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Making Dallas Even Better

Ask John Neely Bryan: Why Are There ‘Barrel Monsters’ Along Interstate 35E?

Question: I was driving up Interstate 35 over the weekend, and I spotted some strange statue. It looked like it was made of traffic barrels. This was when was I was headed north and just south of the lake in Lewisville. Any idea what that was? — Melissa H.

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Poll: Does Dallas Need to Pay Down Debt Before Fixing Roads?

UPDATE: The City Council has reportedly agreed that there will be a 2017 bond program, because “deferred maintenance is not an option.” But it looks like it may well be a smaller bond, in the $200 million to $500 million range, than the $1 billion initially discussed.

We learned last week that several members of the Dallas City Council are pushing to delay what had been discussed as a possible $1 billion bond election in 2017. The argument for doing so is based upon concerns that the city has substantial debt obligations already, as well as uncertainty over how shortfalls in the police and fire pension fund might affect future operations.

But with so many roads across Dallas pockmarked with potholes, opponents of a postponement say there are too many vital infrastructure needs now that would prove even costlier if further delayed. What do you think?

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When Drivers Hit Pedestrians, Where Do We Lay the Moral Blame?

There’s a rather difficult to watch video over on NBCDFW which shows a dog being run over by an SUV in Oak Lawn. The incident happened at the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton. Two women out walking their dogs on Saturday afternoon approach the intersection. The light is green, and as one of the women steps into the crosswalk, an SUV comes around the corner, runs over the dog, and skirts so close to the woman that she is knocked to the ground. The car drives away; the dog reportedly dies a few minutes after the video ends.

It’s an awful scene, but perhaps equally awful is reading the comments beneath the video and on Facebook. Many people who have watched the video have come to the conclusion that the woman walking the dog is at fault for what happened. They note that when she steps into the intersection, she is looking away from the oncoming car, perhaps at traffic on the far side of the road. As a result, she’s blindsided. She should have looked both ways, the comments argue. She should have kept her dog on a shorter leash, some suggest. Only, because this is the internet, the tone of many of the comments is snide and deriding. It’s ugly stuff.

Whose fault is it when someone gets hit by a car?

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Forget the Bullet Train. Let’s Build a Hyperloop to Houston (And Other, More Attractive, Spots)

Texas Monthly writes about a competition hosted at Texas A&M University over the weekend in which teams from around the country compared their designs for a pod that could travel at 760 mph in a tube based on air-hockey technology.

The event was inspired by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s 2012 proposal for the new form of transportation. Building a network or tubes across the country to allow incredibly fast travel between cities is a ways off, but smart people are working on it and the federal government has signaled interest in funding it.

Now, go ahead and fantasize about how quickly you, your children, and grandchildren might flit about the state:

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What Dallas Can Learn From Houston About Folly of Bigger Highways

Last week Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke to the Texas Transportation Commission about the need for a “paradigm shift” away from addressing traffic woes by building ever-more and ever-wider highways:

To help his case, Turner pointed to the Katy Freeway in Houston, or Interstate 10. A few years ago it was expanded to 26 lanes in some segments at a cost of $2.8 billion—good enough to earn the title of the “world’s widest freeway.” Despite all that new road capacity, rush-hour travel times increased between 2011 and 2014; in 2015, Turner pointed out, one segment of the Katy was ranked among the most congested roads in Texas.

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Dallas May Wait Even Longer to Repair Its Streets

As the DMN notes, at a retreat next week the Dallas City Council will discuss the possibility of postponing until 2018 a $1 billion bond program initially planned to go before voters in 2017. The reason is that Mayor Mike Rawlings and some other council members want the city to pay down some of its outstanding debt before taking on any more:

As things stand, $235 million out of Dallas’ $3 billion budget will go toward debt service this fiscal year alone .

“That’s money that could be going toward other services,” said council member Lee Kleinman, who has advocated that the city pay for repairs only when it can afford to do so. “That’s money that could go toward streets.”

“We’re trying as a council to bring our credit card spending down,” Rawlings said.

Any delay could be a disappointment to residents eager to get repaired many streets that are now in a near-post-apocalyptic state. Councilman Philip Kingston sounds ready to serve as their champion on the horseshoe:

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Will the Knox Street Redo Move the Most Dangerous Valet Stand in Dallas?

Tomorrow the Dallas City Council is expected to approve the Complete Streets Design Manual, a long-gestating project that’s the result of a $400,000 federal grant received in 2010 that in turn spawned the city’s Complete Streets Initiative.

The resulting document (see it in the council’s posted agenda) is intended to serve as a “comprehensive policy guide for all public or private projects that impact the planning, design, construction, and operation of streets.”

You may recall that in September 2012, the city authorized an experiment — with the help of the Better Block Foundation — wherein Knox Street between Central Expressway and the Katy Trail was narrowed, with bike lanes added and street parking rearranged. That effort was part of the development of a vision of building “streets that are safe and comfortable for everyone: young and old; motorists and bicyclists; walker and wheelchair users; bus and train riders alike,” as the Complete Streets Design Manual puts it.

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This New Study Should End Downtown Dallas’ Parking Conversation

Anyone familiar with downtown Dallas knows about its parking paradox. According to many in the real estate community, there is simply not enough parking — such a lack, in fact, that it makes economic sense to build new parking garages to accommodate all of the cars that want to be downtown. On the other hand, take a walk through downtown and all you see is parking — huge expanses of lots, blocks and blocks of garages — so much so that parking is a major reason why downtown can feel so dead, vacant, and even dangerous.

