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Next City on Dallas’ Botched Transit History

Next City takes a look at Dallas’ public transit history and competition in the northern reaches of the region between DART and para-transit companies. There’s not much new in the piece if you’ve been following the issue closely, but perhaps the best part of the article is its summation of how policy and an evolving and expanding region have created a dysfunctional transit network:

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Announcing StreetSmart, D Magazine’s New Transportation and Urbanism Blog

My personal ignorance when it comes to matters of urbanism makes me grateful that Dallas has someone like Patrick Kennedy pushing it — however reluctantly — towards new modes of thinking about how to shape this city. Patrick’s blog, first known as Car-Free in Big D and then Walkable DFW, has been an invaluable conversation starter that we’ve referenced and linked to countless times on FrontBurner. He briefly wrote a monthly column in the ink-on-paper version of D, but today he joins us in an even more significant role.

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our newest online community, StreetSmart. Walkable DFW has been adopted into the DMagazine.com family, and the renaming signifies an expansion of its mission. StreetSmart will focus on intelligent — and occasionally irreverent — urban planning, with discussion of the important housing, neighborhood, and transportation issues and decisions taking place in Dallas-Fort Worth.

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Will Automated Cars Revolutionize Urban Transportation?

As we bicker back and forth about tearing down roads, building toll roads, managing sprawl, creating density, improving public transit, and all the hot button issues that will affect mobility in DFW — and therefore dictate what kind of city Dallas evolves into — changes are afoot that may throw all of our assumptions about the future out the window.

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Are We Witnessing The Fall of the House of Michael Morris?

As Liz mentioned in Leading Off, a planned toll road connecting Garland to Greenville has sparked a statistical feud between the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Last week, when 1,500 people showed up at a public meeting in Rockwall in opposition to the proposed road, one citizen brought to light the fact that the numbers the NCTCOG used to justify their new toll road are dramatically larger than traffic predictions made by TxDOT. If you want to dig into how much larger they are and why, read the well-reported DMN story. What interests me is what this current standoff reveals about how our region’s transportation policy is made.

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99% Invisible on the Scheme to Make Dallas a Seaport

The great podcast 99% Invisible just did an episode about our city’s admittedly harebrained idea to establish Dallas (a city 300 miles from the ocean, 700 miles via the Trinity River) as an important seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. I’d heard much of this before, but I hadn’t realize that our incongruously massive freeway bridges over the river are massive specifically to let ships pass under:

In a series of fits and starts over the next 55 years, the Port of Dallas project kept moving forward. In anticipation of the imminent navigability of the Trinity River, new freeway bridges constructed over the river were built extra tall to allow sea-going vessels clearance underneath. But by the time the money and political clout was ready to finish the project once and for all, Dallas didn’t really need a seaport. The new DFW airport would do just fine.

So the city of Dallas moved their river from the center of town to a walled-off floodplain for a Port of Dallas which never came to pass, and for years the diverted river festered; it became a place to dump sewage, and trash, and even dead bodies. No one went there on purpose.

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The City of Dallas Isn’t Sharing in the Region’s Economic Boom

While scrolling through my Facebook timeline the other day, I was startled by a post from something called “Dallas Economic Development” which trumpeted the “fact” that “Dallas is a top 10 city for affluent residents.” This leapt out at me, because I suspected it to be untrue, so I decided to dig further.

Checking the Facebook page for “Downtown Economic Development,” I discovered that it is sponsored by the City of Dallas Office of Economic Development, which “supports existing and prospective businesses and the development and redevelopment of downtown and neighborhoods in southern Dallas.” Hmm … seemed legit, so far. To the extent I had any remaining doubts about the veracity of this “fact,” the Downtown Economic Development post referenced a Dallas Morning News blog post by Pamela Yip headlined “Dallas vaults into top 10 population centers for affluent.”

Hmm … I know Ms. Yip to be pretty careful when it comes to her writing, so I decided to press on. Her post made the claim that “Dallas and Houston were big beneficiaries of the trends, leading in the growth of high net worth individuals and wealth. The cities recorded the most aggressive rates of wealth growth among the affluent, both in 2013 and in the last five years, the report said. The cities also were the largest gainers in the growth of affluent residents.” Now I was definitely intrigued, as this simply did not square with the city of Dallas that I know.

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1611 Main Street, R.I.P.

