Monday, August 20, 2012

Post-it Notes: The HDL and LDL of Traffic Congestion

In an email discussion, regarding potential blowback from the IH-345 tear-out proposal, I started fleshing out the rhetoric to defuse worries that it puts too much traffic on East Dallas streets.  Now first thing's first.  Much of East Dallas is desolate.  It has roads way over-scaled and under-capacity.  Relatedly, these become areas of disinvestment when you apply modern, dendritic traffic planning principals and the inevitable endless expansion to reticulated grid networks.  Dendritic networks exert centrifugal force, reticulated ones instill a centralizing or centripetal force, on people, opportunity, and investment towards hubs, intersections, and convergence points.  These areas NEED more traffic.  

As I've said before, I love East Dallas.  Well, it's potential anyway. Love. It.  It is the largest contiguous area of uninterrupted historic grid that I know of in Texas.  From Deep Ellum, to Downtown, to the M Streets, to Lakewood, and White Rock Lake.  What's not to love?  Oh, right.  It's current condition.  

Preserving elements, like Swiss Avenue in a glass case is not the way to enhance living, breathing places.  And Swiss Avenue is worthy of celebration.  But it could be much, much better.  Places either get better or get worse.  There is no staying the same despite the efforts to invest in it within a climate of surrounding disinvestment.  Fighting traffic off East Dallas streets in the name of "preserving" East Dallas is preserving only the process of disinvestment and decay.

With that said, here is the remainder of my email:

I'm guessing the strategy is somewhere along these lines: the goal is to move MORE traffic on Ross, Live Oak, and Gaston.   They're the roads built to move people, to be improved, walkable centers of gravity and commerce.  However, they're way under capacity for a variety of reasons.   Car only transportation strategies inevitably lead to one of two negative conditions: invaded or abandoned (centrifugal forces at work).  And by being undercapacity they lack amenity, services, safety, and attraction in the area.  

Champs Elysee moves between 80-100K vehicles per day past certain intersections, but it moves 500,000 pedestrians and cyclists as well. In sum, with cars (and not counting how many are moved via bus above the street and rail below the street), it moves many more people than our busiest road 635, and it does so in less space, in a more desirable, safe, and attractive manner.  In other words, like cholesterol, there is good traffic and bad traffic.  We want the good traffic.