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Making Dallas Even Better

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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The Real ‘Dallas Way’: Illogical, Absurdist Thinking

Here’s a pretty efficient summary of why the Trinity River Project is completely bonkers via DMN architecture critic Mark Lamster.

Only in Dallas would you design a highway in a park, and only in Dallas would you design a highway in a park before designing the park itself. Or even developing a general concept of that park, much less creating an authority that might actually be charged with building and paying for it.

No wonder, then, that we have a project that has been meandering along for the better part of two decades with no tangible result beyond an endless series of conflicting reports, studies, and briefing documents.

As I mentioned yesterday, other places don’t think like this. The Dallas Way of doing things has been alternatively described as bold thinking bolstered by a relentlessly entrepreneurial can-do spirit or — as Ambassador Ron Kirk recently put it — inefficiency brought on by endless bickering between  interest groups. But the reality is “the Dallas Way” describes a city so mired in the overreach of private interests and a city government set up to cater to those interests that it produces plainly and absurdly dysfunctional thinking.

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Meanwhile in New York, Governor Dedicates $40 Million for Parkway Removal

While we in Dallas debate whether or not to build a billion dollar road in the Trinity River flood plain, the city of Niagara Falls, NY is planning to tear out their own four lane highway because it separates the city from its waterfront.

The Robert Moses Parkway (yes, that Robert Moses) was opened in the 1960s, and it was constructed as a way to bypass Niagara Falls, looping around the city’s downtown and cutting off access to the adjacent Niagara Gorge. Its removal will allow the land formerly occupied by the highway to be turned into trails and green space.

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Poll: What Will Happen to the Trinity River Project?

Following yesterday’s presentation of the Trinity Parkway Advisory Committee to the Dallas City Council Transportation & Trinity River Project Committee, which way do you now think the wind is blowing on the proposal that we’re all so sick of talking about: wedging a toll road and a park along the river?

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As Mayor Seeks Public Input on Trinity Road, It Is Time for the Project to Truly Evolve

The Dallas City Council’s transportation committee just wound up its briefing on the now-vetted plans put forth by the mayor’s so-called “Dream Team” of urban designers to rethink the Trinity Toll Road. There’s much to sort through in the back-and-forth conversation that unfolded this morning between council members, city staff, and the members of an oversight committee that was appointed to review the early technical adaptations of the conceptual plans for the road. I won’t get into all of it in too much detail here, but here are the key takeaways from my perspective.

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The Racist Legacy of America’s Inner-City Highways

There’s an article on Vox today that offers a concise summary of just how we went from being a nation of streetcar riders to a nation of long haul auto commuters. Its a familiar story to anyone who knows the history of urbanism in the 20th century. First came pressure from the auto industry to build new roads for their cars, resulting in a push for public funding of “freeways.” Then came the vision of a future America modeled after the modernist Utopian dream so compellingly depicted in General Motor’s Futurama exhibit at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

With public sentiment favoring a world made easy by zipping to and from suburban homes and downtown offices on ribbons of concrete — and a booming post-war economy that made car ownership more possible — President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, kick-starting the interstate system. Eisenhower didn’t want the highways to extend into the cities, but once he signed the federal legislation, the highway engineers took over. There was no turning back.

In America’s cities, highways became more than a transportation amenity.

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Why American Airlines Didn’t Pay Income Taxes

It’s not because they didn’t turn a profit. Thanks to a marked decline in fuel prices, in fact, they posted a record profit. But American Airlines Group is one of 27 profitable companies in the S&P 500 not to pay any income taxes in 2015.

How’d they manage that trick, despite finishing $7.6 billion in the black for the year? Why through the dark arts standard practices of corporate accounting, of course.

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Call an Uber to Pitch Your Million-Dollar Idea, Dallas

Uber — the de-centralized, app-based taxi service — has found creative ways to garner themselves free press. Example: short-term puppy rentals. Today brings another such temporary add-on to their usual services. It’s called UberPITCH, though I don’t know why “PITCH” is in all caps.

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today, riders in Downtown, Uptown, or Deep Ellum will see an extra option when they open the app. By selecting “PITCH,” you can meet up with a venture capitalist who will be moving about the city in one of the company’s black SUVs. Each would-be entrepreneur will then have 15 minutes to make a case for a prospective investment, and the ride will be free.

Which idea should we encourage Zac and Tim to pitch? A 10-part Netflix season for Rica y Chato? A double-decker deck park? An app that will save you the trouble of naming your dog? Their long-rumored dream of opening a bar/detective agency?

