Yet Another Frickin’ Post About That Dang Highway Teardown

Robberson cares about poor people.

I know! I’m sorry! But listen, I just read this Tod Robberson post, the one titled “I-345 Demolition Idea Spells Disaster for Southern Dallas Commuters.” In it, he writes:

I’ve been studying commuting patterns from southern Dallas ever since we launched our Bridging Dallas’ North-South Gap project more than six years ago. The maps on the next page show the commuting times from several years ago for people who live in South Dallas, Red Bird, Pleasant Grove, Oak Cliff and West Dallas. Some residents have had to commute 45 minutes each way, each day between their residences and their jobs, and highway-use statistics show unequivocally that these commuters need daily access to I-345.

This is fantastic news! And I’ll tell you why. Today I had a meeting with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Jenkins told me that he is right now waiting for TxDOT to tell him how long it will take to conduct a study to learn who uses I-345 and how they use it. Are there a lot of trucks coming through town that have no business here? Are people from South Dallas using that highway to get to North Dallas? Judge Jenkins wants answers to those questions. But now we know that Tod Robberson already has those answers. And they are unequivocal.

Tod Robberson can save Dallas a lot of time and money if he’d share his highway-use statistics with the county judge. If he can’t email those statistics over to the judge — maybe the Excel doc is a monster — I’d suggest an FTP site or a thumb drive or a CD or a DVD. The county, I’m pretty sure, can accept any of those formats.

Once again, though, I’m sorry. This highway thing has taken over our lives. Or, to borrow a phrase from Tod Robberson, it has taken over our “tidy urban lives.”

UPDATE (4/5/14) For some real fun, read Mark Lamster’s take on the recent discussion. He calls Steve Blow’s column a “condescending dismissal.” He calls Rodger Jones “desperate” and says he has “issued forth with a series of red herrings and straw men in the hopes of derailing discussion.” He points out that Michael Morris has played the race card. As for Tod Robberson’s post, the one I’ve addressed here, Lamster writes:

Morris’ line of argument has been picked up in a new column by Tod Robberson, who concludes that the tearout plan would “make life nice and convenient for a special class of people at the expense of Dallas’s poorest and most inconvenienced.” This fallacious supposition is accompanied by an analogy to a freeway in Washington DC that is not comparable to 345 (straw man alert!), assertions regarding “unequivocally” revealing statistics, and unfounded assumptions about what a 345 tearout would actually mean for commuters.

18 comments on “Yet Another Frickin’ Post About That Dang Highway Teardown

  1. I direct Tod’s attention to this Stanford study (one among many): http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/_media/pdf/key_issues/transportation_policy.pdf
    The reason the poor stay poor is the huge cost of their commuting relative to their incomes. Perhaps Tod would consider the option of moving jobs closer to the poor? That’s one of the benefits of the urban development that comes from tearing down these interstates. Not only do we rid ourselves of their congestion and pollution but we also use that land for development that brings jobs. Or, as Tim asked before, do we just leave things the way they are? Because the market has already decided — as you can tell from the blight around them — that it is not going anywhere near those elevated roads.

  2. At another point in his post, Robberson suggests Dallas needs to emulate Washington, DC. Since DC has less than 13 miles of highways serving a population of 630,000… I’m not sure I follow why Dallas needs to have between 75 – 125 miles of highways serving a population of 1.2 million. If we were to follow DC’s example (as Robberson suggests), then we would only need about 25 miles of freeways.

    What am I missing?

  3. At another point in his post, Robberson suggests Dallas needs to emulate Washington, DC. Since DC has less than 13 miles of highways serving a population of 630,000… I’m not sure I follow why Dallas needs to have between 75 – 125 miles of highways serving a population of 1.2 million. If we were to follow DC’s example (as Robberson suggests), then we would need only 25 miles of freeways.

    What am I missing?

  4. What kind of development do you expect? Similar to Uptown? More high tech? Which of those jobs types are are going to appeal to South Dallas residents?

    If we are talking South Dallas jobs let’s all take a moment of silence to remember the Inland Port that never was…

  5. Statistics show unequivocally that I need daily access to coffee, porn, whisky, and self-abuse (not necessarily in that order) — and it requires me about 45 minutes for the sum of those activities. Sequitur being therefore established under Tod’s method of reasoning, you must continue to afford me access.

