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Thread: What are the big differences between Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston?

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    Question What are the big differences between Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston?

    They all seem to be really similiar(on paper) outside of their geography...

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    Some guy
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    This probably belongs in Pegasus Place.

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    FKA Ninjatune Justin Terveen's Avatar
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    I'd be hard pressed to come up with any big differences, as the three are very similar in the grand scheme of things. Mind you, that's just my initial reaction. Iím anxious to see how others respond, as I could very well be wrong. I suppose (and suspect) you could find big differences within each individual infrastructure.. Laws, State/City govt, but I wouldn't even know where to begin. I guess Iím having trouble with the term big differences being too broad. What does one consider a big difference? Houston is near the coast, Dallas is not. Is that a big difference? Maybe if you gave some specific terms.. I think your feedback might improveÖ

    For me, itís the subtle differences in each city that are important. These are the details that make up the big picture..

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    Mega-Tall Skyscraper Member BigD5349's Avatar
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    To me, Dallas and Houston are similar. I think Houston is more laisse-faire with development and zoning, and their strong mayor form of government is more efficient than ours. That has meant that downtown H-town rebounded before downtown Big D. I think Dallas has better neighborhoods and better progress on issues like light rail.

    Atlanta is different. They are more free-wheeling there, very proud of CNN, capturing the 1996 Olympics, their universities, their sports stadiums, their top-tier airport. All from a city that is still far short of 1 million residents.

    Atlanta's service orientation is improving, a few years ago, waiters made you feel like they were doing you a favor by waiting on you.

    To me, the biggest problem in Atlanta is dealing with the growth. The traffic there is horrendous, IMO. I've spent many an hour creeping along the interstates in downtown during rush hour. I like some of Atlanta's in-town neighborhoods, but I wouldn't choose to live until they break past some of their growth issues.

    EDIT: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. Atlanta is an older city and the streets are more confusing to drive on, to me. It doesn't help that every other friggin' street is called "peachtree this", or "peachtree that".
    Last edited by BigD5349; 08 July 2006 at 12:26 PM.

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    Supertall Skyscraper Member aceplace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigD5349
    That has meant that downtown H-town rebounded before downtown Big D. I think Dallas has better neighborhoods and better progress on issues like light rail.
    Houston's downtown rebounding first? That's an illusion. Dallas' downtown is not Elm, Main and Commerce streets.

    As I've said before, you need to correctly define the word "downtown". Or replace it with a more generic term like "center city", or even "urban core". Then you get a true picture of the drive to urbanization that has affected Dallas and Houston.

    Those urban forces extended Dallas' downtown beyond its 1950's boundaries, as metro Dallas' population grew from 1.5 million to 6 million. They created the West End and Deep Ellum in the 1980s, then were responsible for the McKinney Avenue corridor in the 1990s, and now are extending Dallas' center city out to Victory, to the West Village, and east across US75.

    Houston, by contrast, is still filling its original freeway loop.

    Dallas' urban core growth is much more pronounced than Houston's, its program of mass transit is far stronger, and its collection of transit villages and outlying urban clusters is stronger still.

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    Skyscraper Member frankchitown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aceplace
    Houston's downtown rebounding first? That's an illusion. Dallas' downtown is not Elm, Main and Commerce streets.

    As I've said before, you need to correctly define the word "downtown". Or replace it with a more generic term like "center city", or even "urban core". Then you get a true picture of the drive to urbanization that has affected Dallas and Houston.
    You can call Uptown "Downtown" all you want, but most travelers to a city consider the CBD (where all the skyscrapers are) downtown. In terms of the CBD, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, and Denver all have Dallas beat. Visitors staying downtown can find entertainment after asking around, but downtown Dallas doesn't have the energy of other cities yet. (To me, CBD=downtown, Uptown=north of downtown)

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    Its like comparing apples and oranges. Each city has its individual unique character. Thats why people live where they live. They enjoy what the city has to offer. One can not say one city is better than the other, its all a matter of perspective. Each persons perspective is differnt.

