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Why Are There Painted Halloween Traffic Barrels Along LBJ Freeway?

Why am I obliging the nice fellow who sent me a press release this morning about traffic barrels painted with Halloween-themed art as a promotion for the LBJ Express project and Valley View Center and the redevelopment going on up there to re-dub the area Dallas Midtown?

Because I couldn’t help but wonder about the wisdom of encouraging drivers to take a gander at traffic barrels as they drive by, even if it’s just along the frontage road. The release:

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Carl’s Corner

As I’m sure many of you know, the drive along Interstate 35 between Dallas and Austin isn’t particularly scenic. It suffers from a serious dearth of character, which is why many a motorist in now long-past days looked forward to passing the small town of Carl’s Corner, with its truck stop unmistakably adorned by 10-foot-tall frogs.

The man behind the truck stop and the town was Carl Cornelius, who was memorably profiled by Mike Shropshire in the November 2006 issue of D Magazine. It’s one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published.

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Poll: What Will the Trinity Lakes Look Like?

We all had a good laugh along with Wylie H. Dallas yesterday as he pointed out the absurdity of some of the depictions featured in the Trinity Lakes Amenities plan presented at a city committee meeting yesterday. But Dallas is going to do something with the river, eventually, right? So what’s most likely to become reality?

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Questions About Jill Jordan’s Bewildering ‘Trinity Lakes’ Briefing

On Friday afternoon, a Facebook post by Robert “Fingers of Fury” Wilonsky captured my attention. Said Wilonsky: “If you read one Dallas City Council briefing all weekend, make it this one: the surreal Trinity Lakes Amenities Design Plan.” How could I resist? To the extent I had any lingering doubts, he helpfully provided two illustrations: one of an alarming number of people crowded under a freeway overpass, evidently engaging in some sort of hyper merry-making; and another of a small tree-lined four-lane boulevard. Hmm … I had the sense this would prove enlightening.

Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan’s cover memo to the briefing document helpfully closed with the statement “Please feel free to contact me if you need additional information.” After reading through the 99-page attachment, I actually had quite a few questions, so I prepared to contact her. Upon closer reading, however, I noticed that: 1) she didn’t provide her contact details; and 2) even if she had done so, the memo was addressed exclusively to “The Honorable Members of the Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee,” and I’m not a member.

Therefore, lacking such access, I am posting my questions here, in the hopes that they might reach Ms. Jordan and Judge Vonciel Jones Hill (the Committee chair) prior to the meeting:

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Is It Time To Bring Back the Wright Amendment?

Short answer: obviously.

Long answer: a smart man — much smarter than me, if you can believe that — once said, and I quote, “Dallasites — and when I say ‘Dallasites,’ I’m actually referring rather broadly to North Texas and North Texans as a whole, and my use of ‘Dallasites’ in that instance is kind of a shorthand for that, if you will — were not meant to fly non-stop to Los Angeles from Love Field. Probably not San Francisco either, now that I think about it.” I think these last 36 hours or so have proven that quote to be hauntingly prescient.

I mean, just because you have the ability to do something does not mean you should have the freedom to do so. Could I wake up from a coma and adroitly perform any rap song released between 1991 and 1994? Yes. Should I be allowed to? Actually, maybe. Probably. Bad example. How about this: can I whistle in public? Yes. Should I? Never, under any circumstances.

For decades, we wondered what would happen if the Wright Amendment went away. And now we can see, very clearly, the ill effects of that disastrous decision: Richard Branson is hanging around town like Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, the comment section on our blogs is mildly confusing, and the Cowboys are good again.

Bring back the Wright Amendment, and make it stronger this time. For example: a flight from Love Field to Waco should be forced to stop in either Wilmer or Hutchins and also Corsicana. You know it’s the Wright thing to do.

(NAILED IT.)

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Next City on Dallas’ Botched Transit History

Next City takes a look at Dallas’ public transit history and competition in the northern reaches of the region between DART and para-transit companies. There’s not much new in the piece if you’ve been following the issue closely, but perhaps the best part of the article is its summation of how policy and an evolving and expanding region have created a dysfunctional transit network:

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Why Do We Need the Trinity Toll Road? Here’s the Answer, and It’s Pretty Lame.

On Friday, we mentioned the Dallas Morning News’ story about how many of the supporters of the Trinity Toll Road had gone silent since a consumer advocacy group called the proposed road a boondoggle. Well, over the weekend, the DMN’s transportation writer, Brandon Formby, filed a follow-up. Road supporters are now talking, and if you need proof that they are scrambling to come up with any justification for this thing or apply antiquated thinking to its planning, then here it is. Basically, NCTCOG transportation director Michael Morris argues that we need the toll road not because it will substantially relieve congestion along the I-35 corridor (which traffic projections say it won’t) but because it will increase congestion on some streets, decrease on others, and otherwise shift traffic around in a way that will improve economic development. Here’s the breakdown of how Morris believes the road will impact traffic patterns:

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Secret Deal to Dump Delta Signals More Crony Capitalism at Love Field

Just over five months ago, Dallas residents and the City Council were surprised to learn that the city of Dallas had secretly commissioned a study that supported city staff’s determination that the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division had erred when it determined that Virgin America, rather than Southwest Airlines, should receive the two American Airlines gates that American had determined it no longer needed.

