A wonderful report from New Geography, on the great state of Texas which far out shadows California—except for weather and physical beauty—but important to read for economic, urban, and political instruction on how to be user friendly.
The future of American cities can be summed up in five letters: Texas. The metropolitan areas of the Lone Star state are developing rapidly. These cities are offering residents a broad array of choices — from high density communities to those where the population is spread out — and a wealth of opportunities.
Historically, Texas was heavily dependent on commodities such as oil, cotton, and cattle, with its cities largely disdained by observers. John Gunther, writing in 1946, described Houston as having “…a residential section mostly ugly and barren, without a single good restaurant and hotels with cockroaches.” The only reasons to live in Houston, he claimed, were economic ones; it was a city “…where few people think about anything but money.” He also predicted that the area would have a million people by now. Actually, the metropolitan area today is well on the way to seven million.
It would no doubt shock Gunther to learn that Texas now boasts some of the most dynamic urban areas in the high income world. Approximately 80 percent of all population growth since 2000 in the Lone Star state has been in the four largest metropolitan areas. People may wear cowboy boots, drive pickups and attend the big rodeo in Houston, but they are first and foremost part of a great urban experiment.
The notion of Texas as an urban model still rankles many of those who think of themselves as urbanists. Most urbanists, when thinking of cities of the future, keep an eye on the past, identifying with the already great cities that follow the traditional transit dependent and dense urban form: New York, London, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo. And yet, within these five urban areas, there are large, evolving, dynamic sections that are automobile oriented and have lower density.