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    Administrator tamtagon's Avatar
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    To me, the biggest difference among the three is that Atlanta is not in Texas. People from Dallas and Houston (areas) tend to be more genuinely friendly than people from Atlanta (area). The three are almost identical in that the volume of adults transplantsed from everywhere else are overwhelming the historical disposition of the natives.

    Quote Originally Posted by aceplace
    Houston's downtown rebounding first? That's an illusion. Dallas' downtown is not Elm, Main and Commerce streets.

    As I've said before, you need to correctly define the word "downtown".
    Maybe not soon enough, Ace, but I think the common perception of what is "Downtown Dallas" will grow to include more than just the central business district.

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    Supertall Skyscraper Member aceplace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frankchitown
    You can call Uptown "Downtown" all you want, but most travelers to a city consider the CBD (where all the skyscrapers are) downtown.
    Plenty of tall buildings north of Woodall Rogers... McKinney Avenue looks like it's a highrise canyon already, and the effect will only be enhanced with the new construction happening.

    Interestingly, the TV broadcast of the Mavericks-Heat battles in the AAC referred to the arena is in "downtown Dallas", not in Victory Park.

    There is no such generic land usage type as "uptown"... it's just an arbitrarily cjosen name for a portion of downtown Dallas... otherwise, you could compare Dallas' Uptown to every other city's Uptown... but there is no San Francisco Uptown to compare it to, no Washington DC's Uptown, no such thing as Kansas City's Uptown...

    In most cities, there are entertainment districts on the fringes of the high rise office districts. San Francisco, for example. When people talk about "going downtown", they mean going there, to those entertainment districts... not to the central office district at 10 PM at night.. San Diego's Gaslamp District is also an entertainment center next to, but not within, its highrise office district. Gaslamp is considered to be in "downtown San Diego".

    The real definition of downtown entertainment districts are the places where people travel to from outlying parts of the city. Deep Ellum meets that criterion, as does McKinney Avenue and West Village. Certain areas adjacent to Houston's office district, within its freeway loop, also qualify.

    Bottom line... the Woodall Rogers freeway does not define a limit to "downtown Dallas"... it is probably Downtown's Main Street, at this time.
    Last edited by aceplace; 08 July 2006 at 06:55 PM.

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    Mid-Rise Member kenc's Avatar
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    Getting back to the threads original question:

    There are just too many comonalities to these 3 cities to debate what the differences are. We would get down to quibbling about airport size, or tallest building, and those things really don't mean that much. I think more pertinent is to realize these metro areas, along with Phoenix, Denver, and Las Vegas (yes...Las Vegas....) will be the next crop of urban powerhouses like New York, Boston and Philadelphia were in the 20th century.

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    Mega-Tall Skyscraper Member AeroD's Avatar
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    Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix and those other cities, don't have what Dallas has...an image. Dallas is associated with doings thing big. Whether it was the Cowboys or the t.v. show cos this image I don't know. But Dallas has a reputation (or "calling card") more so pronunced than these other cities. Houston at most has "Houston, we have a problem". Sure, Atlanta had the Olympic Games, but so did St. Louis back in 1904. Phoenix takes in people leaving California (bad business climate) and people want to leave New Mexico (seeking more opportunity). Denver may have a great downtown, but it has no calling card.

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    basically, i graduate from college next yr, and im looking to get out of florida.

    i am SICK of hurricanes.

    looking for a nice big city, not TOO conservative(meaning lots of hot freaky babes), where i can go to law school and then stay in afterwards.

    I like the thought of city living, but dont know if any of these cities would really qualify. I know atlanta does in some areas, not sure about the rest....

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    Mega-Tall Skyscraper Member BigD5349's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tamtagon
    To me, the biggest difference among the three is that Atlanta is not in Texas. People from Dallas and Houston (areas) tend to be more genuinely friendly than people from Atlanta (area). The three are almost identical in that the volume of adults transplantsed from everywhere else are overwhelming the historical disposition of the natives.



