Monday, February 3, 2014

The Hammer and The Sickle

(posted from the ipad...forgive formatting errors)

We are not naive nor stupid.

If we were, we wouldn't have the large and growing support of neighborhoods, stakeholders, investors, business owners, and city leaders, that at the very least, support fully exploring the future of 345 with equal weight given to priorities other than maintaining the failing structural integrity and traffic flow.  These include but are not limited to:  economic development (maintaining creates none), lifetime costs (maintaining 345 for as long as it stands is long-term cost burden that continues to displace tax base outside of the city), environmental concerns (pollution due to car dependence, concentrated near downtown -- places where we want people), traffic under reduced capacity (nobody in Texas has the skills to objectively analyze this - meanwhile - it only serves to induce further demand), and safety (the IH-345 lies in the 2nd deadliest US Congressional district in the entire country in terms of traffic fatalities).

They support our efforts, either publicly or quietly, because they care about what's best for the city and its future.  They're apart of it and will continue to be.

We were not surprised by the news.  We've been expecting it.  We were only surprised by its timing.  At the very least, we expected the completion of the feasibility study.  Formerly due last July, then due this coming July.  It is disconcerting that such short-sightedness as Carpenter Plaza can accelerate decision making to the point of ending the necessary public process and feasibility study. 

This should raise concerns about our priorities as a city and a state.  Concerns we meant to raise by starting this admittedly ambitious effort.  We know every card in TxDOT's hand and they've continued to play them as expected.  They've pushed their chips in and putting their foot down.  However, we're doubling down.

The suddenness of this news shows no real public input nor creative thinking was ever going to be a part of this process (nor any others).  You might get to decide how many texas stars go on a column, if you're lucky.  Get out that lipstick get to decorating that pig.

Our goal was to expose the misplaced autonomy given over to TxDOT and transportation agencies in general, by a lack of true vision and leadership, as well as expose the need for such vision and leadership.

TxDOT is a caveman with a hammer.  They have one tool and one skill for any and every task.  In response, Texas cities are as car dependent as any in the country.   Dallas is THE most car-dependent in the country.  When using only one tool, the outcome is only one choice for citizens wishing to participate in the local economy.  You must own a car.  Since you must own a car, you might as well not live in Dallas.  And thus we've experienced population flight of the middle class in both directions.  Car dependence is coerced.  We need choice.

Instead, we increase our infrastructural cost burden at the same time we're displacing tax base, advantaging people to search affordable housing but high transportation costs and plenty of time in the car.  This is a system built to fail in a time of demographic urgency back towards cities.  Dallas is in danger of losing its momentum, and the future, to borrow an expression

Cities are entirely too complex (and important engines of the economy), requiring far more intricacy than a caveman can handle with just his hammering.  Asking them, nay turning over autonomy to them, is letting them dabble in brain surgery.  Complex neural network/intricate social and economic networks, meet hammer.

Absent true leadership and vision, bureaucratic inertia has filled the void under the guise of objective expertise provided by standards and traffic formulas inherited from the 20th century.  A sign of bureaucratic dysfunction is when debt to income ratios exceed 3:1.  TxDOT currently has an $18 billion debt.  They want to increase their budget two-fold from $2billion to 4billion a year simply to maintain what they've overbuilt.

The oldest trick in the book is to point to hypothetical future growth.  "Well, we have to burden current tax base for infrastructure for future generations."  That might be fine planning and foresight if it wasn't more of the same.  If we're going to double in population, imagine the congestion then.  The policies will be the same.  The 21st century needs 21st century thinking.

The only answer is to begin building an infrastructure of urbanism and interconnectivity, that advantages more efficient, short-trip travel, by bike, foot, and transit.  The people making the decisions have shown to have zero understanding of the issues of today nor the future.  

We've driven off the cliff. No amount of wing flapping will save us.  Instead, we must organize and let our voices be heard.

Without said leadership and vision, an enlightened popular uprising is a necessary countervailing force.  Do we teach the old dogs new tricks?  Do we get new dogs?  These are the questions we need to be asking.  Our quality of life and the wealth of our citizens, cities, state, and nation are too vital, and in danger.