Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'm Not a Smart Troll, Jenny

Yet another useless, speculative piece in the DMN posing the suggestion that 345 is a ploy to pay for the Trinity Toll Road.  I suppose it's not entirely useless.  What it is, is cynical.  And desperate.  It's attempting to pit political factions against each other.  The reality is, both issues are independent of each other within a broader, longer-term subset of what the real vision is for the best Dallas that Dallas can be.  The most livable, the most advantageous, the most opportunity for all, that offers the greatest amount of choice, and quality of life.

It's interesting to see that the readily apparent other opportunity is only another highway, useful for the cynical argument, but narrow-minded nonetheless as 20th century transportation planning was...is.  The regional trip creates congestion and reduces quality of life while the short trip is good for business.  Keep that in mind.

Again, I point to the issue that we show renderings of Vancouver while building the infrastructure of Detroit.  Those visions of Vancouver real estate investment require Vancouver infrastructure, which favors choice of mode and proximity for efficient trip-making.  That's what the rest of the DMN piece doesn't get.  Infrastructure and real estate are intertwined.  Downtown bottomed out because of what we wrought over 50 years of poor decision-making.  It should be noted that Dallas has a history of fighting every freeway through the city that TxDOT has proposed.  The real estate market of downtown "not having enough jobs," is a by-product of the subsidization of sprawl and job spillage ever northwards.

Then the kicker, the economic injustice angle, is a beauty.  The implication is the ever so cynical, patronizing tone that we're suggesting poor people should pay tolls, which is funny because the last thing the poor can do is afford a car, an hour long commute to those jobs in North Dallas, or four hour bus trips with three transfers.

Economic injustice is forcing people into car ownership whether they like it or not, whether they can afford it or not, just to participate in the local economy.  Economic injustice is tearing apart neighborhoods, particularly poor neighborhoods to build anti-urban highways that have proved a failure in every city they've been built.

I know.  These people can't understand the difference between intra-city and inter-city highways - so all highways are painted the same, and thus, all people are either for highways or against highways.  Cynical.  The reality is we're for appropriate, efficient, sustainable, affordable infrastructure in the appropriate places to make the best Dallas that Dallas can be.  We're also for choice in lifestyle, housing, neighborhood, and mode of transportation.  That's what we're missing in Texas.  Choice.  That's what smart, adaptable, resilient cities have.

Let's briefly look at 345 and the proposed toll road from strictly independent, economic standpoint.  It will cost TxDOT $100 million to maintain 345 til 2040.  The 64 acres of land within the right-of-way alone are worth a minimum of $170 million.  Maybe more given the way the uptown submarket is going bonkers for semi-walkable neighborhoods.  In other words, the infrastructure is totaled.

As for the Tollroad, every group thought to be potential builder/financier of it have backed off.  They've had to re-evaluate their pro-formas which inherently underestimated the pigovian nature of tolls.  They tend to underperform as we're seeing across the country with toll roads defaulting on their debts.  Their simply not getting the revenue they originally projected when tollroads were the next big thing.  It turns out people like free travel.  I do to.  But the only way we can allow (somewhat) free, efficient economic exchange is through increased walkability and a real estate market that favors proximity...which it wants to as evidenced by the pent-up demand in uptown.

It's amazing to me that people get paid to write or think and can do neither.

I'm not suggesting we use the huge value/revenue gains of 345 to pay for the Trinity Toll Road.  If I were king for the day and could decide such things, I would put that expected revenue towards D2.  Towards a world class city.  But I'm not king.  And neither are the antiquated transportation planners.  That's why we have to debate the issues.  Even if those most desperately short on ammo resort to overt cynicism.