  6. And since Tod Robberson is concerned about South Dallas, he should read this piece by Paul Krugman in the NYT:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/opinion/krugman-stranded-by-sprawl.html?_r=0

    It discusses a study that appears to show that sprawl hurts the poor the most. They bear the biggest burden of the transportation cost. Tod Robberson points out that South Dallas has to commute 45 minutes for a job. That’s why we should leave the highway where it is. So those poor people can continue to drive long distances.

    His thinking is backward. Create more density. Make it so that the poor don’t have to spend so much on transportation. THAT’S economic justice.

    Here’s the gist of the Krugman piece, which points out that upward mobility is hindered in Atlanta:

    “So what’s the matter with Atlanta? A new study suggests that the city may just be too spread out, so that job opportunities are literally out of reach for people stranded in the wrong neighborhoods. Sprawl may be killing Horatio Alger.

    “The new study comes from the Equality of Opportunity Project, which is led by economists at Harvard and Berkeley. There have been many comparisons of social mobility across countries; all such studies find that these days America, which still thinks of itself as the land of opportunity, actually has more of an inherited class system than other advanced nations. The new project asks how social mobility varies across U.S. cities, and finds that it varies a lot. In San Francisco a child born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution has an 11 percent chance of making it into the top fifth, but in Atlanta the corresponding number is only 4 percent.”

  7. If you talk to restaurant workers in the urban areas of Dallas commonly thought of as “upscale,” you will quickly find that many/most of the employees work in surprisingly close distance to their work. Many of them walk/bicycle or use public transit.

  8. Krugman has been found to be wrong more often than not. check out what Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have to say about poverty and upward mobility

  9. pls no. i’ve worked in the DC area (includes Northern Virginia) it is the most disfunctional area when it comes to transportation and highways

  10. that solves the problem then. open “upscale” restaurants in South Dallas

  11. A sidenote on this entire discussion: the fact we’re even having so many discussions about tearing down I-345 is amazing to me and probably proof that the proponents are on to something. When this whole discussion started a year or so ago it was greeted with “what kind of crazy idea is this?” by most people. Now folks are lining up in the “for” and “against” camps and really talking about it a lot. At the very least there are now a lot more people thinking about the transportation needs of the city and the impact of having so many concrete barriers around us.

  12. Lamster provides a link to a very interesting document which appears to be a guest column that Michael Morris and Bill Hale (a TxDOT engineer) may have submitted to the Regional Transportation Council. (See: http://www.txdot.gov/contact-us/form.html?id=openrecords )

    Here’s what makes it interesting:

    1) They are jointly threatening to refuse to study doing anything about the damaging impact of I-345 on the City of Dallas unless and until they get their Trinity Toll Road refinished. Then, and ONLY then will they even bother looking at I-345.

    2) They are also now delivering a thinly veiled threat to Dallas, by saying a new “inner loop” should be considered that would run from Stemmons in the vicinity of the Medical District through Oak Lawn, Uptown, the southern edge of Highland Park, Lower Greenville, Lakewood, etc. until it connects up with I-30. This project has a long history, being contained in the 1967 Regional Transportation Plan. It was cancelled in 1974, due to it being politically and financially infeasible as well as unnecessary.

    To get an idea of just how crazy TxDOT’s plans to literally bury Dallas with highways have been, take a look at pages 3-4 of the following PDF:

    http://oscarmail.net/dfwfreeways-book/pdf/Dallas-Fort-Worth-Freeways-book-02-extract-cancellations-20130712.pdf

    1)

  13. It has been interesting to watch the debate about I-345 compared with the Trinity Toll road battle of a few years ago. During the Trinity ruse, transportation and real estate interests were aligned, which meant their financial beneficiaries in the mainstream media like DMN and DMagazine were all too happy to print their tall tales. Today, transportation and real estate’s financial interests are at odds, so DMagazine is naturally against rebuliding the road and the DMN is allowing their journalists to argue for and against 345. The entity missing in current debate? 1500 Marilla.

  14. We initially supported the Trinity Parkway because we believed the funding for the other parts of the Trinity Corridor Project (flood control, park amenities) depending on it — and, frankly, because that was a decade ago, and our thinking about roads has changed since then (thanks in large part to Patrick Kennedy’s instruction). We officially changed our position on the Trinity Parkway in 2011, long before the idea of tearing down I-345 surfaced:

    http://dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/2011/august/lets-ditch-the-trinity-river-toll-road

    Now please explain to me why we would “naturally be against rebuilding” I-345 because transportation and real estate interests aren’t aligned. I’m not following.

    And some people at City Hall ARE trying to lead on this issue. Philip T. Kingston comes to mind.