having multiple feeder drainage ditches built into every neighborhood could have captured a lot of water and given space for water to fill up before flooding homes. Even a foot difference would have helped a lot of people.

the Economy is much better

jobs hiring has been flat for several years, it's still below the national average.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby FangKC » Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:53 pm

Another problem that Houston has is that many parts of the metro area are sinking. Neighborhoods that were built decades ago have sunk several feet, and are now flooding when in the past they didn't. This is because much of the water used in Houston comes from pumping ground water out of the aquifer. This causes the ground to sink.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/For-years-the-Houston-area-has-been-losing-ground-7951625.php

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby earthling » Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:59 pm

Highlander, any word if your previous residence got hit?

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby earthling » Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:32 am

Hurricane Sandy had a colliding Noreaster that was considered unusual. Harvey was trapped between two high pressures that kept it from moving out quickly, considered unusual. Perhaps the unusual (multiple circumstances) will become the norm and this is just the beginning of the SuperStorm era.

edit: Although F3+ tornadoes are apparently down compared to the 1970s...
https://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb ... F3-EF5.png

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby kcjak » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:41 am

It's insane to think that any coastal areas on the Gulf or Atlantic could ever think they were immune to a weather-related natural disaster. And certainly no worse than the unfortunate folks who lost everything in Katrina/Rita and then moving to Houston thinking the results would be different. Anyone moving from Houston to Miami in the wake of this and NOT getting flood insurance needs to have their head examined.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby earthling » Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:18 am

Reports claiming 80% of Harvey victims don't have food insurance.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby brewcrew1000 » Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:48 am

earthling wrote:Reports claiming 80% of Harvey victims don't have food insurance.


Wonder if Insurance isn't covering them. Houston has had a lot of Flooding issues the past decade, i think they had a big one in 2016

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby earthling » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:36 pm

Yeah, it appears many were not able to get flood insurance even if they tried. Will be interesting to see level of rebuild efforts and impact to area economy/population. Houston likely more resilient than New Orleans but this could still change the region significantly long term.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby brewcrew1000 » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:51 pm

I don't know much about the Texas Oil history but it seems like most of the historic Oil companies were HQ in Dallas and Oklahoma then they later moved most if not all operations aspects, pipeline and exploration to Houston. Wonder if there will be a shift to move a lot of that stuff back inland.

Louisiana has a lot of Oil Refinery and other oil related jobs but virtually none of it is HQ is Louisiana.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby Highlander » Thu Aug 31, 2017 11:20 pm

earthling wrote:Highlander, any word if your previous residence got hit?


I don't think so, I lived in the burbs on relative high ground (albeit nothing is very high in Houston) and former neighbors I chatted with didn't have any appreciable flooding other than on the street and the lawns. Still, it would not have been a pleasant experience. But I have many friends and colleagues there that have lost their homes. And it's true that most people don't have flood insurance. I did not for the eight years I was there. I was not in a flood prone zone but it's incredibly flat and a prolonged localized hard rain can swamp any house. Private insurers will not cover floods in Houston, you have go through FEMA I believe and I think only those that live in flood prone areas are willing to expend the funds. I have several friends that did not have insurance and had 8' of water in their homes - needless to say, they stand to lose a lot.

I followed the events closely, most people were subject to some street flooding and the water level reached many people's front doors but unless you lived near a watercourse like the numerous bayous that crisscross the area, you were generally spared the catastrophic flooding. That said, many people who likely thought they were high enough that the nearby bayou would never reach them discovered that in the absence of topographic relief, water can and will move long distances across a horizontal plain. Once water started to be released from the flood control dams (partly because of the flooding of houses behind the dams), a lot of people in the city center started having catastrophic flooding that had been spared it from the past - and these are some pretty expensive homes in some cases.

I did see my office in some photos. It's essentially underwater. Poignant to see a motor boat power past the entrance and operations at many companies were closed all weeks and will remain closed until after Labor Day.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby Highlander » Thu Aug 31, 2017 11:34 pm

FangKC wrote:Another problem that Houston has is that many parts of the metro area are sinking. Neighborhoods that were built decades ago have sunk several feet, and are now flooding when in the past they didn't. This is because much of the water used in Houston comes from pumping ground water out of the aquifer. This causes the ground to sink.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/For-years-the-Houston-area-has-been-losing-ground-7951625.php


Simple compaction of recently deposited sediment on a passive margin coastal plain results in significant subsidence. Groundwater removal is really not even necessary.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby pash » Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:17 am

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Last edited by pash on Thu Sep 21, 2017 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby flyingember » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:29 am

Highlander wrote: I have several friends that did not have insurance and had 8' of water in their homes - needless to say, they stand to lose a lot.


I can't imagine 8 feet of water.

If you're in a single story home and water got 8 feet high that's basically a complete rebuild of the house down to the studs. There's going to be tens of thousands of homes where the repairs are more than the home is worth and hundreds of thousands where it's more than can be afforded. A gut job job and rebuild, mold remediation and contents replacement can easily cost $100k. A third of a new home cost to repair isn't unrealistic since there's the cleanup portion to pay for too. 8 feet of water just causes damage quicker, it doesn't take long for 6 inches of water to wick behind walls and do major damage.

Houston construction prices will skyrocket due to demand. To get priority access will mean paying more, pretty basic supply and demand.
What's ironic is most of the construction industry in recent years is Hispanic. Recovery will be tied into immigration efforts at the federal level.


The delays caused by having more work than can possibly be done in two years, many homes will sit empty for an extended period. Termites and carpenter ants will start to move into many homes. There will be more copper theft due to opportunity.

It will dramatically impact resale value just with people looking for proof of flood repair work and demanding savings because of damage due to water.

This flood is going to empty a lot of older and poorer neighborhoods and create a lot of tear downs. Many people will just walk away, moving elsewhere and lose their home. I expect banks to own a lot of properties. There will be a lot of opportunity for flippers to buy cheap.

The water will also kill a lot of marginal trees that are still standing, and the removal of a single tree can cost $5-15k at the best of times. There's going to be a booming tree removal business in the city for some time. Imagine how many trees have been killed and will come down and damage roofs in the coming years.

I would expect a 10-15 year impact from this flood before things return to a 2016 norm and some areas this will accelerate the trends already in place in Houston of tearing out older homes and putting in apartments and town homes.
Last edited by flyingember on Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Houston 2015

Postby earthling » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:33 am

Will be interesting to see next wave of impact... more chemical explosions or exposure, impact of poor Houston building codes, contaminated water, sitting stagnant water with high temps increasing mosquitos, etc.

There could be an outbreak of diseases, including Zika (though New Orleans didn't seem to have major outbreaks)...
http://www.newsweek.com/hurricane-harve ... ses-656093


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