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Ron Kirk Joins Company That Wants to Bring High Speed Rail to Dallas

Former Dallas Mayor and former U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk is now a senior advisor to Texas Central Railway, the private company that hopes to bring high speed rail to Texas. The news comes via a statement Kirk posted on the company’s website:

I have seen just about all of the high-speed rail systems throughout Europe and Asia, and the competitive part of me feels that if the rest of the world can do this, why can’t we right here in the United States? This along with the practical attraction to having an alternative transportation mode between two of the fastest growing economic zones in the country sparked my interest and compelled me to join the Texas Central Railway team.

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Will Art Prize Change Dallas’ Cultural Scene Forever?

Big local art news news hit yesterday: the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Art Prize — nicknamed the American Idol of art — will expand to Dallas in 2016. Why should you care? Well, in the December issue, I write about how there are a ton of people who see Art Prize, which hands out $500,000 in cash awards to artists and attracts huge numbers of visitors to little Grand Rapids, as a huge financial boost both for artists and the local tourism industry. On the other hand, many of this city’s artists, administrators, and curators are concerned that the art exhibit famous for Surfer Jesus paintings and giant dog sculptures is going to clutter our city with middlebrow art schlock and brand us as a provincial backwater. Then there’s that whole connection between Art Prize, Amway, and all sorts of evangelical action groups. You can read the piece over on FrontRow.

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Deep-Pocketed Black Rhino Killer May Not Get to Kill Endangered Rhino After All

You remember this story, right? The one that inspired a Colbert Word segment? The one about the guy who laid out a cool $350K at a Dallas Safari Club auction for a rare opportunity to shoot an endangered black Rhino and haul it back to the United States, stuff it, stick it somewhere in their home, and then brag to his friends about what a massive, Hemingway-esque trigger finger he has? That guy.

Well, that guy was Corey Knowlton, a international hunting consultant whose resume boasts of a Super Slam of wild sheep and the big five in Africa. And while, thanks to his success at the Dallas Safari Club auction, Mr. Knowlton does possess a permit to shoot and kill an endangered black rhinoceros, his little hunting expedition may not go off as planned after all. That’s because he needs another permit to haul the massive rhino carcass back to the United States.

Last spring, he applied for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would enable him to import the rhino’s body following the hunt in Namibia. But he’s still waiting to hear back.

The agency is applying extra scrutiny to Knowlton’s request because of the rise in poaching, said spokesman Gavin Shire.

If the permit is denied, the safari club plans to refund Knowlton’s money that was pledged to a rhino conservation fund in the southwestern African country.

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City Lab Also Thinks Dallas Needs to Double Down on Better Bus Service

City Lab writer Eric Jaffe weighs in on the proposed high speed rail line to downtown Dallas and how a sudden influx of passengers may strain DART’s existing public transit capacity. If you’ve been following along with recent developments, there’s not too much new here, but it offers a nice sumation of where we stand. And Jaffe also agrees that the best way to deal with improving public transit in Dallas may be rethinking our bus system:

From the sound of it, Dallas could use a bus makeover similar to the one recently proposed for its high-speed rail partner, Houston. That plan would increase the frequency and reliability of buses for no new operating costs, with ridership coverage taking only a slight hit. The idea of running bus-rapid transit in dedicated lanes over long Texas corridors, rather than hyper-local, high-cost streetcars, could also boost the commuter experience.

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You Want Better Public Transit? Let DART Know What You Want.

A few days ago I wrote about how DART needs to follow the lead of other cities, such as Houston, and reroute their bus system. Well, DART officials say that’s exactly what they may do as part of the 10 Year Service Plan the transit organization is beginning to develop. Public meetings began this week to solicit feedback from riders about how the bus system can evolve to best suit their needs. There’s also an online survey you can fill out to offer feedback on what you believe DART’s priorities should be. (Here’s a cheat sheet for one of the questions: Frequent “to you” means buses every 10-15 minutes, no matter who “you” are.)

