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The Difficulties of Explaining McKinney Avenue to 3 Guys From Miami

Saturday night, after dropping a friend at her swanky Main Street pad, I decided to head over to Highland Park Village for a bit of merry-making. This would require cash. Luckily, a strip shopping center with plenty of free parking (and, most importantly, an ATM) was right on the way, located at the corner of Pearl and McKinney.

As I whipped in to the parking space in front of the bank, I observed three bewildered-looking, well-dressed middle-aged men standing in front. A rough transcript of our conversation follows.

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Another Free Idea for DART: Commission a Designer Bus and Make Bus Riding Sexier

Yesterday Unfair Park told us that DART has some competition from another transit organization that may be cannibalizing its main source of income, namely, the self-defeating strategy that forces DART to continually gobble up further flung municipalities into its system so it can increase the sales tax dollars coming into its coffers — all the while promising service that is increasingly spread thin.

As I have argued before (here and here), DART’s problem is that it lacks a centralized network that can get people in and around the city efficiently and practically, connecting people to jobs, entertainment, shops, etc. And I think the best way create such a system quickly and cheaply (relatively) is to rethink DARTs miserable bus system. Step one should be to force all DART board members to ride the bus everyday for a month so they realize how miserable the bus service they provide actually is.

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Transportation Expert: The Next Two Years Are Critical For Dallas

Last night, Jeff Tumlin, a transportation planner who has worked in cities from Seattle and Vancouver to Moscow and Abu Dhabi, spoke to a half-packed auditorium at the Magnolia Theater in the West Village about the state of Dallas transit. The talk was the opening event in a transportation summit which continues today at the Latino Cultural Center and is hosted by the AIA Dallas and the Greater Dallas Planning Council.

The summit offers an opportunity to pause the ongoing conversation about transportation and take stock of where we are and where we are headed. Thus far, this conversation has latched onto a few key issues – killing the Trinity Toll Road, advocating for the boulevard-ing of I-345. But in his talk, Tumlin urged the city to take a step back from debating specific infrastructure projects and instead take a system-wide look at how transportation policy is developed in the region and how it can best address the challenges that face DFW as it strives to remain competitive in the next century.

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Balanced Vision Plan Co-Author on Trinity River Toll Road: ‘I Want to Apologize to Dallas’

People, if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet for this week’s big urban planning event — Choices for a 21st Century Dallas: Connecting People and Opportunities — you’d best do so now. And get your popcorn ready, because Harvard professor and Balanced Vision Plan co-author Alex Krieger says he’s coming to town “with guns blazing.”

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Riveting, Live Streaming Entertainment: The Texas Transportation Commission’s Monthly Meeting

The Texas Transportation Commission, the governmental body which overseas TxDOT, is holding its monthly meeting in Dallas today at Union Station (I wonder if anyone took DART in to it). Plans for I-345 and the Trinity Toll Road are among the topics under discussion. And here’s the good news: the meeting is live streaming over on the Dallas Morning News‘ website. So all you transit wonks out there can blow your afternoon by watching the most excruciatingly boring meeting east of the RTC. Turn it into a drinking game: take a drink every time you hear the words “leveraging,” “delivery, “project,” or “facility.”

UPDATE: Sen. Royce West just got up in the meeting and very emphatically announced his opposition to the at-grade boulevard-ing of I-345

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Managed Toll Lanes Are Taking Over North Texas

The News published this story on Sunday about the proliferation of managed toll lanes. Just now getting to it. My apologies. The story has a look at “plans to build the nation’s largest network of managed toll lanes into the region’s existing highways,” and it notes that “virtually every major highway project in the Dallas-Fort Worth area involves a tolling component.” I get it. We’ve run out of money to build more roads. No one has the stomach to talk about raising taxes the traditional way. So the road builders say we need a per-use tax. But two things in this story caught my eye.

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It’s Great DART is Considering Bus Rapid Transit. But, Per Usual, It’s Not Enough.

Last week DART finally connected its light rail system to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Hurray. Raise a glass. Pat yourself on the back. Finished? Okay, moving on.

Today the public transit system said it is considering another should-have-happened-years-ago option for the future: the introduction of bus rapid transit lines to connect suburbs. What’s bus rapid transit (or BRT to transit nerds), you ask? Well, it’s simply a long range bus line that pretends to function like a train, only it’s much cheaper than building rail. The buses are longer, they run in dedicated lanes or roads, and they stop at actual stations. The most famous success story for BRT is Bogotá, Columbia. You can find out more about that here.

