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Riveting, Live Streaming Entertainment: The Texas Transportation Commission’s Monthly Meeting

The Texas Transportation Commission, the governmental body which overseas TxDOT, is holding its monthly meeting in Dallas today at Union Station (I wonder if anyone took DART in to it). Plans for I-345 and the Trinity Toll Road are among the topics under discussion. And here’s the good news: the meeting is live streaming over on the Dallas Morning News‘ website. So all you transit wonks out there can blow your afternoon by watching the most excruciatingly boring meeting east of the RTC. Turn it into a drinking game: take a drink every time you hear the words “leveraging,” “delivery, “project,” or “facility.”

UPDATE: Sen. Royce West just got up in the meeting and very emphatically announced his opposition to the at-grade boulevard-ing of I-345

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It’s Great DART is Considering Bus Rapid Transit. But, Per Usual, It’s Not Enough.

Last week DART finally connected its light rail system to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Hurray. Raise a glass. Pat yourself on the back. Finished? Okay, moving on.

Today the public transit system said it is considering another should-have-happened-years-ago option for the future: the introduction of bus rapid transit lines to connect suburbs. What’s bus rapid transit (or BRT to transit nerds), you ask? Well, it’s simply a long range bus line that pretends to function like a train, only it’s much cheaper than building rail. The buses are longer, they run in dedicated lanes or roads, and they stop at actual stations. The most famous success story for BRT is Bogotá, Columbia. You can find out more about that here.

DART’s proposed BRT line would run along the route that has been set aside for the Cotton Belt rail extension, connecting Plano and Fort Worth. DART has wanted to build that rail line for years, but it’s really expensive and it doesn’t look like funding will come through any time soon. So, why not BRT? Good idea. Do it. After all, the hub-and-spoke DART system does make regional transport impractical. Who wants to go through downtown to get from Plano to Carrolton? (See, I don’t hate suburbs. I’m thinking about you guys out there.)

But here’s my question: why stop there?

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About the Teenager Who Lived in Walmart: I Think That Was Art.

Last week, employees at a Walmart in Corsicana discovered that a 14-year-old boy had been living in makeshift campsites tucked behind baby products or stacks of paper products for two days. Police say the teenager was a runaway who has history of fleeing his home and holing up in creeks and abandoned houses. I have a different theory: the boy is Dallas’ best performance artist. Here’s why.

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Is NCTCOG Staff Dictating Regional Transportation Policy?

Question: What is Michael Morris, the transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, trying to do in this Dallas Morning News piece on I-345 that ran over the weekend? (I know, I know. Tired of this topic yet?)

Morris states that the NCTCOG and TxDOT will not support the proposal to replace I-345 with a boulevard:

“There’s not much our office is going to be able to do to help them and there’s not much TxDOT’s office will be able to do.”

Then he fires off this one:

“I have found no one above my pay grade that supports the elimination of the main lanes of 345.”

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Dallas Maritime Museum Dream Sinking, Not Sunk

I’ve never really understood Dallas’ bid for a maritime museum. We’re a land locked city on an unnavigable river whose mid-19th century forays into aquatic transportation were abandoned with the arrival of the railroad. And yet, the idea of dedicating a museum to the maritime has been floating around for some time, most recently popping up in one of the fancy schmancy architectural plans that reimagined how to connect downtown to Dallas scant waterfront.

Well now it looks like dreams of the maritime museum are receding further to the horizon. The gambit centered on the acquisition of the USS Dallas submarine, which was supposed to be decommissioned this year, but now won’t be available until at least 2016. Without the centerpiece display, members of the museum’s board, which includes some prominent politicos, have turned their eyes to acquiring the former presidential yacht. But why stop there? Since Dallas is bent on honoring histories that have nothing to do with its own history (c.f. the bronze bulls), why not try to build our own space center, open a museum of Appalachian culture, or buy enough pieces of the Berlin Wall to reassemble a mile or so it somewhere downtown? Actually, I may like that last idea.

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Dallas Is Cooler Than New York (And Other Lies Generated By Incessant Online Lists)

Lists are the bread and butter of online traffic, so publications (including our own) try to come up with more and more ways to rank, rate, and otherwise organize cheap content into clickable slideshows. The latest, Forbes’ list of the United States’ coolest cities. Dallas comes in at number 10 (not bad), just ahead of New York (number 11). Washington D.C. is number 1, Houston is number 4, and, well, why go on? Houston is number 4. Obviously this list is bolsch. So what’s cool, according to Forbes? In short, having stuff (restaurants, sports, art attractions, young people). Anyway, I’m linking only so that the next time you hear about data being employed as a save all solution to some more significant social problem, like, say, public education, remember, while it can drive a certain kind of understanding, data also believes Houston is cooler than San Francisco.

Okay New York haters, have at it in the comments.

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It Is Time to for Some Real Leadership and Vision in Downtown Dallas

There’s a story in today’s Dallas Morning News that is pretty irritating because it is so indicative of everything wrong with downtown Dallas.

