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Why Everything is Bigger in Katy, Texas

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Why Everything is Bigger in Katy, Texas

"The Buc-ees Beaver".

"The Buc-ees Beaver".

"The Buc-ees Beaver".

Ian Wallace, Columnist

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Most people know the phrase, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” but over spring break, I found out for myself the true extent of this statement.  While riding from IAH airport to Katy, I encountered the 26 lane-wide (including frontage lanes) Katy Freeway portion of I-10. As I pulled into my cousin’s driveway, the next-door neighbors had a Ford Excursion, a discontinued, behemoth SUV.  For dinner, we had Thai food; while the Thais aren’t known for eating food in massive quantities, my plate of fried rice, which was priced comparably to our local Thai food, must have had two thirds of my daily average caloric intake. The culture of living large intrigued me over the course of my trip, so I took a closer look.

Massive Thai Fried Rice dish.

Fried Rice no more.

A large portion of Katy’s scaled-up society is attributed to their suburban landscape, which I described in my previous article.  The spread-out nature of residential areas and major shopping centers requires heavy use of cars, and therefore wider highways. The wide highways carry a high volume of traffic, resulting in some rather large gas stations.  The most notable example is Katy’s Buc-ees, which has over 120 gas pumps, the longest automatic car wash in America, and over 20 ice freezers. The I-10 centerpiece also includes a massive convenient store with a wall of store-brand beef jerky, merchandise, and a 44 ounce fountain soda that cost a whopping 89 cents with tax.  The proximity 300k residents living within the boundaries of the Katy Independent School District requires nine high schools with the largest, Katy High School, having around 3,500 students. Of course, the nine Katy high schools need a stadium for renowned football teams, so the city recently built a $70 million stadium for their nine high schools, featuring box seats for corporate sponsors, a jumbotron, and 12,000 spectators.  The cost was covered mostly by the taxpayers. How about shopping after school? With the local Katy Mills shopping mall, up to 7,500 cars can park at a time and enter the 160-store, .12 km squared facility which my cousin called “the crappy outlet mall” and shop at all the name-brand stores that girls at Bellows Falls travel over two hours to reach on the weekends. Need to pray on Sundays? Megachurches with sanctuaries seating over a thousand are commonplace, and Sunday schools are more like Disney productions.

Buc-ees store brand beef jerkey wall.

Longest line of gas pumps I’ve ever seen.

Obviously, the gas stations, schools, malls, and megachurches are massive because of the wealth of space and population they serve, but what about the giant SUV’s, huge plates of Thai food, and 44 ounce sodas?  It’s honestly down to the relatively low cost of living large and loose regulations. With the nearby Port of Houston, robust transportation networks, and the federal minimum wage, goods are relatively inexpensive, and a regressive tax system involving high sales tax but no state income tax makes it easy to live large if you’re in the middle-class on up.  Gas taxes are relatively high, making the price of fuel similar to Vermont, but vehicles depreciate more slowly due to a lack of salt damage, making larger vehicles more affordable to own. Additionally, its suburban layout plays host to a costly game of “keeping up with the Jones’,” encouraging residents to buy the nicer car or upgrade to a house with a pool to impress their neighbors.  Even the town of Katy itself tries to keep up with the likes of Allen, TX, with its luxury football stadium.

Would I want to live large in Katy, Texas?  Absolutely, but with the temptation of a 44-ounce Buc-ees soda, I better be careful.

For your reference, 44 oz is 1.375 quarts!

 

 

For more detail on Katy’s unique, zone-less layout, please read my previous article, “The Ordered Chaos of Zoneless Katy, TX.”

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