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Podcast: The Future of DART Rail Through Downtown Dallas

The July issue of D Magazine (on newsstands now, but not yet available online) includes a story about the future of DART light-rail through downtown Dallas. This week’s podcast guest was our own Peter Simek, who typed that story. He chatted with Tim and Zac about the options for the future of the public transportation system, the lawsuit State Sen. Royce West filed against Dallas Cowboys player Dez Bryant, and Galveston, for some reason.

First a few notes and corrections before you dial up the show in your iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcatcher:

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Leading Off (6/14/16)

two orlando shooting victims had ties to texas. At least two of the people who lost their lives in the horrific shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando Sunday were connected to Texas. Luis Vielma lived in Sanford, Florida, but one of his siblings lived in North Texas, and his godmother—with whom he shared a love of the Dallas Cowboys—was born in Dallas. Frank Hernandez, who went by Frank Escalante, was a Rio Grande Valley native.

Man shot at love field is now in jail. 29-year-old Shawn Diamond, who was shot by a police officer last week outside of Love Field, has now moved from the hospital to jail. Diamond had traveled from Maryland to his ex-girlfriend’s Dallas home. She told police he had gotten upset on the way to Love Field, and when they got out of the car, he smashed the car’s rear windshield with a traffic cone and threw rocks at its windows. An officer tried to get him to stop, but Diamond ran toward him, and the officer fired shots. Diamond is being held at the Dallas County Jail on charges of aggravated assault against a public servant and assault—family violence.

Celebrations mark Dart’s 20th anniversary. Starting today, celebrations will take place to mark the 20th anniversary of DART’s first 11 miles of light rail. In 1996, when it first launched, the expectation was that light rail would reach 53 miles. But now, it’s expanded to 90 miles, the longest system of its kind in the U.S. Celebrations will include customer appreciation events, music, and giveaways.

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Leading Off (6/13/16)

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Condemned For Gospel Verse Tweet: Dan Patrick’s campaign claims the Sunday morning quotation he shared on Twitter from Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”– had been scheduled for several days, and was not a reaction to the horrible attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. That’s either extraordinarily bad timing or a complete lie. The tweet was deleted, though some are now calling for Patrick’s resignation. There will be a vigil held in Dallas for the Orlando victims.

Report on Dog Attack Details Just How Inept Dallas’ City Services Are: A report released Friday reveals the grisly details of the death of Antoinette Brown, who was attacked and killed by a pack of wild dogs in South Dallas on May 2. The details of the attack are difficult to read, even in summary. That it happened on a street in a major American city is just dumbfounding. As horrifying is the ineptitude demonstrated by police and city hall. Neighbors repeatedly reported the pack of dogs that killed Brown roaming the neighborhood for days after the attack and received no response.

Dallas, Meet Your Newest Political Football: As we mentioned Friday, TxDOT released its much-anticipated study of various reworkings of Dallas’ downtown highway system, an issue we here at D Magazine have been writing about for some time. Perhaps the best thing I’ve read about the report so far is Brandon Formby’s piece over the weekend about how the report will fit within Dallas’ political landscape, essentially becoming another Trinity, Fair Park-style splitter, breaking right down the middle of the plate:

But the report lands at City Hall at a time when the council struggles to keep up with subpar city streets and grapples a $19 million budget shortfall. At the same time, council members must replace their outgoing city manager and decide the fate of how Fair Park is managed.

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Mark Lamster on Fair Park at 80: ‘A Very Dallas Story’

To honor the 80th anniversary of the Texas Centennial Exhibition, Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster penned a piece worth highlighting about the complicated, paradoxical history of Fair Park, our city’s favorite neglected stepchild. Even from its inception, Lamster writes, Fair Park was shaped by confounding political forces which muddled the commissioning process for its now beloved art deco structures:

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What Do You Think of the New Plan for the Trinity River?

A few weeks ago, the mayor hosted an event that unveiled a new, $250 million vision for the Trinity River Project. Before offering some reservations, Mark Lamster practically swooned over the initial designs, which, on the surface, seem to internalize some of the criticisms of previous incarnations of the plan. Like Lamster, when I looked at the latest Trinity River Project watercolors, I recognized what looks like a gesture towards compromise. The floodplain is depicted as a more dynamic, natural setting, designed to participate in — and not resist — the regular flooding events that are the heartbeat of the ecology of the river.