DART’s proposed BRT line would run along the route that has been set aside for the Cotton Belt rail extension, connecting Plano and Fort Worth. DART has wanted to build that rail line for years, but it’s really expensive and it doesn’t look like funding will come through any time soon. So, why not BRT? Good idea. Do it. After all, the hub-and-spoke DART system does make regional transport impractical. Who wants to go through downtown to get from Plano to Carrolton? (See, I don’t hate suburbs. I’m thinking about you guys out there.)

But here’s my question: why stop there?

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Craig Watkins Needs a Chauffeur

By now, you’re aware that District Attorney Craig Watkins hit someone on the Tollway and then paid that someone to keep quiet about the accident. Read this Tod Robberson post from yesterday. The FBI is now looking into the matter. As Robberson points out, Watkins apparently did the old “Do you know who I am?” bit at the accident scene. Let’s go back to another accident involving Watkins, this one from 2007.

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Two Audi R8s Go Racing Through Uptown. You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next.

An alert, vacationing coworker sends along a link to this Reddit article posted by someone who took pictures of an R8 that didn’t fare well in a race yesterday. From the comments, it appears that at least one of the racers was an SMU student known as The R8 Guy. All things considered, I guess there are worse nicknames to have. Like Hyundai XG300 Guy.

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Alice Murray, President of Dallas Citizens Council, Says She Thinks Trinity Tollroad Will Happen

This morning I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast discussion hosted by Urban Land Institute North Texas. After a keynote from the ULI’s Rachel MacCleery about the group’s most recent report on infrastructure and how it shapes competitive cities, Robert Wilonsky moderated a panel populated by MacCleery, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Rousakis, and Alice Murray, who is the president of the Dallas Citizens Council. At the risk of giving you the false impression that the morning was dull and nothing of note happened until the confab was nearly over and Councilwoman Sandy Greyson asked a question about the Trinity tollroad, I will say that the room did perk up a bit when Greyson raised her hand.

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Leading Off (7/11/14)

How Soon Until Every Dallas Highway Is Tolled? Tomorrow new express lanes will open on Interstate 35E, allowing drivers to pay to bypass the usually congested interchange from I-35E to Interstate 635. Meanwhile some Collin County leaders are pushing back against a Texas Department of Transportation proposal to make the HOV lane on U.S. Highway 75 a managed toll lane. Their counterproposal is to get rid of the HOV lane entirely, opening it up for all traffic.

ACE Cash Express to Pay $10 Million For Illegal Tactics. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that the payday lender used false threats, intimidation, and harassing calls to bully borrowers. ACE also took on new loans to pay off old loans, purposefully driving customers even further into debt. The company’s training manual even had a graphic depicting how to keep the vicious cycle going.

Abducted Boy Reunited With Father.  At age 2, Drew Drees was taken by his mother, who didn’t have custodial rights after she and his father had divorced, to India. Eight years later, she returned with Drew and was promptly arrested at DFW Airport after arriving yesterday.

It’s July 11. Free slurpees, everybody.

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Tesla Maybe, Who Knows, Possibly Sort Of Considering Southern Dallas Factory

The idea is certainly eye-catching and extremely heavily qualified: Tesla might be looking at land in southern Dallas for a new $5 billion battery factory. Would that be huge? Indeed, it would. Tons of jobs, and likely a ton of ancillary development would come along with it, too, because workers need places to eat and live and so on. Good times. Yes, sir. But, OK, hold on, where did this information come from?

Michael Morris, director of transportation for the Regional Transportation Council, said an unidentified site in southern Dallas “may be placed under consideration” for the factory and that additional transportation improvements are needed in the area.

Call me “justifiably skeptical.”

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TxDOT Now Says It Could Cost $242 Million To Repair I-345

TxDOT has long been using $100 million as the cost of repairing I-345, all while consistently nudging the amount it would take to tear it down further north, to where it is now — around $1.9 billion. How long have they been using $100 million? Since 2005. According to spokesperson Michelle Raglon, that number comes from a study that only analyzed “a handful of segments of 345.” Why is that a big deal? There are 165 segments. That is a lot more than a handful, and those are eight-year-old cost estimates.

In other words: it’s not just hogwash. It’s practically ancient hogwash.

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Vonciel Jones Hill Still Believes In the Trinity Parkway

The city councilwoman and chair of the council’s transportation committee has a piece in today’s Dallas Morning News urging citizens not to lose faith on the Trinity Parkway, even though more and more people have and everyone should.

In the first paragraph, Jones Hill says, “Dallas exists because of business, not because of lakes or rivers. Business needs a strong transportation system to be able to thrive.” In the last, she says, “Imagine what a fully realized Trinity — lakes, athletic fields, bridges, flood control, transportation improvements — can do.” Does she make an argument between those paragraphs that solves those seemingly contradictory statements? Not really. But maybe I’m just stupid. I’ll pull out a few sections for your perusal. Maybe you can help me.

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