Sunday afternoon, while the Cowboys were losing to the Rams, I heard a loud bang and went to investigate. It was the sound of a wrecking ball hitting the 129-year-old building next door to ours. I walked out to Main Street and saw people standing in front of Neiman’s, their phones pointed toward 1611 Main Street. I had missed the first few swings of the crane, but I got there just in time to see the top portion of the building crumble to the ground.

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Trinity Toll Road Named to Consumer Advocacy Nonprofit’s ‘Highway Boondoggle’ List

The Texas Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy nonprofit, released a report today that names the Trinity toll road one of 11 road projects in America it considers a “highway boondoggle.” What does that mean? Well, in short, it’s a big, expensive project with little potential positive impact, as the lead in the DMN piece covering the report drives home:

By 2035, the $1.5 billion Trinity Parkway is expected to allow motorists on roads and highways in a 34-square-mile area to drive faster than they do today — by about 2 miles per hour. And 47 percent of lane miles in that area will be congested in 21 years regardless of whether the toll road is built or not.

Still, the road has its supporters, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, who seems to believe the project is critical. Not sure how adding 90,000 drivers to the downtown road network while only reducing vehicles on the Mixmaster sections of I-35 and I-30 by 8,000 to 29,000 is critical or worth the $1.5 billion price tag.

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SAGA Pod/Learning Curve: Jim Schutze on DISD, the Toll Road, and Moving to Plano

Jim Schutze stops by to discuss his column from this week, which basically covers all the important things in Dallas: How we’re going to get middle-class parents to send their kids to DISD schools (or if we even should want to do that); how that would affect the ability of young couples to stay in the city, as they increasingly want to do; and how the Trinity River toll road (and the thinking behind it) makes all of this harder than it has to be. Also, I play a song on my phone. Because Tim convinced me to. The lesson: Never listen to Tim.

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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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Simplest Plan Ever For Dallas’ Future: Make It More Like Dallas’ Past

A streetcar system blanketing the city. Crowded downtown streets. A Trinity River Project without a toll road. Frog town. The cafes of Deep Ellum in the era of Blind Lemon Jefferson. Mayors who were Swiss abolitionists and former socialist utopians. Dallas was WAY hipper a hundred years or so ago. So that’s my suggestion for any and all conversation about where this city should head: let’s just try to make it more like it was.

What sparked this random, useless thought? Well, there’s more depressing news today about failed plans here, here, and here. But then I saw this post about Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff, which, in the brochure that dates to 1906, looks a lot cooler than anything that’s in Dallas today (seriously, it had the world’s largest roller skating rink). So let’s start there: bring back Lake Cliff Park as Dallas’ Coney Island. Anyway. Blah. Of course there was also the rampant racism, oligarchical governance, and all that other fun stuff. But, from an urban planning and land use perspective, this city had it figured out (oh, except for, you know, not paving the streets of or extending sanitation to West Dallas or Little Mexico — but come on, I’m trying to be nostalgic here). So what’s the biggest difference between yesterday’s Dallas and today? You know it: highways. Had to get that in there. Gratuitous. I know. Okay, I’m going back to trying to write about this.

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Poll: What One Word Best Describes Dallas?

Of course, it’s ridiculous to think that Dallas — bustling and vibrant, full of multitudinous contradictions creating the very friction that so often ignites inventiveness — could possibly be summed up in a single word. But let’s try anyway.

We put the question to eight of the Dallas 40 who appear on our 40th anniversary September issue. See for yourself what they had to say in this video, and then cast your vote on which you think encapsulates our city best.

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Can Indie Music Drive Economic Growth, Transform Neighborhoods?

The Washington Post has a story today that looks at how independent music scenes can transform local economies, focusing on Omaha, NE, where the city invested in an indie rock club with the hope that it would kick-start the economy.

It’s an experiment in arts investment for other mid-sized cities to watch, a government-backed indie rock weapon against urban decay.

At the center of the research behind the story is Michael Seman, a “music geographer” who is a senior research associate at the University of North Texas’s Center for Economic Development and Research. Seman is also a singer and guitarist in the Denton band Shiny Around the Edges. In a accompanying interview on the Washington Post‘s website, Seman talks about his field (music geography) and how music can help struggling towns and economies. A taste:

Music scenes can act as branding agents, spur urban redevelopment and emerge as industries in their own right. I’ve also found that music scene participants are civic-minded and often become involved in philanthropic pursuits, run for political office, and seek employment in city departments.

 

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