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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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What That Trinity Toll Road Meeting Was Really About

This morning, Mayor Mike Rawlings called a meeting at Babb Bros BBQ, in Trinity Groves, to make an announcement. It was a strange event. I’m still trying to figure out what really just happened.

Outside, three people dressed as turkeys handed out anti-toll-road flyers. They read, in part: “There’s no question that the Trinity toll road is the single biggest turkey in Dallas. That’s why we’re so excited about Mayor Rawlings’ steadfast support of it. With former proponents jumping ship left and right, it’s getting harder to find advocates for such an expensive, unnecessary, and counterproductive initiative. Thank you for standing up for REAL turkeys like the toll road, Mayor Rawlings!”

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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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D Magazine Staffers on Councilman Philip Kingston’s Toll Road ‘Nice’ List

Rudy Bush has posted City Councilman Philip Kingston’s Trinity Toll Road “Naughty and Nice” list, identifying those he considers on the wrong (pro-) and right (anti-) side of the debate over building a highway between the levees.

Among those on the “nice” side of the ledger are our own Tim Rogers and contributors Eric Celeste and Patrick Kennedy. Plus, Wick Allison, who even charts a pull quote:

“I learned from the Trinity mistake. Maybe the biggest prejudice of all human beings is presentism. That is to say, what is has always been and will always be.”

Top of the naughty list: Mayor Mike Rawlings and former city manager Mary Suhm. So, yeah, no surprises. For whatever it’s worth, via the DMN:

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Ask John Neely Bryan Anything You Ever Were Too Lazy to Google

Greetings, friends, enemies, frenemies, trolls and troublemakers, hoodlums and saints, the blessed and the damned alike.

My name is John Neely Bryan. You may remember me from such things as having operated a ferry across the Trinity River ages before any of those new-fangled bridges were built, for being a log-cabin enthusiast, and also for having founded what is now the ninth-largest city in the United States of America. So, yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.

Though I have long since passed into the ether, I’ve kept a watchful eye on my beloved Dallas. The good folks at D Magazine, in their estimable wisdom, therefore knew I was best qualified to helm this new effort on their web log. In this space today and in the weeks to come, I shall address all manner of your questions and concerns. Need personal advice? Curious about some aspect of life in this city? Want a dispute adjudicated? Too lazy to Google something? Ask@dmagazine.com and ye shall receive. (Space and my patience permitting.)

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Poll: Why Don’t You Ride DART?

Last week over on StreetSmart, Bobby Abtahi wrote about the reasons he doesn’t ride DART regularly. Mostly he pointed to the infrequency of service — a 26-minute ride to the Apple Store from his house isn’t so bad, but the bus only swings by every hour. If he just happens to miss the bus on the way there and back, it’s potentially a three-hour trip.

Yesterday the Dallas City Council transportation committee voiced its support for a $983.4 million expansion of public transportation downtown, which would include another light-rail line and streetcar connections.

If you’re not already a regular rider, will moves like that win your business?

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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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Rafael Anchia Is Asking Folks If They Support the Trinity Tollroad

The state representative has a survey up and running on his site, and it’s pretty straightforward. Anchia hasn’t said yet what he plans to do with the information. Meantime, Brandon Formby has a good summation of where the road stands at this moment.

My two cents: we don’t need the road. I’m not exactly alone in saying that. But after running inside the levees a few weeks ago — that’s right: I run now, and I come up with smarmy, backdoor ways to mention it — I am of the opinion that we don’t really need anything there. Amenities, schmamenities. Finish the trails, maybe throw in a few places to hang out and throw around a frisbee, a playground — nothing serious, just the kind of thing you’d find at an elementary school. The Trinity project could be finished by summer, and we can get contentious with each other over something else. Like 345 — have you guys heard anything about that?

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Uber Is Much Cheaper in Dallas Than in New York

The Verge looked at the estimated costs of a 15-minute, 5-mile Uber trip in cities across the country:

What we found was surprising: fares vary drastically from city to city. A fifteen-minute, five-mile UberX trip in New York City will put you back $19.75. In Dallas, the same trip will cost you less than $10.

In fact, the formula Uber uses to calculate estimated fares is carefully tweaked to the market it serves. In Miami, for example, the base fee for an UberX trip is $1.20, with a per mile rate of $1.25. Just up the coast in Jacksonville, the base rate jumps to $1.25, but the per mile rate drops to $1.20. In Chicago, the city slaps a Transit Tax & Accessibility fee of $.30 to your fare—Seattle adds $.20.

In fact, Dallas was the cheapest ride among all of the cities they surveyed. Does the Verge’s estimate seem right to those of you who’ve used Uber in Dallas?

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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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There Was No Debate About the Trinity Toll Road at the Stemmons Corridor Business Association Luncheon

The stage was set: the Three Generals of the Trinity Toll Road — former City Manager Mary Suhm, former city council member Craig Holcomb, and North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris — in the same room as a council member who rides bikes with Better Block’s Jason Roberts and the guy who launched the campaign to tear down I-345. And all five were going to have a moment on the mic — all in front of the rapt, gracious attention of an old-school Dallas business association. It sure felt like a potential moment.

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Could Dallas Put Bike Lanes on Sidewalks?

[Editor’s note: Having been honored with a Marshall Memorial Fellowship, our Brad Pearson is off wandering around Europe, ostensibly to develop his leadership skills. Periodically he will check in, as he is doing today with the following post.]

The one thing I can’t get over is the sheer number of bicycles in Brussels. Adults on bikes, kids on bikes, kids and adults on the same bike. Anytime I see a bicyclist in Dallas, I expect to recognize who the person is; here, that would be an impossible dream.

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City Lab on Texas High Speed Rail: Connect It To Downtown Dallas

City Lab rounds up progress that is being made around the country with regards to realizing high-speed rail. California’s plans have leaped some (but not all) of its legal challenges, and it could face a difficult obstacle if the gubernatorial candidate who refers to the plans as the “crazy train” wins in next month’s election. In the Northeast, a private company has entered the conversation about adding high speed rail, but the Japanese-backed project will have to figure out how to compete with Amtrak’s own efforts to upgrade to high-speed transit.

That leaves Texas which, by comparison, looks like it is coasting towards a high-speed future. The private effort, which also has Japanese backers, kick-started public meetings this month as it prepares its environmental impact statement for federal review. It The Federal Railroad Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and a third party entity (URS) has also launched a website that offers renderings of proposed routes. With regards to alignments, City Lab says the lines should probably terminate downtown:

It’s far too early to say for sure where the lines will end up, but running the train from one city center to another would reduce overall travel times, facilitate connections to local transit, and generally boost downtown areas. That should be the idea to beat.

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