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Dallas Really Can Have a Great Public Transportation System

I thought about titling this post “Two car-centric cities that are kicking Dallas’ rear when it comes to figuring out public transportation,” or something like that, but then I remembered that Dallas is a “can do” city. We’re optimists. We like big projects, and then we like taking years to debate and tackle them. So rather than get all pouty and boo hoo about how other sunbelt cities are further down the line when it comes to figuring out how offer quality public transit in cities defined by sprawl, I thought I’d frame the comparisons as an opportunity. After all, there’s some positive buzz circulating on the topic now that the city council’s transportation committee gave DART a big thumbs up on its ramped-up plans to connect the Oak Cliff and McKinney Ave. streetcar lines through downtown as well as add the long overdue D2 second light rail alignment through the center of the city. Those projects are being acted on thanks to the promise of a private developer bringing in a high-speed rail line to downtown Dallas.

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Why Rural Texas Should Advocate for Diverting Interstates Around Downtown Dallas

Dallas’ economic bread and butter is the role it plays as a distribution hub. We’re at the center of major intersections of freight rail and transit corridors. We have a big airport. There’s Alliance; there should be (and maybe will be) an inland port in South Dallas. So where are these goods coming from and where are they going? The Brookings Institute can answer that one with this nifty interactive tool that “maps” the flow of freight in and around the United States. With $420 billion of imports and exports flowing through our region, Dallas ranks behind only New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston in terms of total trade activity.

There’s also a report accompanying the research that offers an interesting analysis. One thing we can see from this detailed look at the interconnected nature of the flow of goods between cities, the report argues, is that traffic congestion in one area of the network can drive up the cost of goods for the entire system. A clog in a node like Dallas can make it more expensive to buy any number of consumer products in Waco, Oklahoma City, or some town on the Texas panhandle. The report concludes that it is in rural areas’ best interests to solve traffic congestion in the inner cities:

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Will Rafael Anchia’s Toll Road Survey Tip Royce West Into the Anti-Toll Road Camp?

Back in August, you may remember, State Senator Royce West came out strongly in favor of the Trinity Toll Road project at a meeting of the  Texas Transportation Commission, the governmental body which overseas TxDOT.

Just yesterday, you likely recall, State Rep. Rafael Anchia posted an online survey seeking citizen feedback about who favors or supports the toll road project.

That left us all wondering: What’s up with survey? What’s Anchia have in mind?

Well, here’s one possibility: the survey may tip the influential opinion of Sen. Royce West:

[O]ne of the project’s most influential backers, state Sen. Royce West, said he’s open to rethinking his support if residents show they are overwhelmingly against the project — and there’s commitment to add highway capacity near downtown Dallas some other way.

Now there’s one word here that should jump out at you: “capacity.” It still sounds like someone needs to sit down with Sen. West and have a conversation about capacity, and highways, and boulevards, and the proper functioning of urban streetscapes as opposed to regional transportation networks. But West’s comments offer some new incentive to head over to Anchia’s survey and tell him how idiotic the toll road idea actually is.

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Will the $65M Crescent Redo Really Help Uptown’s Pedestrian Connectivity?

For all that’s written about how great and successful the redevelopment of Uptown has been, there are still some major ways in which the neighborhood fails to provide real, coherent pedestrian connectivity. There are the skinny sidewalks up and down McKinney, for one. Patrick Kennedy has written about the problems of the Lower McKinney area. And Wylie H recounted a story that captured the absurdity of giving directions to some out-of-town-ers who were lost in that terrible strip mall at McKinney and Pearl.

That area – the intersection of McKinney and Pearl — is an important transition point between State-Thomas, LoMac, and downtown, and this morning there’s news that it may get some help in the form of a $65 million redo of its lynchpin, Phillip Johnson’s Crescent Court. The owners of the office, hotel, and retail complex hope to address some of the ways the office tower can better interface with the surrounding area.

That’s great. But, per usual, the plans include some good ideas and some bad ones.

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Does Dallas-Fort Worth Do a Good Job Attracting the ‘Creative Class’?

Reading this article by Richard Florida about the mobility of the creative class mostly made me realize how little I know about Richard Florida and his “creative class” theory. Sure, I’ve heard the general takeaway: that knowledge-based workers drive economic development and urban growth. But here he talks about a recent study that drills into details, breaking apart this “class” into three forms: synthetic, analytic, and symbolic. Each segment shows different patterns of movement. Dallas comes close to the top in two categories.

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New York Times Cancels Partnership With Texas Tribune

Missed this bit of news Friday: The New York Times is canceling its four year partnership with the Texas Tribune, Tribune editor Evan Smith announced Friday morning. That means those of you who enjoyed the two-page Texas section in your NYT subscription will have to do without. In a curious flip of sorts, if you’re a Dallas Morning News subscriber, now you’ll get a bit of the NYT in your local paper. It’s too bad this partnership is going; it appeared like a promising model, a non-profit journalism outfit allowing for deeper coverage of the state in the nation’s paper of record. But, as is so often the case these days, the partnership was an expendable line item in an ever-contracting budget.

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Finance Panel: Southern Dallas Just Needs More George Baileys

Last night the Dallas Morning News held a campaign event panel discussion hosted by Mayor Mike Rawlings at Adamson High School in Oak Cliff to discuss financing and investment in Dallas’ southern sector. What brought me out, in part, was Dallas Fed chair Richard Fisher, who was to speak. But I was also intrigued by the promise of looking at issues of poverty, race, and southern Dallas development within the context of the financial services industry, an important, though often overlooked, ingredient in the legacy of blight and disinvestment in the southern sector.

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Video: Cowboys Fan Doesn’t Take Monday’s Loss Very Well at All

As Tim wrote Tuesday morning after the Cowboys loss to the Redskins, there’s no reason to freak out about a 6-2 start to the season. But at least one Cowboys fan couldn’t control his emotions after Monday’s loss. Actually, he basically tore apart his entire apartment (including ripping a kitchen counter clean off the cabinets) in a display of pure fan anguish that is surely fueled by alcohol and, frankly, kind of depressing to watch. Imagine what this guy would have done after Game Six if he was as big a Rangers fan as he is a (drunken) Cowboys fan. Deadspin has the (language NSFW) video.

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Sam Wyly in More Hot Water Over Art Sales

Just eight days after filing for bankruptcy, former Billionaire Sam Wyly sold $320,000 worth of art at Christie’s auction house. His lawyer said the timing of the sale was inadvertent, but lawyers for the Security Exchange Commission, who successfully convicted the Dallas man for trading stocks held in offshore accounts for 13 years and reaping at least $550 million in illegal profits, say the sale of the art is evidence that Wyly is trying to liquidate his assets. The SEC filed a letter in federal court today calling for a freeze in Wyly’s assets. The namesake of Dallas’ Wyly Theater is on the hook to pay back the feds something in the $187.7 million range.

Joseph Guinto went in depth on the Wyly case back in 2013, and followed-up on the fallout from the trial back in May. Just last week, Wyly was making headlines again for trying to get a judge to loosen up his court-ordered budget of $10,000 per month. Of course, after hearing about the art sale, my first thought was, “What kind of art did Sam Wyly collect?”

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Jan Gehl, The Guy Who Helped Make Copenhagen an Urbanism Poster Child, Will Speak in Dallas Next Spring

You may or may not have heard that this coming spring the Congress of New Urbanism is holding its 23rd annual conference right here in DFW. Today, the group announced their keynote speaker, Jan Gehl. Gehl is an architect, author, and urban design consultant noted for his influence in pioneering the so-called “human scale” movement, advocating for the rethinking of built environments that place priority on pedestrians and cyclists. A resident of Copenhagen, he has been instrumental in that city’s emergence as a model of walkability, and he has also worked on acclaimed projects in Manhattan, London, and Melbourne, including the  pedestrianization of Broadway.

Gehl’s 1971 book Life Between Buildings is considered a landmark in the field. For a taste of what he will bring to Dallas, check out this trailer for a film that explores themes and ideas contained in that book.

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