The World's Smartest Cities: Houston

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Kotkin had this to say about Houston:

Houston, Texas Houston's close tie to the Caribbean, as well as its dominant global energy industry, thriving industrial base, huge Texas Medical Center complex and first-rate airport all work to its long-term advantage. Arguably the big city in the U.S. with the healthiest economy, Houston is also investing in a "green" future; last year it was the nation's largest municipal purchaser of wind energy.

This all seems correct, based on my recent trip to Houston. I was in fact going to a conference trying to exchange ideas between medical device manufacturers and the energy industry. There is much that remains unsaid of course. Most people would never think of Houston as green simply because it is so big and sprawling. Appearances can deceive of course, and I have not invested the time to look into this, but from being there, Houston seems like a city dominated by cars. The traffic was astoundingly bad.

It was so bad that I missed my flight, and I had to spend an extra 6 hours in the city. Fortunately, I was able to take a bus downtown from the airport and investigate the city further. I rather enjoyed Houston's mass transit. The bus dropped me off at the downtown transit hub, and I hopped on the light rail to explore downtown. Like many major American cities, the mass transit is pretty good, it just is hard to get everyone to use it. The light rail runs north-south in Houston. There is a lot of the city that isn't anywhere close to it. My friend that I stayed with in Houston takes the bus to the light rail, and the light rail to the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.  This is a pretty good option. Less time, less stress. However, SWPLs don't like riding the bus, so many of the residents don't take advantage of this option, and instead struggle on the freeways.

The whole road system seemed like a nightmare to me. I am grateful that Arizona has such good roads, and realize that I am spoiled when I go to other cities. Phoenix has one of the best freeway layouts of any city I have ever been in, and the roads are always repaired promptly, and well-signed. Houston freeways almost seemed designed for gridlock. There was a slowdown everytime two freeways merged, which was frequently, and the exits were poorly marked. The surface roads were not much better. Lots of dips to collect water and strange mergings. To be fair, almost any major city in the US has traffic problems these days, but some are definitely worse than others.

Houston definitely seemed like a place where I could find a job. That was after all one of the criteria Kotkin used to place Houston on this list. I did not get the chance to tour the trendy areas north of downtown, but the success of areas like these is pretty crucial to urban living.

I could probably live in Houston if I had to, but I did not immediately like the city in the same way I liked Seattle when I was there last year. However, I would worry less about finding work and being able to buy a house in Houston.