Cheered on by the city of Fort Worth, here and here, Dallas city staff proceeded to throw all sorts of roadblocks up against what should have been a straightforward lease approval. The process quickly devolved into a national farce, possibly because the idea that allowing one airline to control 90 percent of the gates at an airport would serve competitive interests is ridiculous on its face. Council Member Vonciel Jones Hill featured prominently, arguing that the city (she?) was in a better position than both the contracting parties (American Airlines and Virgin America) and the Department of Justice to determine what was best for the citizenry. Finally, after weeks of opaque, behind-the-scenes machinations at City Hall (during which time Virgin was compelled to launch a high-cost public relations campaign, and Sir Richard Branson was compelled to interrupt his vacation for a trip to Dallas to beg for the gates as part of an effort that directed critical international spotlight to what appeared to be crony capitalism at work), Virgin was finally given the green light by city staff to actually take possession of the gates that appeared to have been rightfully its own from the outset.

Fast forward to this past week: once again, residents and elected officials found themselves surprised to learn that city staff had taken action to thwart an airline’s ability to operate at Love Field.

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Leading Off (10/3/14)

Storm Wreaks Havoc. The high winds, rain, and hail that blew through North Texas Thursday afternoon left hundreds of thousands without power during at least some portion of last night, temporarily halted DART train service, knocked down trees, collapsed a building in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and tore the roof off a dorm at Arlington Baptist College, among other widespread damage. Having lost power, UT-Arlington canceled all classes Friday, all Arlington ISD schools are closed, as well as 40 Dallas ISD campuses and some schools in Mesquite and Richardson. DART hopes to be fully operational by this morning rush hour, with red, orange, and green lines normal, but only bus service available on the eastern stretch of the blue line.

Ebola Patient’s Family Held Under Armed Guard. Those who shared a Vickery Meadow apartment with Thomas Eric Duncan, the man diagnosed with the virulent disease, are under an order not to leave their home or receive visitors. However, one of the family’s children attended a DISD school on Wednesday morning. In order to enforce compliance, a guard has been stationed on site. Meanwhile, Texas Health Presbyterian issued a release Thursday evening to explain that a failure of two of its record-keeping systems (one for nurses, another for doctors) to communicate resulted in key information about Duncan’s recent travels not being considered during his initial Sept. 25 visit to the hospital, which led to his release.

Texas Can Enact Strict Abortion Restrictions. A federal judge’s decision overturning legal requirements for abortion facilities is under appeal. On Thursday the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state can go ahead and enforce those measures even as the appeal process is under way.

Trinity Toll Road Supporters Have Gone Silent. This follows reports that a) the road isn’t projected to significantly affect traffic congestion and b) that the city council is likely under no obligation to fund it. Councilman Scott Griggs, who opposes the $1.5 billion, 9-mile route, has a theory on why North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris and others have been unavailable for weeks to make comments on the issue, “I imagine they’re trying to come up with a new reason for it,” he said.

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Announcing StreetSmart, D Magazine’s New Transportation and Urbanism Blog

My personal ignorance when it comes to matters of urbanism makes me grateful that Dallas has someone like Patrick Kennedy pushing it — however reluctantly — towards new modes of thinking about how to shape this city. Patrick’s blog, first known as Car-Free in Big D and then Walkable DFW, has been an invaluable conversation starter that we’ve referenced and linked to countless times on FrontBurner. He briefly wrote a monthly column in the ink-on-paper version of D, but today he joins us in an even more significant role.

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our newest online community, StreetSmart. Walkable DFW has been adopted into the DMagazine.com family, and the renaming signifies an expansion of its mission. StreetSmart will focus on intelligent — and occasionally irreverent — urban planning, with discussion of the important housing, neighborhood, and transportation issues and decisions taking place in Dallas-Fort Worth.

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Will Automated Cars Revolutionize Urban Transportation?

As we bicker back and forth about tearing down roads, building toll roads, managing sprawl, creating density, improving public transit, and all the hot button issues that will affect mobility in DFW — and therefore dictate what kind of city Dallas evolves into — changes are afoot that may throw all of our assumptions about the future out the window.

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Are We Witnessing The Fall of the House of Michael Morris?

As Liz mentioned in Leading Off, a planned toll road connecting Garland to Greenville has sparked a statistical feud between the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Last week, when 1,500 people showed up at a public meeting in Rockwall in opposition to the proposed road, one citizen brought to light the fact that the numbers the NCTCOG used to justify their new toll road are dramatically larger than traffic predictions made by TxDOT. If you want to dig into how much larger they are and why, read the well-reported DMN story. What interests me is what this current standoff reveals about how our region’s transportation policy is made.

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Dallas City Council Could Vote Against Funding Trinity Toll Road

On Wednesday, DMN editorial writer Rudy Bush dropped a bombshell. In a blog post, he reported that the city attorney, in response to a request from Councilman Scott Griggs, issued a memo saying that the city’s contract with the North Texas Tollway Authority to build the Trinity toll road isn’t the ironclad agreement that we’ve all been led to believe it is. In short, the contract is old, many of the dates mentioned for getting work done have come and gone, and there are too many “agreements to agree,” something the city attorney says are generally not enforceable. The Council could vote to walk away from this contact. It likely could do so without legal consequences. This is huge news. As Bush noted, “It’s hard to overstate how important this is, both from a political and policy perspective.”

Hours after that post went up, the Observer took note of it and had reaction from Angela Hunt. The next day, Thursday, another editorial boarder, Sharon Grigsby, put up a post saying, in so many words, “Wow. That’s big news. We’re talking about it here at the office.”

Today is Friday. News of the city attorney’s memo still has yet to appear in the newspaper or in the main news feed of the paper’s website. I can only assume that Sunday’s front-page story will be amazing.

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