One chart for all you Sprawlistas out there that keep arguing that Houston is some kind of role model for Auckland’s growth:
From Wiki, here. I figure this is self-explanatory. The dispersed spatial pattern of Houston is the single most expensive and inefficient type of urban form possible, but it can function there because of a set of specific local factors, including that Houston is at the centre of a largely flat plain without geographical constraints like, you know, two harbours. But especially because of economic conditions that are pretty unique to Houston compared to other cities in the OECD.
Houston is at the centre of a petro-state. It is energy rich, especially in hydrocarbons; oil and gas, for all that driving. But also, and this may surprise some, Texas is home to the largest concentrations of wind turbines in the US. Something’s got to keep all that aircon running. Solar is growing very fast too, it being both sunny and windy there, and large areas of land are available throughout the state with few other competing uses, especially as increasing droughts threaten the large agriculture business. Texas is energy rich and Houston is the capital of the US energy industry.
From the Houston Wiki page:
Houston is recognized worldwide for its energy industry—particularly for oil and natural gas—as well as for biomedical research and aeronautics. Renewable energy sources—wind and solar—are also growing economic bases in Houston. The ship channel is also a large part of Houston’s economic base. Because of these strengths, Houston is designated as a global city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network and by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
The Houston area is a leading center for building oilfield equipment. Much of Houston’s success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy ship channel, the Port of Houston. The port ranks first in the United States in international commerce, and is the tenth-largest port in the world. Unlike most places, high oil and gasoline prices are beneficial for Houston’s economy as many of its residents are employed in the energy industry. [my emphasis]
The predominant form of transportation in Houston is the automobile with 71.7 percent of residents driving alone to work This is facilitated through Houston’s freewaysystem, comprising 739.3 miles (1,189.8 km) of freeways and expressways in a ten-county metropolitan area. However, the Texas Transportation Institute‘s annual Urban Mobility Report found that Houston had the fourth-worst congestion in the country with commuters spending an average of 58 hours in traffic in 2009.[my emphasis]
But perhaps there’s some hope because:
Houston has the largest number of bike commuters in Texas with over 160 miles of dedicated bikeways. The city is currently in the process of expanding its on and off street bikeway network. A newBicycle sharing system known as Houston B-Cycle currently operates 11 different stations in the downtown area and 7 in other parts of Houston.
But really, Houston’s conditions are so distant from Auckland’s that it is not realistic to point to its urban form as an answer to our situation. Even if we were agreed that Houston’s pattern is is even desirable: