Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Two Greatest Traits

I decided to bump this to its own post since it 1) occurred today and 2) is in the comments of a post over a year old:

Blogger dkompare said...

Intriguing plan, though I can only envision a Big Dig-like submersion of that stretch of 75, rather than an all-out closure, which (assuming current traffic just gets worse) would channel southbound cars into the W-R and then the horrific 35 to 30 stretch, or suddenly make Haskell a new rush-hour drag.

Still, thinking about it, it could well be worth it for all that land that would open up, and the connection of downtown with East Dallas. Hmm...

March 21, 2011 4:42 PM

Blogger larchlion said...

At first, we always only think that it would be outlandish to live without that Plano to Dallas connection, until:

1) we start to think that only Plano (or any other suburban municipality) wins in this situation. Dallas loses and must bare the brunt of the externalities of freeways through a city which is built NOT for freeways (whereas suburbs are built entirely based upon a freeway oriented system). This is why many American cities have been hollowed out in their core and the intracity highways were the straws for the parasites to suck the blood from. This is also why Eisenhower was opposed to his interstate system extending into actual cities (or the spending of which would become so addictive).

2) a freeway is closed for an extended period of time, such as Woodall Rogers as the park is constructed, or

3) we get tired of our commute being so dreadful, unproductive, costly, and wasteful, or

4) gas prices get to a point (even though they are already artificially deflated) where more and more start taking transit and saying, "hey, this ain't so bad. I can read a paper, file my nails, gawk at the opposite sex, or have a convo with a crazy person on the train."

5) we start to think about return on investment, which is my main point. Showing the economic benefits to the City and its residents. Big Dig cost over $20 billion (not to mention the costs on top of that of time, delays, etc.) and how much has been leveraged? Most of the area was already built out. Sure, the area is nicer. It still isn't great, but there is more investment, more business, but the ROI ratio was very, very low.

This is my concern for Woodall Rodgers, that it costs 100 million, but how much new tax base comes because of it? Most of the land is spoken for, my guess is best case scenario, 1:1. A good public investment needs to be leveraging 5:1 or 10:1 or 20:1.

Tunneling a freeway is the equivalent of gold plating it. And we don't have money for it. We also don't have money for so much underutilized land along existing freeways. The only answer that really makes sense to me from a public/fiscal standpoint in terms of leveraging new tax base and investment is to tear down a freeway, opening up the public right-of-way land for private development.

Seoul, SK has had a 10:1 return in 5 years after removing its central freeway.

We don't have the money to build Project Pegasus, $2 billion. As soon as we do, or think we do, or convince banks that a new gold plated freeway will leverage tax base to get our bond ratings up high enough to finance it, we'll be right back to tearing down and rebuilding a freeway, and guess what, we won't be getting that auxiliary investment b/c really, nothing has changed.

Public coffers are broke. The biggest asset cities/states have is public Right-of-way.

The initial deconstruction of PP is maybe a 1/4th or 1/5th of the overall budget. The land sale alone of everything beneath it, not to mention everything along side it that is repositioned would more than pay for the destruction, the boulevarding, and hell, maybe even the public school system.

Now all of a sudden, it isn't so easy to drive. It isn't necessary to spend that 7,000/yr on an extra car per household. That is more money in the community (and choice for what to spend it on...or save!). Those are more riders on DART making DART more viable and less dependent on subsidy.

We can't possibly apply the same formulae for trip generation and total road capacity that has defined urban development and transportation planning for so long, making the city what it is today, if we expect this city to double in population. It is quite literally arbitrary and inane, yet wielded as if it is commanded by divine right. If we're doubling in population, can we really imagine what x2 lane miles per capita looks like? Or costs?!!?! Furthermore, how do we know we will even double in population if the entire city is a freeway? Every talented person I know is flocking to Portland, Chicago, Seattle, DC, NYC, Philly, and San Fran.

The people moving to Dallas currently are mostly people that have no other choice and are relocating because of a job...who will also likely move again as soon as another job opens up. Meanwhile, the talent drain to elsewhere is busy creating the next economy and the next engine of jobs while ours is stuck in the quicksand of the 20th century economy despite the current "numbers."

"OMG not easy to drive?! Blasphemy." Find me any place in the world worth being that is 1) easy to drive and 2) easy to park.

If they are, the cars typically crowd out the very reason to be there and eventually it degrades as a place before being entirely abandoned. As I've become fond of saying, the only thing we do better as people than adapting to our environments is bitching about having to do so. And because it is no longer easy to drive, all property value in Dallas (particularly in and around the core) is immediately bumped up as demand to once again proximity to jobs, amenities, other people is once again valued.

If we want 1) a world class city and 2) a city we can actually afford, this is the way forward.