Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Back from Texas

Landing in Dallas, besides the weather change from rain to warm sunshine, we realized we had entered a new territory with an entirely different mindset.

Before we even left DFW, we were surprised to

see the amazing array of SUVs available for rent:  BIG SUVs, small SUVs, crossover SUVs, luxury SUVs, 4WD trucks and vans, and more.  Regular cars were clearly in the minority.  Texas is not apologetic about using SUVs the way greenies want us to feel on the West Coast.  Automobiles (and personal freedom) rule in Texas - especially trucks.

Toll roads are everywhere and are heavily used.  The Interestate Freeway system is alive and well, but to siphon off excess congestion, toll roads were built and funded by the users.  When points of congestion appear to be unmanageable, the regional transportation agencies plan (ahead) for ways to keep auto traffic moving.   Conditions in Texas demonstrate that personal-mobility is unnecessarily difficult in our blue state where government doesn't just allow congestion, but works hard to create it.      

Texas is an economic powerhouse drawing newcomers from all over the country; Texas has four of the top ten largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.: Houstin, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antinio. Housing is in short supply, and the apartment boom is in full swing there too.  However, in all cases, homes are still a lot more affordable than in West Coast cities where land use (and land supply) regulations take their toll on housing affordability.  (Below: homes in Dallas' north suburbs from $199k to $400k - from 3 to 5 bedrooms, all with pools).  Austin is losing its affordability.

Austin is a blue city in a red state.  Some things work well, but the growing emphasis on smart growth and light rail is telling.  It's just not persuasive.  You want vibrant?  Go to 6th Street.  But don't go the ground-floor, mixed-use, walkable developments near transit.  These new place-making places are so generic they feel like just another Olive Garden or Chili's in another mini-mall.  You can't "make" "vibrant" without lots and lots of free alcohol.

* San Angelo is the largest city in the U.S. that
Isn't served by an Interestate freeway.  I guess someplace had to have the title, and San Angelo is it.

* Highway speeds limit on the cross-state freeways are (officially) 80 mph.  Great for making that trip to Far Far West Texas.

* The Marfa Mystery Lights are real, but what are they really?

* The stars and galaxies in Dark Sky communities like Ft. Davis are breathtaking!  (Clear skies help too.)

* Texans love their BBQ, chili cook-offs, cowboy culture, football and independence.  I hope the influx of newcomers does not change the essential character of Texas like it did Oregon.

Back home in Lake Oswego.  It's good to be in one's own space, even if it raining and cold.  But the general feeling of oppression that hangs over our state and city - unnecessarily - is disturbing.  We need to learn a few old-fashioned lessons on freedom and mobility from Texas, and they should be looking to Portland for lessons on how their dreams can go astray, even with the best of intentions.

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