I can appreciate why the real estate market responds to the issue of parking in the way it does. When you’re trying to fill up a giant skyscraper with office tenants, it is difficult to compete with buildings outside the central loop that can offer easy access to parking. The desire to add more parking downtown is part of a belief that if you make it easier to get to and park in downtown more people will come, and the area will thrive. But a new study shows just how backwards this thinking actually is.

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Report: Trinity Toll Road Will Make Regional Travel a Little Better, Mobility Within Dallas Worse

Brandon Formby shares newly released traffic estimates regarding the impact of the Trinity Parkway project:

According to North Texas traffic projections for 2035, drivers who pass through a 34.3-mile area around the road will collectively drive 8 million miles a day if Trinity Parkway is built. But they’ll only drive 7 million miles a day that same year if it isn’t. And while the toll road’s existence is expected to help drivers around the urban core spend 4,817 fewer hours sitting in traffic jams each day, the time they’ll spend driving overall will jump about 11,677 hours a day.

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DFW Airport Has the Most Guns

Or, to be more precise, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport caught the most people trying to take guns on planes in 2015. The Associated Press and KERA report today that the Transportation Security Administration says 2,653 firearms were found in carry-on bags last year:

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport ranked No. 1, with 153 discoveries. Other airports with the most gun discoveries were Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, 144; Houston George Bush, 100; Denver, 90, and Phoenix, 73.

Dallas Love Field ranked No. 8 with 57 guns found.

TSA screened 708 million passengers in 2015, 40 million more than in 2014.

Atlanta is a busier airport when it comes to passenger traffic, so D/FW is a bit of an overachiever. Love Field too, considering that much bigger O’Hare and LAX don’t even crack the top 10 on this list. (Either that, I guess, or the TSA agents in Chicago and Los Angeles are awful at their jobs.)

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Ask John Neely Bryan: What’s the High Five?

Question: What exactly is the “High-five” or “Hi-5” or whatever? — Pedro A.

I must assume from this inquiry that you are either newly transplanted to Dallas or you have been asleep for the past 15 years. It’s difficult to fathom any reasonable alternative explanation for how one could remain unfamiliar with the nickname for the monstrosity that lurks at the meeting of two massive concrete thoroughfares: Interstate 635 and U.S. Hellway 75.

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New Trinity Parkway Advisory Committee Includes Vocal Critics

So reports the Morning News this afternoon:

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings today sent word to his fellow City Council members that the citizens advisory committee will include project champions Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor; Lee Jackson, a former Dallas County judge; and Mary Ceverha, a Trinity Commons Foundation board member. On the flip side, it will also include vocal project critics Rafael Anchia, a state representative from Dallas; Angela Hunt, a former council member; and Robert Meckfessel, another Trinity Commons board member.

Those six will join — and were collectively selected by — City Council member Sandy Greyson and former toll agency chairman Jere Thompson

It’ll be this committee’s task to decide whether whatever technical solution government staffers come up with to reconcile the proposed toll road with a park alongside the river fits the pictures the “dream team” got everybody all hot and bothered over last year.

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Houston Is Beating Us at Bussing

“Bussing” as in riding an omnibus, not kissing.

A while back, Peter pointed to changes Houston had made to the deployment of its buses, changes from which Dallas Area Rapid Transit might learn lessons.

Today on StreetSmart, Patrick Kennedy shares updated numbers that further underline Houston’s success:

Previously Houston had a system much like DART buses with convoluted route systems that served the entire service area equally poorly. Thus, ridership suffered.  Instead, they focused on route efficiency, prioritizing corridors with high potential for ridership (high levels of origins and destinations), and increased frequency to improve reliability that you wouldn’t be standing for an hour waiting for the next bus and improved travel speeds to get you to your destination.  The market is responding.  And because it is responding so strongly, I have to imagine this will lead to bumps in real estate value along some of these frequent bus corridors.

Why Are We Even Talking About a New East-West Highway Through Dallas?

Yesterday’s news that General Motors has invested $500 million in the mustachioed ride-sharing service Lyft, with plans for the building of a fleet of self-driving cars, is yet another sign of the massive transformation under way in America’s transportation systems.

As Goldman Sachs noted in a report last year, only 15 percent of Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000, the largest generation in our country’s history) consider it “extremely important” to own a car. Fully 30 percent of this cohort say they have no plans to buy a car in the near future. They are far more comfortable than pre-Reagan Era folks are with the “sharing economy.” They’re happy to rely on services like Lyft and Uber (as well as public transit) to get around.

GM isn’t the first automaker to read these tea leaves. BMW is behind car-sharing service DriveNow and Daimler AG has Car2Go.

So why is the North Central Texas Council of Governments continuing to operate as if its past assumptions about the growth of vehicle traffic on our roads remain valid? Isn’t talk about the need for a new east-west highway across Dallas ignoring important evidence?

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Why We Should Make Northwest Highway a Parkway

Over on Preston Hollow People, a fellow named Wick Allison, who used to write occasionally on FrontBurner, weighs in on how to fix the stretch of Northwest Highway that runs past Preston Center:

There is a solution that can be implemented now to transform Northwest Highway into the neighborhood Main Street it should be. That solution is to redesign the roadway to reduce the out-of-neighborhood traffic that now uses it.

That solution is easy because it is already happening. In 2014, Northwest Highway carried 48,303 vehicles through Preston Hollow. The historical average has been 56,535. In 2002, TxDOT measured 62,353 vehicles, which may have been its peak.

Contrary to perception, traffic on Northwest Highway is down more than 14 percent in the last 12 years. From its peak, traffic is down 22 percent. To quote Yogi Berra, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”