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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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The New York Times Visits Dallas

In an article posted today and headlined “Texas, 3 Ways,” Robert Draper (himself a Texas native) writes of recent sojourns to Houston, Dallas, and El Paso. He spends a Saturday observing yoga in Klyde Warren Park and lunching at Lark on the Park:

chatted with the owner, the longtime Dallas restaurateur Shannon Wynne. When he commented, “Dallas has matured more in the last five years than in the past 25,” I asked him why this was. He guffawed in reply, “Well, it certainly can’t be the locals.” He added that the city had benefited greatly from new blood, and that they in turn had emboldened establishment Dallasites to reconsider the city’s possibilities.

While Mr. Wynne talked, I looked over his shoulder at the restaurant’s walls, which were covered with intricate chalk drawings that rotate quarterly: one by a local tattoo artist, another by a medical illustrator, a third depicting the University of Texas at Dallas’s top-ranked chess team. Meanwhile, outside, dozens of residents were tossing Frisbees, or ice skating. It occurred to me that while Dallas has always exhibited the capacity to surprise others, it had now succeeded in surprising itself.

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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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Will the $65M Crescent Redo Really Help Uptown’s Pedestrian Connectivity?

For all that’s written about how great and successful the redevelopment of Uptown has been, there are still some major ways in which the neighborhood fails to provide real, coherent pedestrian connectivity. There are the skinny sidewalks up and down McKinney, for one. Patrick Kennedy has written about the problems of the Lower McKinney area. And Wylie H recounted a story that captured the absurdity of giving directions to some out-of-town-ers who were lost in that terrible strip mall at McKinney and Pearl.

That area – the intersection of McKinney and Pearl — is an important transition point between State-Thomas, LoMac, and downtown, and this morning there’s news that it may get some help in the form of a $65 million redo of its lynchpin, Phillip Johnson’s Crescent Court. The owners of the office, hotel, and retail complex hope to address some of the ways the office tower can better interface with the surrounding area.

That’s great. But, per usual, the plans include some good ideas and some bad ones.

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Does Dallas-Fort Worth Do a Good Job Attracting the ‘Creative Class’?

Reading this article by Richard Florida about the mobility of the creative class mostly made me realize how little I know about Richard Florida and his “creative class” theory. Sure, I’ve heard the general takeaway: that knowledge-based workers drive economic development and urban growth. But here he talks about a recent study that drills into details, breaking apart this “class” into three forms: synthetic, analytic, and symbolic. Each segment shows different patterns of movement. Dallas comes close to the top in two categories.

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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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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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New Lease on Life For Two Historic Buildings Downtown

Two buildings downtown that have sat vacant for decades are set for major redevelopments. Yesterday, the Dallas Business Journal broke news that the historic Dallas High School has finally found a developer, and what’s encouraging is that it’s South Side on Lamar developer Jack Mathews. Mathews has a strong track record with regards to turning around historic properties. Dallas High School has sat on preservation lists for years, and with its odd lot – adjacent to I-345 and Dart – it was clear it would take a creative developer (plus a rebounding downtown residential market) to make the property work. Mathews hasn’t said what he’ll do with the building, but it’s reasonable to expect some mix of residential and commercial.

The other historic property long considered in-danger is the 508 Park, the four story art deco (or, “Zig Zag Moderne,” if you want to nit-pick architectural styles) that was famously the place where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson made half of his recordings.

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Klyde Warren Park Wins National Open Space Award

We like to beat up on Dallas from time to time in this space, complaining about how it doesn’t do this right, or doesn’t do that right. Well one thing it definitely got right is Klyde Warren Park (even though we can still quibble about over programming). The Urban Land Institute has taken notice. Yesterday it awarded Klyde Warren its 2014 Urban Open Space Award, the “Oscar” of park awards. The Klyde beat out parks in other not-as-world-class cities like Columbus, Tulsa, Santa Fe, and Cincinnati.

“Klyde Warren is not only successful in fixing an urban fracture that isolated development and challenged the existing potential for the area; it also demonstrates that a long-term vision and commitment are critical to foster a sense of place and community, with lasting positive rippling effects,” said M. Leanne Lachman, Chair of the ULI Global Awards for Excellence Jury and President of Lachman Associates.

That’s right. And the park is celebrating two years of rippling this week. Here’s the full release.

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Poll: What Will the Trinity Lakes Look Like?

We all had a good laugh along with Wylie H. Dallas yesterday as he pointed out the absurdity of some of the depictions featured in the Trinity Lakes Amenities plan presented at a city committee meeting yesterday. But Dallas is going to do something with the river, eventually, right? So what’s most likely to become reality?

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