    Maybe not soon enough, Ace, but I think the common perception of what is "Downtown Dallas" will grow to include more than just the central business district.
    You live in Atlanta, right tamt? I was interested in your take on this thread.

    Are there any plans to expand Marta? What do you think of Atlanta's in town neighborhoods vs. Dallas?

    Before I started travelling to Atlanta, I was expecting to find genuine Southern hospitality and friendliness. The reality that I've experienced is that people can be downright rude. Not everyone's that way of course, but it does seem more so than either Dallas or Houston.

    People in Houston *love* to make fun of Dallas pretentiousness, but when you peel the onion, you can find plenty of the same kind of people in Houston. On average, I find people in both cities to be friendlier than many cities around the country.

    With all that said, I like Atlanta, and I like Houston.

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    Administrator tamtagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigD5349
    You live in Atlanta, right tamt? I was interested in your take on this thread.
    My GA community was mostly rural 10 years ago, now just a few years from being totally suburban Atlanta. Kinda like Garland/Mesquite, I guess, lots of "working class" folks. The county zoning for new subdivisions requires big lot size and big houses, so the area is becoming much more affluent. My area is hilly, forested, streams and creeks everywhere and primed for expensive single family homes.

    Traffic sucks, and if the 20-25 mile trip to a mid/downtown destination isnt timed right, it's like work just to keep on a happy face because reducing vehicular congestion seems to be less than an afterthought among those who could do something about it.

    A couple years ago, my county voted against a MARTA extention. The ironic timing of that vote was great: the local newspaper cited area residents' worry that MARTA trains would bring an undesirable element into the historic downtown, while in the same issue, the paper reported the dedication/opening of the rennovated train depot - an historic downtown structure where people from all over Douglas County, West GA and East AL would congregate to take the train into Atlanta. The closest train station is 12 miles from my house and I use the park n' ride a couple times a month (+/-). Most of the places I frequent are not convenient to a train station, so it's not as useful for me as it is to downtown workers.

    I could not imagine living with the daily commute so many suburbanites in Atlanta accept. The distance is not the problem, its the frustration of it all - I know it's the same in most big cities - but the situation on surface streets, the last mile or two for most commuters, is the most exasperating. During off peak hours, the door-to-door trip time from my house to mid/downtown destination is entirely acceptible, usually less than 30 minutes.

    I lived in town for two-ish years, and I loved it, considered my location/neighborhood the best place I've ever lived. I moved out of the city for a less expensive lifestyle and so I could build a fort in the woods (my subdivision backs up to a state park). I had to get rid of the fort because I found beer bottles and cigarette butts which were not mine. haha I thought about hiding out to bust the tresspassers and embarass them to their parents, but eh, whatever. All things considered, I prefer the wooded neighborhoods in Atlanta to the beach and weather of Orange County CA.

    Southern hospitality in much GA is tainted with the need for additional generational softening before lingering extreme bigotry becomes less common. People are the same all over, but in my observations, there's an uncomfortablly large number of folks in these parts keeping the white versus black thing going - from both sides of the fence - but overall, it's not an obvious and directive influence on day to day life Inside the Perimeter.

    The primary difference between Dallas and Atlanta neighborhoods is appearance, and it's hard to get past how beautiful Atlanta neighborhoods can be. Giant trees are everywhere. It's hard to get on with additional comparisons. Well, all it takes is thinking about traffic to get over it. Upon rare occasion when I have tried to get from one in town neighborhood to another during the evening rush hour, it could easily take 30 minutes to go 5 miles. It's messed up.

    Most of the in town neighborhoods seem to have most necessities within walking distance. I had a reverse commute of 15-30 minutes each way when I lived in Atlanta, and that's just about the only time I had to drive. I walked or rode my bike the rest of the time. The bus worked exceptionally well for me getting to a destination in the evening, and a $5-7.00 cab ride home was just fine. For a while, I experimented with "sharing a cab" but most folks prefered to drive (stupid drunks) or were going the other way. I did get plenty of cab sharing through a regular cab driver. I'd call his direct number and he would piggyback fares. After a while I figured out he was getting in as much double charging as possible so I stopped that experiment.