Now a website has been set up by the two nonprofits that have long been pushing forward the Trinity River Project, The Trinity Trust and the Trinity Commons Foundation. Reading the brief description of the new park on that site, I found the kind of language that should surround any attempt at re-imagining the Trinity River. I also saw some questionable assertions.

First, here’s the good:

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A New Plan For a Park Between the Trinity River Levees

Architecture critic Mark Lamster of the Morning News has taken a look at a new design by New York-based landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates for a park between the levees of the Trinity River downtown, and he says Dallas “finally has a serious plan” for the space:

If realized, it would stand as an urban landscape of unrivaled scale, a lush green sash that would reorient the essential polarity of the city, pointing it decisively inward toward the core.

The breakout success of Klyde Warren Park should stand as an example of just how desperate the city is for a unifying public space of recreation, entertainment and civic celebration. A reinvented Trinity would be exponentially more consequential in the suturing of a divided city.

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Leading Off (5/6/16)

Stars Even Playoff Series. After an overtime goal by Cody Eakin secured a 3-2 win, Dallas and the St. Louis Blues each have claimed two games in their best-of-seven contest. The Stars’ comeback victory is doubly impressive considering they were rebounding from a blowout loss the last time the teams took to the ice. Game 5 is scheduled for noon Saturday at the American Airlines Center.

Deadly Crash on Woodall Rodgers. At least one person died as a result of the accident, which took place just before 10 p.m. Thursday between the tunnel under Klyde Warren Park and the exits to Interstate 35E.

Construction Worker Freed From Trench. While helping to dig a sewer line in Irving, a 34-year-old man got buried when the pit around him caved in. His co-workers cleared enough dirt to uncover his upper body, and after an hours-long rescue effort, firefighters managed to get him out without further collapsing the trench onto him or others. He was taken to Parkland by helicopter for treatment.

Ex-Fort Worth Cop Freed For Another Trial. Brian Franklin was convicted 21 years ago of having raped a 13-year-old girl. On Thursday he walked out of the Tarrant County probation office, having been released from prison after the victim in the case admitted to having lied in some of her testimony. (Though she still insists she was sexually assaulted.) Franklin is awaiting a new trial and hopes for a full exoneration.

Perry Endorses Trump. Is that enough of an excuse, Zac?

An Absurd $4.6 Million Bridge Is Going Up Over Harry Hines

The DMN takes a look at why the city, county, state, and federal governments are pitching in to build a pedestrian path over Harry Hines Boulevard at Walnut Hill Lane, an area of town known for its strip clubs and other adult-oriented establishments:

Even the guy whose business is a few steps from the base of the bridge has no idea what the heck the thing’s doing there.

“I thought it was for the DART station,” said Song Kim, owner of Just for Play, the lingerie shop in Ravi’s Wholesale Plaza. Kim said Monday that he’d been in this spot for two years, and never once has anyone explained the point of this bridge.

The DART station’s a good guess. Dallas Area Rapid Transit has the Walnut Hill Green Line station on the other side of Harry Hines. But the bridge doesn’t connect to it. Denton Drive separates the light-rail station from the bridge.

The bridge’s backstory hides in plain sight: The fall 2014 issue of Utility Newsletter, the must-read published by the Dallas County Department of Public Works, tells us the bridge “will allow safer pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Harry Hines Boulevard and serve as an example of the modern transportation principles of sustainable and multimodal infrastructure.” There’s also a 2014 map from the North Central Texas Council of Governments that shows the pedestrian bridge as part of a much larger “Northwest Dallas Multimodal Connectivity” project built for the Asian Trade District.

Wishful thinking? Bureaucratic planning run amok?

How Well-Connected Is Your Home to Public Transit?

TransitCenter and the Center for Neighborhood Technology released a nifty little tool last week that allows you to gauge how well-connected any spot in the United States is by public transit. Plug in an address, and the All Transit database culls together information on access to jobs, number of commuters, workers near transit, and other curious factoids.

I haven’t dug into the data too deeply, but I did run the numbers on a few Texas cities just to see how Dallas’ public transit system stacks up. Leaving aside all the usual moaning and groaning over Dallas’ sub-par transit system, Dallas actually has the best performing public transit system in Texas according to the All Transit tool, with an overall performance score of 6.8. Houston comes in second with a 6.2, while Austin (5.5) and San Antonio (5.7) live up to their reputations as transit-challenged cities.

What does it all mean?

