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Posts from January 2013

Uptown takes public transit into its own hands

Posted on January 31, 2013 in


With METRORail’s University and Uptown lines indefinitely stalled — development held up locally by the transit authority’s recent bond referendum and obstructed on a federal scale by U.S. Rep. John Culberson — the Uptown Houston Management District has long understood that it must take matters of public transportation into its own hands.

Uptown Houston president John Breeding likens the office market of the area to downtown Pittsburg or Cleveland, cities where mass transit is an integral component. And he acknowledges that METRO isn’t in the fiscal shape to handle expanded operations in the underserved area for at least a few decades.

“Transit is just too important to us to wait that long,” Breeding tells CultureMap.

“We envision something that most people would refer to as ‘bus rapid transit.’ “For a $177 million mobility plan worked out in earnest over the past several years, Uptown Houston enlisted the support of METRO, the Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Bellaire to propose an alternative solution that includes connection to the Northwest Transit Center via the 610 West Loop, dedicated bus lanes along Post Oak Boulevard and a Westpark Transit Center and parking facility in Bellaire, near the intersection of Highway 59 and 610.

“We envision something that most people would refer to as ‘bus rapid transit,’ ” says Breeding, who anticipates a level of service equivalent to light rail (fast travel times, elevated platforms, low, handicap-accessible bus decks), but with increased flexibility and a lower cost.

The current state of affairs already necessitates improved conditions, but future development — including the BLVD Place expansion, Skanska’s high rise office building and the nearly-complete BBVA Compass Plaza — will only bring more businesses, residents, visitors and congestion.

Funding for the project would come from Uptown Houston, the Uptown TIRZ/UDA and federal grants applied for late last year. Breeding is “anticipating a yes” on approval of the latter, given the enthusiasm and support of area stakeholders.

Breeding says that, pending receipt of federal dollars, Uptown Houston should finalize right-of-way purchase along Post Oak by the end of 2013, with utility work beginning shortly after. Construction would officially begin in 2015.

The METRO board agreed in Sept. 2012 to operate the bus route if the plan is realized, and Breeding says that the infrastructure will be in place for a future light rail — should that ever materialize, somewhere down the road.

Austin Fastest Growing U.S. City… Again

Posted on January 30, 2013 in

AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal) – Texas cities have dominated Forbes’ list of fastest growing cities, with one city taking the top spot for the third straight year.  With a 2012 population growth rate of 2.8 percent, Austin is America’s fastest growing city, according to Forbes and data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The Capital City is an economic powerhouse thanks to the 51,000-student University of Texas at Austin, a bevy of Silicon Hills startups and the presence of mega corporations like Whole Foods Market Inc. (Nasdaq: WFM) and Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL), the magazine wrote.

Houston came in second behind the capital city with a 2 percent growth rate. Dallas took third, with San Antonio trailing at ninth.  Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows more than 427,000 people moved to Texas between August 2011 and July 2012, Forbes reports. The magazine cites the state’s healthy labor markets, low unemployment rates and business-friendly regulatory environment among factors contributing to Texas cities’ high rankings on the list.

Other top U.S. cities on the list include Raleigh, N.C. (4), Salt Lake City (5) and Seattle (6).

Forbes’ analysis of the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan statistical areas was based on six metrics. Here’s how Austin measured up:

  2012 population growth rate: 2.8 percent
  2013 population estimated growth rate: 2.7 percent
  Job growth rate: 3.1 percent
  Unemployment: 4.9 percent
  Gross Metro Product: 6.3 percent
  Median salary for local college-educated workers: $63,200