Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Digging Thru the Couch Cushions

Oh look!  TxDOT found $2B lying around somewhere.  Certainly, it wasn't taken from somewhere else, possibly more desperate line items (education), by dexterous budget bureaucrats.  And even more certainly will it be used for more supply-side solutions.  In other words, expect an orgy of new road expansion projects to, at the very least, vie for those dollars.  Funny timing considering the levees are good to go and that would cover the cost of the Trinity Toll Road.

This is actually terrible news.  They say creativity starts when you remove a zero from the budget.  Real creativity starts when you remove two.  [Every designer reading this stabs me repeatedly with their eyeballs].    In other words, TxDOT will not bother thinking critically about any part of their decision-making and design process.  Back to the same ol' same ol'.  No matter how failed nor flawed.  The march of folly continues.  The plank is merely lengthened.  Never mind that last step.

So while we're building more roads to solve the problem of congestion that doesn't exist but for a few choke points, the fault of poor traffic planning that doesn't filter vehicles across the grid, we're also forcing increased car ownership and dependence.  No, I'm not blaming you for having, using, owning, nor leasing cars.  It's your decision.  But maybe it's not.  Imagine living without one or any cars?  Is it possible?  Likely not, since wherever you live and the real estate market is an outgrowth of the transportation network, like leaves are to branches, and branches are to trunks, the way our roads are built by policy and funding.

Let's do some math.

According to the 2010 census, Dallas County has 865K households, with an average of 1.7 vehicles per household.  If we were to do the crazy thing and reduce capacity thereby opening up and repositioning real estate back towards the core rather than the ever-bleeding edge of the metroplex, we would build less car-dependent, more walkable communities.  In other words, we could start getting rid of cars.

By household, there are 63K without any car or 7% of total households.  By comparison, a quick check of Multnomah County (Portland) sees 12.9% without a car.  Harris County (Houston), 6.9%. And in DC, 35.5% don't have a car.  Philadelphia County, 33.96%.  NY county, 77%.  Suffolk Co (Boston), 40.77%.  San Fran Co., 29%. Alameda Co (Oakland), 10%.  San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, both around 5%. We win!

Let's say 1/2 of the 343K households could rid themselves of their car.
And 1/2 of the 321K could lose 1 of their 2.
Then every other type of household with more than 2 vehicles per household could choose to get rid of their car.

That equals 466,000 less vehicles owned and operated in Dallas County or 31.6% of the total vehicles registered in Dallas county (btw, I just "cured" congestion).

The average yearly O&M costs for a car in 2012 is $8,946.00

That would equal $4,168,836,000.00 per year that stays in the local economy.  Zounds!

$4.17B more per year.  Invested.  Saved.  Is spent at various establishments.  Rolled into better housing.  Into more walkable neighborhoods.  Used to start a new, local business (which incidentally, needs walkable, dense communities to provide the one competitive advantage of small, local biz).  On a DART pass.

In other words, more transportation choice (through less road capacity) equals more financial choice.  Sounds a whole lot like freedom if you ask me.

But with the way TxDOT will spend that measly $2B, that means more car ownership will be necessary.  Especially if you want to somehow get to that Trinity River.

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Once again, ruin the Trinity all you want, Kessler agreed.  The real value for urbanizing in the future is the 7,500 acres of uninterrupted historic grid of east, near-east Dallas and a much nicer, more attractive body of water.