Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Definition of Insanity

Small. Petty.  Cynical.  Tiresome.  Another day, another DMN blog piece seemingly spoon-fed from our very own Machiavellian Robert Moses attempting to drive a riff between various anti-highway groups in Dallas.  No worries, Dallas has fought every single highway ever proposed with varying degrees of success.  Further, we will all have long careers undoing all the harm he's inflicted upon this city.  I look forward to erasing history to build a prosperous future.  Every urbanist in Dallas should be excited by the possibility.

Speaking of urbanists, the particularly blog post in question rhetorically posits, "why oh why hasn't the SM Wright/Dead Man's Curve highway tear-out received similar publicity in urbanist circles as 345?"  The answer they're looking for is race.  However, that isn't the correct answer.

Their false assumption is that those of use behind the 345 tear-out had nothing to do with fighting SM Wright.  And that the well-heeled money left the poor black community out to dry while 'heroic TxDOT and NCTCOG saved the day with a "grassroots" campaign to remove a highway from South Dallas.'  The reality is that the neighborhood fought the re-design.  There was nothing grass roots about it.  There was also nothing urban about the design either, which is why it wasn't cheered from coast to coast.  It's yet another suburban six-lane arterial.  Urbanist circles aren't very fond of suburban design when urban design is called for.  I guess the opposite of an urbanist is an anti-urbanist.  Are those really who we should be listening to, especially as we're trying to steer investment back towards the core and then points south?

Here is some of what I provided to local neighborhood fighting against the proposed "Turtle Creek-ing" of the road:
First, if 175 (SM Wright) carries at its highest 78K vehicles per day, and a 4-lane boulevard could handle 31K, that leaves 47K we have to find a home for (nevermind the principle of induced demand and real world data suggesting up to 25% just disappears to other forms of transportation). Adding up how far under capacity I-45, Lamar, RB Cullum, Malcolm X, 2nd Ave equals a shortage of 132,000 cars per day in relation to capacity or 281% more than we need (if we calculate the 25% of reduced demand, that's 374% more than we need). In other words, you could say South Dallas is vastly "over-infrastructured" and there is plenty of room for the excess theoretical vehicles to find other routes. 
And I'm not counting all of the perpendicular routes like Grand, MLK, Pennsy, Metropolitan, Pine, or Hatcher. Throw those into the mix and that's another 161,000 of empty capacity, 293,000 in total that the area's arterial grid is able to absorb." 
So that puts us up net +258,000 vehicles per day, still not being utilized in South Dallas after we take SM Wright down to 4 lanes. Of the map above (I forgot to show Pine), that's roughly 32 excess lanes more than we need. That means every single one of the eleven roads used in this study could afford to have two lanes removed (one in each direction). Time to get dieting. 
Ultimately, TxDOT was quoted saying they would re-visit their plan to do six lanes if the city backed the neighborhood.  The city did not.  Traffic won out over economic development, which is a failing up and down the political food chain.  Hilariously, the blog post mentions that TxDOT isn't in the business of "tooting their own horn."  But that's exactly what they're doing feeding these pieces to the DMN, disingenuously posing as working with 'grass roots' groups to promote economic development, but they've done and are doing nothing of the sort.  They don't even know what or how economic development works.  And by all evidence nor do they understand the role of transportation within a city.  Instead of serving the needs of the city, the city has to contort itself to bend around transportation.

The best politician is the one who gains the most power without ever running in an election.  In DFW, the most power shaping the form and function of our cities lies in transportation policy.  Maybe Dallas ought to threaten to withdraw from NCTCOG for its own sake, if NCTCOG only shows the capacity for suburban transportation thinking where an entirely different mindset is called for.  We're letting the same people and logic that created the disintegration and disinvestment of South Dallas try to fix it with the exact same conclusions.

I've joked about various plans around the city that if you let an architect plan a city you'll get proposals for buildings.  Landscape architect?  You'll get nothing but parks.  Well, we've handed the keys to the future of our city to a traffic engineer.  Guess what we get...

Guess what every decision revolves around...