In short, the owners of the Trammell Crow Center want to buy a surface level parking lot at the corner of Ross and Harwood, catty-corner from the Dallas Museum of Art, and turn it into a parking garage. In the paper, this is presented as an exciting development. After all, from a real estate perspective, downtown Dallas needs more parking, and here is a developer is willing to pull the trigger on a parking development. Plus, they may plop a hotel on top. Go downtown!

Well not really.

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The Best Thing Written So Far About the John Wiley Price Indictment

The John Wiley Price indictment is a big story, and I’m sure many journalists in town scurried to the courthouse, drooling over the drama that would unfold in the months to come. I did. But I also thought about Jim Schutze, because Schutze knows this story better than anyone in this town, and I was excited to see what he would do with it. In short, Schutze is delivering. Here’s his latest piece, a comprehensive overview of the real scandal, not the bribery, but the way Dallas leaders sold out Dallas and lost the opportunity to develop an Inland Port in South Dallas that would have completely transformed the city’s economic base while bringing tens of thousands of jobs to South Dallas. Here’s the money quote:

I’ve known Price for a long time. I look at him sometimes, and I don’t see a black guy anyway. I see a Dallas guy. He’s a typical Dallas guy who worships money. He loves the thrill of the deal. He thinks of hardworking pluggers as just shy of losers and worse. In 2008, when I asked him how he could oppose something that promised so many jobs in southern Dallas, he told me sneeringly he associated labor with slavery.

In fact he put that thought in a letter to Allen. “During slavery,” he wrote, “everybody had a job.”

Put it in writing. That proud of it. That may be a cynicism so profound that it transcends race, or descends it. I wonder sometimes. If all anybody really believes in is the big money and the fast deal, is there no one left out there to believe in the city?

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8 Achievable Steps to Improve Urbanism

Streets.mn, a blog based out of Minnesota offers eight ways to improve urbanism, some of which may seem obvious, others not so much. My favorite suggestions:

- Making accessory dwellings legal: They’ve been playing with the idea in Minneapolis, and Austin has been savvy to it. What accessory dwellings (or granny flats) offer is quick and achievable density in-fill on single-family lots.

- Better transit, not more transit: Dallas boasts more miles of light rail than any other city in the world, which is one of those claims that sounds good on paper, but is really embarrassing. The rail is so long because it is trying to wrestle with so much sprawl while not actually providing the most efficient or usable service. Streets.mn argues more attention should be paid to improving the efficiency and usability of less sexy, but potentially more effective modes of transit, like the modest, old bus. Hmm, sounds familiar.

- Eliminate one way streets: Come on, Dallas. It is time to kill ALL of downtown’s one way streets. Today. Fine, tomorrow. But still, it’s 20 years too late. They make no sense at all.

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Why the Cotton Bowl Still Has Value as a Sports Facility

Back in March, I made a somewhat far-fetched proposal.  The best way to transform Fair Park and The Cotton Bowl would be to buy a Mexican league soccer team and have them play in Dallas’ most historic stadium. Some of the people I spoke to who have experience working with Mexico’s Liga MX agreed that the Cotton Bowl was a great soccer venue but were skeptical of the feasibility of actually moving a Mexican team to the United States, due to complications over ownership and the interest of the Mexican league. But whatever. A man can dream, no?

Well, tonight a little piece of that dream comes true.

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Feeling Sam’s Club Blues? Don’t Worry, There Are Some Developers Who Have Vision

Today is the second day of hearings in the East Village Association’s attempt to block that idiotic effort to build a Sam’s Club across Central Expressway from the West Village. If even thinking about that controversy, which we detail in the latest issue, sends you into the doldrums, well then spend a few minutes perusing some more uplifting development plans. These are the latest renderings from Scott Rohrman’s 42 Real Estate, which plans a sweeping renovation of the many Deep Ellum properties it has scooped-up in over the past few years. The designs look both sensitive to the historic neighborhood as it exists today as they carve out a few improvements. My favorite idea, the addition of an alley between Main and Elm Streets that will create a pedestrian corridor that will shorten the too-long blocks lengths that are there today. Wilonsky breaks down the plans in detail here.

The renderings were prepared as part of 42 Real Estate’s effort to get all of their holdings rolled into the Deep Ellum Tax Increment Financing District. If all goes according to plan, Rorhman expects the alley portion of the renderings to become reality within 18 months.

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Dallas Morning News Adds Another ‘Subject Matter Expert’

Poynter reports on Dr. Seema Yasmin, a doctor-turned-journalist who is the third of the Dallas Morning News’ so-called “subject matter experts.” That’s the term the paper is using to describe their joint hires with area universities, a funding scheme that has helped the paper hire an architecture critic (Mark Lamster) and art critic (Richard Brettell). The experiment has worked pretty well in those cases. We’ve just named Lamster “best critic” in the August issue, and Brettell has added welcomed depth to the paper’s art coverage, even if it is a little odd that the art critic at a city’s daily newspaper was once the director of the city’s museum.

So what does Yasmin bring? Well, for example, after the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Yasmin discovered that she knew one of the HIV/AIDS researchers on board, Dr. Joep Lange, and she wrote a column about the doctor and his work.

And Yasmin isn’t the first doctor to jump careers into journalism. Attendees of the Mayborn Conference this past weekend heard Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink speak.

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