    Atlanta is a great place to live, though, and a great place to go out and have a good time. I get a real strong sense of "something big time simmering just beneath the surface" when exploring the city. In some neighborhoods, I get kinda nervous to be by myself and go on full alert, and in others I'm overwhelmed by pretentious mine fields. But just about everywhere I'm still feeling an upward pull, that although the city has so much to offer right now, there is so much more to come. It's an inspiring feeling, and I've noticed it consistently during the six years I've lived here.

    Centinniel Olympic Park is fantastic. It's got the football stadium, basketball/hockey stadium, CNN Center, GA Aquarium, WOrld of Coke (u/c), GA World Congress Center (conventions), a ton of hotel rooms and apartments, condos. The city environment in Atlanta is very linear - running all up and down Peachtree Street - and it can seem very very big. There a population expansion, maybe a population boom - I dont really keep up with that closely - in down and mid town. Much of the inventory is affordable, ummm, under $400,000, something like that.

    I dont particularly care for hanging out in Buckhead, but it's top-notch for lunch or dinner. It's the kind of hang out that makes me want to make fun of the parades of pretentious people and that's not nice and it's not safe. It's like, the pretentious crowds in Atlanta are not as depraved as they may be in Dallas, but there's a bigger chip on the shoulder. It's like, that crowd in Dallas, deep down, knows they are the small fish. With all the fancy stuff coming to VIctory Park and LoMac, I've got my fingers crossed that Dallas is going to get some bona fide Jet-Set activity. So much of the pretentious edge will be taken off downtown Dallas when real thing is identifiable and persistant in one area.

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    Mega-Tall Skyscraper Member BigD5349's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tamtagon
    A couple years ago, my county voted against a MARTA extention. The ironic timing of that vote was great: the local newspaper cited area residents' worry that MARTA trains would bring an undesirable element into the historic downtown, while in the same issue, the paper reported the dedication/opening of the rennovated train depot - an historic downtown structure where people from all over Douglas County, West GA and East AL would congregate to take the train into Atlanta. The closest train station is 12 miles from my house and I use the park n' ride a couple times a month (+/-). Most of the places I frequent are not convenient to a train station, so it's not as useful for me as it is to downtown workers.
    Sounds like the same thing that happened with the Knox-Henderson DART station.

    My company has a sales office fairly close to a MARTA station on the north side of town. It's puzzling how hard it is to get to, so I feel like it doesn't get used as much as it could be.

    Quote Originally Posted by tamtagon
    I lived in town for two-ish years, and I loved it, considered my location/neighborhood the best place I've ever lived. I moved out of the city for a less expensive lifestyle and so I could build a fort in the woods (my subdivision backs up to a state park). I had to get rid of the fort because I found beer bottles and cigarette butts which were not mine. haha I thought about hiding out to bust the tresspassers and embarass them to their parents, but eh, whatever. All things considered, I prefer the wooded neighborhoods in Atlanta to the beach and weather of Orange County CA.
    I have a friend that lives *sort of* close to Emory. What a great neighborhood. It was the first place I went (a few years ago), where you could walk down the street and hit some dog-friendly cafes with your neighbors. The houses were old, the residents were a progressive mix, the trees were outstanding. It was a great atmosphere.

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    In my opinion the only thing which separates these 3 cities are there approach to urban planning. All three of them are plagued with the "build a road, delay the problem" mentality.

    Houston has done little to change in the past couple decades. The public is still widely against mass-transit. The demand for a foe-urban lifestyle is the only thing driving some more sustainable development for the city. Since the city not constrained in any geographical sense, new development on the exteriors continue to overshadow progress made in the center city. The land is cheap, the economic incentives are large, and the results are crap. I really hope for the sake of the entire bay area, houstonians will accept more civic responsibility.