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Let’s Not Learn the Wrong Lesson of Expanding State Highway 161

This morning Wired worries that transportation planners will take the wrong lesson from the traffic data the Texas Department of Transportation released last week that shows that traffic is “sailing” along a three-mile stretch of State Highway 161 ever since drivers were permitted to start using the shoulders of the road. It should not be used as evidence that widening highways is a tried-and-true method of relieving congestion:

Two things might explain why the Dallas project worked. The first is that the bottleneck on that highway was a very specific problem: a two-lane stretch connecting three-lane highways. Opening the shoulders eliminated the choke points of squeezing into a tighter space.

The second and more cynical explanation for the project’s success is that it wasn’t actually successful. The traffic numbers published this month include just a few days after the new lanes opened in September. Traffic has increased since then, though the TxDOT says traffic is still moving faster than before the project. It’s quite possible unbearable congestion will return, as more locals change their behavior to take advantage of what is suddenly a smooth ride—that’s the fundamental principle of induced demand.

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Poll: Do You Care How the Trinity Toll Toad Affects Interstate 35E and I-30?

This week’s poll is dedicated to Michael Morris, transportation czar of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, who last week told the Dallas Morning News that he’s “unaware of anyone who has an interest” — other than reporter Brandon Formby — in the impact a potential Trinity toll road will have on the nearby existing highways.

What do you think about that?

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Councilmen Decry Misleading Statements About Trinity Toll Road

UPDATE: Brandon Formby, who was all over these documents even before the City Council got them, had a thorough account in Saturday’s Morning News. I’m revising this post due to my error in failing to note that the Alternative 1 traffic counts in the analysis were not based on 45-mph speeds, making the conclusion of my earlier headline unsupportable.

On Facebook this afternoon, City Councilman Scott Griggs shared a document that the North Central Texas Council of Governments has just seen fit to release to members of the Council’s Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee.

The numbers make plain that when Trinity Parkway advisory committee member Jere Thompson said that the four-lane version of toll road, as dreamed up by Larry Beasley & co., would reduce traffic on Interstates 35E and 30 by about 25% what he really meant was that traffic through the corridor would be reduced roughly that amount as compared to if the federally approved six-lane, high-speed highway (“Alternative 3C”) were to be built. (But even that’s not obviously true, since the analysis looked only at a 55-mph road, not a 45-mph version.) As Griggs put it, Thompson’s statement is “misleading” about the impact of the toll road as a traffic-congestion reliever.

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Leading Off (4/1/2016)

Kingston Vs. Dallas Police & Fire Pension. Last week, the pension board had planned to censure Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston (also himself a board member) for speaking to WFAA about the possibility of a sale of the troubled Museum Tower. But that was prevented from happening when it was revealed that Kingston had not been properly notified in advance. A special board meeting is scheduled for this morning expressly for the purpose of taking action against Kingston. However, on Thursday afternoon Kingston took steps to forestall those efforts by filing a petition in Dallas County court saying that he has not received documents that he has requested from the pension system that are related to the claims other board members have made that Kingston breached his fiduciary duty by making comments to the media.

Frisco Woman Found Dead. Police located the body of Christine Woo, who’d been missing since Monday, inside her SUV in the parking lot of a Target store in McKinney on Thursday evening. Woo’s three children were in the car, severely dehydrated and reportedly having been in the vehicle for a few days. The Collin County Medical Examiner will determine her cause of death, but police have said there were no obvious signs of foul play. The Target is about 2 miles from Woo’s home.

American Airlines to Offer 24-Hour Refunds. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport’s dominant carrier is bringing its ticketing policies in line with most other major competitors. Starting today it will offer passengers full refunds up to 24 hours after purchase. Previously American had permitted tickets to be placed on hold for 24 hours without requiring a purchase, which was the other of two options that a 2012 federal Department of Transportation rule gave airlines.

Denton Ranked 2nd-Best Place to Raise a Child If You Want Him to Amount to Nothing. Not sure what to make of this national publication’s assessment that my hometown is an “unsung haven for anyone whose kid has ‘underachiever’ written all over them.” Seriously, is this some sort of joke?

Does the Federal Government Really Have the Power to Wage War on Divisive Highways?

The big news in the world of transportation policy this week has been the somewhat landmark announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the federal government will set about addressing the impact urban highways have on cities. In short, Foxx — who grew up in a predominately African-American neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was walled off by highways — wants to stop building and expanding highways that cut people off from jobs and opportunity. To that end, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched its Ladders of Opportunity initiative.

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