Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Worst Urban Design Blunders in DFW

FrontBurner is looking for your suggestions here.  At first blush, you might be inclined to think, "what's actually done right?"  While that answer is not much (and usually only in a superficial sense), I found it helpful to narrow my scope in providing answers to the simple obstructions of my, and possibly your, daily life.  Usually, you'll find these in places where the myriad of arcane, arbitrary standards placed upon infrastructural planning and design (as if to simplify the design and construction process but immensely complicate the real world) overlap, conflict, and contradict each other to the point that the result is utter inanity.  Otherwise, the answers would be neverending.

While in their comments I provided a few suggestions off the top of my head like Museum Tower being placed within the middle of a clover leaf off-ramp, the exit ramp rising out of Klyde Warren Park, and my personal fave:

the amount of expense put into the primary (but who really uses it?) entrance to the Convention Center Hotel, yet its only lightly used because it is down a cul-de-sac:

This is what I'm talking about by using the Integration = Accommodation formula to appropriate investment based on ROI or bang for you buck.  A cul-de-sac is by nature not integrated within its context.

But I'm not terribly interested in those for this exercise.  They are too numerous to count.  And too easy to find in a city built largely since we've forgotten to build for humans or how cities actually work, since 1950.

For this, I'm more interested in the way pedestrians are treated as after-thoughts, particularly in relation to the mandated use of ramps for universal accessibility purposes...then undermined out of lazy adherence to standards requiring certain things in certain places.  For example:

In Fort Worth, you have a cross-walk to an overpass over I-30 between downtown Cowtown and the happening Near Southside.  However, if you happen to be crossing here (and why would you ever?) you best be nimble as the pedestrian crossing signal is placed smack in the middle of the ramp.  If you happen to be on a bike, headed back to your bicycling capital of Texas, the Near Southside, there are better ways to go (especially because they have actual, real live bike lanes in FW.  If you're in a wheel chair?  Stiff upper lip, survival of the fittest, and all that.

The next is one I visit on a nearly daily basis on my foot or bike commute between downtown and uptown Dallas.  This is the "pedestrian refuge" or Gilligan's Island at Woodall Rogers frontage road and Pearl, a road typically only used for accessing the highway (because as we all should know by now, it's easier to get from downtown to Plano and points beyond than the simple trip between downtown and all surrounding areas).  Because the highway access and unimpeded traffic flow is so important to people who literally want to choke the city until its blue in the face and dead dead dead, the island is cut off from the rest of the sidewalk by a healthy, comfortable turning radius allowing 30+ mph turning movements.

But that's not the issue at hand.

The real problem is again with the universal accessibility ramp.  It doesn't line up with either crosswalk.  If heading from uptown to the Arts District and downtown, you have to actually move out into on-coming traffic (as you'll share the light with McKinney/Uptown-bound traffic.  Safe.  Don't die.  That should be the extent of our signage.  "Don't die."  Because that is the message being sent.