    Atlanta has had some leadership in getting some revitalization in many of its central neighborhoods and has also been fairly good at historic preservation. Atlanta will always be a city with a lot of potential, but sometimes you've dug yourself too far into a hole to really climb out. The racial edges in the city are horrendous and continue to be a burden for the entire metro. This city definitely stands to benefit from future migrations. If Atlanta can get a hand on whatever the next economic boom is, it surely will remain the strongest city in the South.

    Dallas is not without its problems: racial tension, crime, traffic. I'm not sure I'd even place Dallas above the other two cities at this point in time, but the reason I try to stay current with development in Dallas are the small steps leaders in Dallas have been able to take. The DART rail is an amazing success. Someone would have to really hate Dallas to not understand the progress the city and suburbs have made since those first stations were built. Downtown Dallas, however you wish to define it, is alive with more sustainable acitivity it has seen in decades. The leaders seem to be finally taking an interest in beautifying the city. With the help of Dallas' abundant mcmillionaires, i'm sure the city can achieve some nice feats.

    If I had to move to one of these cities, it'd be 1) Dallas (specifically downtown or uptown) 2) Atlanta (specifically midtown) 3) Houston (i don't even know where - i really just don't like that city. i've not seen one area there i'd feel safe as a pedestrian). I am a person who must live without a car. That's what drives me. I think i could do it in Dallas...surely midtown Atlanta...not really in houston.

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    DART Bus fan DalLove444's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rjlevins
    If I had to move to one of these cities, it'd be 1) Dallas (specifically downtown or uptown) 2) Atlanta (specifically midtown) 3) Houston (i don't even know where - i really just don't like that city. i've not seen one area there i'd feel safe as a pedestrian). I am a person who must live without a car. That's what drives me. I think i could do it in Dallas...surely midtown Atlanta...not really in houston.
    Same here!
    This is the direction Dallas should be going, and i believe is going now. Im getting sick of nyc and want a medium size city to move to, but still want a lively urban environment. My decision where2 go will prolly be based on, among other things, which has the best public transit - mostly in terms of bus [or LRT] frequency (frequency is important to me) and accessability. Im a big Public Transit Nut!

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    I have to admit, after living in Huntsville for a couple of years now, my opinion of Houston has drastically changed. I actually enjoy it (as long as I'm going to spend some time there, it's seventy miles) when I can go for an evening in Montrose and uptown. The sheer size of that area does have some plusses over Dallas, including the coffeeshops down there, more than I remember seeing in Dallas, honestly (Starbucks nonwithstanding). All in all I enjoy the place now. I can't say anything for Atlanta, I've never really been.

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    Skyscraper Member HarryMoto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blueb73
    i am SICK of hurricanes.
    Well then, you should cross Houston off your list. I think the city gets too harsh a knock from most Dallasites -- I don't think the cities are as different as, say, San Francisco vs. LA or Miami vs. Tampa and it has lots to recommend it -- but if hurricanes and tropical weather are on your list of things to avoid, then I wouldn't even consider it no matter the plusses.

    Instead, I would suggest the Denver/Boulder area as your third possibility. I know the economy has gone through a bit of a downturn recently after the hi-tech bust but it seems to be a forward-thinking region with a young, well-educated populace so I'm sure the dip is only temporary.

    I've not been there in winter but I hear it's not all that oppressive while the spring/summer/fall can be glorious. And I think I read somewhere it has the highest ratio of young single people of all major metros. It's not close to a major body of water but the other recreational possibilities are endless. Plus, Denver's done a great job with reviving its downtown and there are some interesting in-town neighborhoods.

    Still, you should come to Dallas though.

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    DART Bus fan DalLove444's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarryMoto
    Instead, I would suggest the Denver/Boulder area as your third possibility. I know the economy has gone through a bit of a downturn recently after the hi-tech bust but it seems to be a forward-thinking region with a young, well-educated populace so I'm sure the dip is only temporary.
    I love Denver! I agree that Denver has done a better job revitalizing its downtown area, i believe Dallas can and should do more. I kinda figured that Denver had a high ratio of young, educated and progressive people, something i think Dallas needs more of.

    I plan to visit Denver in the fall. Im so excited!

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