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Leading Off (3/3/16)

American airlines/Southwest vie for Cuba routes. In light of newly liberalized air travel regulations, American submitted an application yesterday to the Department of Transportation to launch a flight from D/FW Airport to Havana, Cuba, as well as flights from Charlotte, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago to Cuba. Southwest has followed suit, asking for flights Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando to Havana. The DOT plans to dish out routes by summer, with service beginning in the fall.

Obama will be here March 11 and 12. The president will travel to Dallas in about a week (after stopping in Austin) to head up Democratic National Committee fundraising events and raise money for Dallas’ Senate Democrats.

Officer Hofer’s death encourages acts of kindness. Euless police officer David Hofer was killed Tuesday in the line of duty. Using the hashtag #ForHofer, people on social media started posting acts of good will toward law enforcement officials to honor Hofer’s death. These included donating money, picking up the tab for cops at a restaurant, and delivering baked goods to police stations.

New Trinity Toll Road Plans Delayed. Are We Waiting For Godot?

At this afternoon’s Trinity Commons Foundation luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel, Mayor Mike Rawlings emphasized the importance he places on the creation of a park between the Trinity River levees, even as he continued to underline his support for the construction of the Trinity Parkway toll road:

Rawlings cited myriad inspirations, among them from Buffalo Bayou in Houston, The High Line in New York and Park Presidio in San Francisco. He said the park, whatever it looks like, will be “connected to” to the adjacent properties.

“The timing is such that the work is starting to take place,” Rawlings said. “Initial conversations have been had. Once we finalize the Trinity Parkway plans, right on the heels of that we will begin our discussion in a serious manner about this park, making sure we have the water features that are important, that we feel a part of nature when we’re there as well.”

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Leading Off (2/26/16)

Marco Rubio to Rally at Klyde Warren. Following a “fiery” debate performance last night in Houston, the candidate that “GOP elites” have finally decided to back as the best chance of stopping outsider Donald Trump from winning the party’s presidential nomination will address supporters in the downtown deck park starting at 9 a.m. today. Doors open at 8 a.m. You can register your RSVP over here.

Trump to Visit Cowtown. The Republican Party frontrunner will stage an event of his own at noon today at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Doors open at 9 a.m., and the Star-T says between 7,000 and 8,000 people are expected to attend. If you want to be there, register via this link. Soak up the attention from the politicos while you can, folks. Now until Tuesday’s primaries likely marks the high point for Texas’ influence on the 2016 election — aside from the money generated by Park Cities fundraisers, of course.

SMU Raises $1.15 Billion. The Hilltop is flush with cash thanks to an effort that ended in December and will fund scholarships, faculty positions, and buildings. Launched in 2006, the initial goal of the Second Century Campaign was $750 million. The super-sized final tally is the largest amount ever raised by a private university in Texas.

Mystery of the Oak Cliff Corpse Solved. Dallas Police say that Christopher Brian Colbert posed as Ronald Shumway, the North Oak Cliff man whose body was found buried in the side yard of his Winnetka Avenue home in September. An arrest warrant was issued for Colbert on Monday, for two charges related to pretending to be Shumway in order to sell the house. Shumway’s death is being investigated as a homicide.

Manziel Assault Charges Head to Grand Jury. Former Texas A&M star Johnny Football could be in significant legal trouble for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend at Hotel ZaZa in Uptown in January.

Love Field Noise Complaints Way Up. Yes, it’s great that we can now catch direct flights from the center of Dallas to far-flung destinations like New York and Seattle, but the lifting of the Wright Amendment has left airport neighbors to contend with the effects of increased air traffic. NBC 5 says thousands of flights during the last year have violated guidelines to only use the west runway (which keeps planes away from the highest concentration of homes) at night. Between 2014 and 2015 there’s been a 171 percent increase in noise complaints.

Parking Is Not an Actual Problem at Preston Center

Over on Candy’s Dirt, Jon Anderson has a nice recap over yesterday’s Preston Center Task Force meeting. The group, which includes former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, is charged with considering the potential for development in and around that southwest corner of the intersection of Northwest Highway and Preston Road.

Among the topics discussed at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center was parking. The task force had asked consultants to study the situation, as there existed a belief among some members that parking is often too difficult to find at the shopping center, despite a free, two-story, public garage that sits at its center. Here’s what they found:

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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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