Monday, June 16, 2014

Future Dallas - Cutting Room Floor

As you likely know, the Dallas Morning News is running a Future of the City series this week leading up to the New Cities Summit to be held in the Arts District over the next few days.  One of the out of town speakers is already bitching about the inherent pedestrian unfriendliness of our streets.  Those things tend to happen when the most powerful transportation official thinks infrastructure responds to land use (rather than vice versa) and that urban design is about decorating the fringe around transportation decisions already made.  The result is rube-goldberg-ian, clunky contraptions that are mere simulacra of cities rather than the elegant simplicity of the highest quality urban design.

Any way, several locals were asked to provide a short snippet about what we saw the future of Dallas being.  I was the only one that responded.  As such, my piece is getting cut since I'm not a "panelist" or an "expert" even though some of those already quoted are little more than "empty suits" (not my words - though I may not necessarily disagree).

No worries, you can read what I submitted here:

Expression of its people.  
My particular vision for the future of Dallas isn’t as important as ensuring that a city, our city, is an expression of the citizenry.  The only future residents of a hypothetical future city that we can be fairly confident of are our young people.  The way for the city to be an expression of its people is to design for them, not cars, and facilitate the city to function as cities must, as accelerators of progress, improved quality of life, and opportunity for all.  And that is through human-scaled urbanism; density that is designed as a response to the pent-up demand for cities, real cities with walkable neighborhoods.

I often hear those who oppose the various projects I might be working on to improve Dallas suggest, "well, we're not Copenhagen.  We're not Vancouver.  Or, we're not New York."  Of course you're not.  But those places aren't each other either.  Melbourne, NYC, Copenhagen, and Vancouver are all very different. Each has made huge leaps in livability in the last few decades by prioritizing safety and amenity for the pedestrian.  Great cities are populated and businesses patronized best by pedestrians.  If you want them, and long-term success for Dallas, prioritize the pedestrian. From outsiders looking in however, Dallas is no different than Houston, Phoenix, or Atlanta.  To those of us living within these cities, we immediately identify the differences, but those slight divergences aren't necessarily about urban form or behavior patterns but rather subtleties to the weather, geography, or sports teams.  Those subtleties aren’t what makes any city particularly memorable.  We’re all the same, particularly on the global scale, the world class scale, of urban studies.

We’re the same because we have designed entirely for the car.  It undermines the ability of our citizens to interact with each other, with the latent magic of the city, and with nature.  We must shed the last remaining vestiges of 20th century thinking in a 21st century world in order to compete as a truly world class city; to achieve everyone’s dreams for what the best Dallas is that Dallas can be.  To do so, we have to listen to the next generation, the millennials, those under 35.  Empower them.  The future of Dallas will be their Dallas.  They don’t want car-dependent cities and they certainly don’t want the debt that comes with coerced car-dependent infrastructure.

You ask, “what about the traffic?” I ask, “what about the city?”  We’ll get what we care about and prioritize.  If we prioritize choice, we'll get a city that is the expression of the people.