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Local News

Dallas Has the Second-Worst Traffic Fatality Rate in the Country

| 3 weeks ago

Last year, 228 people were killed in traffic in Dallas, marking an 80 percent increase in the annual number of traffic fatalities here between 2010 and 2020. Of the 15 most populated cities in the country, we have the second highest traffic fatality rate: more than 14 deaths per 100,000 people.

Getting around Dallas is dangerous no matter how you do it, but it’s especially hazardous on foot. According to city statistics, pedestrians account for only about 2 percent of travel within the city (compared to 88 percent in cars), but make up about 36 percent of traffic deaths.

If city officials want to be able to report zero annual traffic deaths by 2030—and they say they do—then they have their work cut out for them.

Those numbers come from a briefing given to the City Council’s transportation committee Wednesday, at which city transportation director Ghassan “Gus” Khankarli discussed Dallas’ in-progress Vision Zero action plan.

Cities across the country have adopted similar so-called “Vision Zero” plans over the last decade or so, with mixed results. But traffic deaths are preventable—urbanists like to point to the example of Oslo, Norway, which actually has been able to realize zero traffic deaths in a year.

For that to happen in Dallas, it will take more than talk.

“Very often around this horseshoe we talk about wanting to be a walkable city, but we’re clearly killing our pedestrians,” City Council member Cara Mendelsohn said at the briefing. “I think these numbers are alarming. And a lot of this goes back to some of the basics we keep talking about.”

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Architecture & Design

Remembering Kevin Sloan, Urban Dreamer and Originator of Wild Dallas

| 1 month ago

I can’t remember the first time I met architect Kevin Sloan, who passed away a week ago today at 62. I’m sure it was at D’s offices. Kevin was at the magazine a lot in the lead-up to the publication of our Wild Dallas issue, in March 2017. Kevin would come armed with renderings and maps and big ideas, talking excitedly about new ways to think about the Trinity River or Dallas’ all-but-invisible network of creeks and streams. His cherub cheeks, mischievous grin, thick-rimmed round glasses, and mess of hair lent him something of a mad scientist look. And when we kicked around ideas about the future of Dallas with Kevin, it always had the excitement and boundless potential of entering a madcap laboratory.

Kevin had big, crazy ideas about this city and, by extension, about the future of all cities. And yet what made his thinking around landscape architecture, urban ecologies, and sustainable development so brilliant was that his vision was so simple, sensitive, and subtle. In 2017, few people who looked at Dallas and North Texas’ vast acreage of concrete saw, as Kevin did, a hidden and expansive network of creeks, tributaries, and forgotten greenspace. That greenspace, Kevin argued, was part of a native riverine ecology that was the reason North Texas sustained human life for thousands of years before Anglo settlers arrived. He also saw that these natural conditions played their own role in shaping the region’s urban growth.

Kevin’s big idea was that under the concrete there was nature, and we could unlock it, free it, restore it, and learn to live with it while being sensitive to ecological balance and appreciation. He believed that by restoring our city’s proximate relationship with the natural world we would make Dallas-Fort Worth a global model for sustainable urban growth. His vision was more narrow, too: a future urban environment that enhanced our connection with nature instead of pushing it away, making each of us happier, healthier, and more empathetic.

That may all sound idealistic and abstract, but, as a practicing landscape architect, Kevin gave us concrete examples that illustrated his broader vision.

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Nature & Environment

America Needs to Kick Its Car Dependency. Are Local Investments in Urban Design the Answer?

| 1 month ago

We write about the shortcoming of North Texas’ car-centric urban design a lot. Last week, I pointed out how Dallas lags behind other American cities when it comes to bike infrastructure. This morning, Matt reminded us that the city still makes life for pedestrians difficult. We’ve spilled a lot of real and digital ink pushing for things like converting urban highways into boulevards and investing in better and more useful transit.

We devote so much attention to how to make our region’s cities less car-dominated because of all the benefits that come with addressing North Texas’ car-centric design. A less car dependent city would improve neighborhoods’ safety and quality of life, help regenerate inner-city growth and create new jobs, reduce the costs of transportation that contribute to inequality, and lessen the burden on taxpayers for funding a never-ending infrastructure Ponzi Scheme. One benefit we don’t focus on too often is the way in which a shift away from car-centric urban design, particularly in sprawling metros like Dallas, could play an outsized role in the effort to bring global carbon emissions in line with the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The BBC has a new report that looks at the role the United States’ car-centric infrastructure plays in the ongoing effort to reduce global carbon emissions. To drive home how car-centric American culture is, the BBC piece opens by dropping into Arlington, which—as we all know very well—is the largest city in the United States without any public transportation. The BBC isn’t picking on Arlington; it makes the case that the North Texas city is by no means an outlier. No matter where you live in the United States you are likely dependent on cars for all your transportation needs. Since 2017, driving has been the single largest source of greenhouse emissions in the U.S.

In 2019, more than three-quarters of American workers drove alone to work. The vast majority of their cars burn petrol, each emitting an average of 4.6 tonnes of CO2 per year – equivalent to the total yearly emissions of someone living in France. The US also lags behind China and Northern European countries in electric car sales – electric vehicles made up only 2% of all new cars sold in 2020 (75% of cars sold in Norway the same year were electric).

The BBC also reports that the U.S. was responsible for about a quarter of global passenger aviation emissions in 2019. Taken together it becomes clear that any attempt to substantially reduce the United States’ contribution to climate change will need to address the fact that we drive and fly virtually everywhere.

That’s not going to be easy because, as the BBC points out, since the end of World War II we’ve built a country in which it is all but impossible to use a form of transportation that isn’t a car or truck. In other words, it is not drivers who are at fault for all those emissions. Even if you wanted to give up the car and begin using other, less-impactful means of transit, in places like North Texas, the option just isn’t there. The irony, the BBC points out, is that the car has come to symbolize American freedom, and yet it has also made us slaves to a single form of transit.

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Urbanism

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 44

| 1 month ago

It’s time we brought this series back (…for the second time). The city is buzzing and the sidewalks aren’t always accommodating. We’re back this week in Deep Ellum and both of the below images are along Main Street, the first at Trunk Avenue and the following at 2nd Avenue. Construction has torn up the sidewalks, pushing walkers into the street. And considering how walkable Deep Ellum should be, it’s a shame that there aren’t safe alternatives for pedestrians who are looking to get past this stuff.

Let’s take a look:

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Transportation

Biking in Dallas ‘Feels Like a Death Wish.’ Hopefully That Is Beginning to Change

| 1 month ago

On paper, Dallas looks like it is trying to be a bike friendly city. It claims to have some 74 miles of bike infrastructure. The City Council adopted a bike plan back in 2011 and employs staff to oversee its implementation. Since the creation of that plan, several new trails have opened, and a nonprofit is working to connect many of those trails into a large mega loop which will allow cyclists to navigate from the Katy Trail through East Dallas down into the Trinity Forest and back entirely on dedicated trails.

Yesterday, to highlight the importance of biking in Dallas, Mayor Pro Tem Chad West and council members Jesse Moreno and Paul Ridley led the 2021 Bike to City Hall event, an annual ride (though it missed last year due to COVID) to raise awareness around cycling. But as city council members attempt to shine a spotlight on biking in Dallas, a recent report by Vox reminds us that there is  still an enormous gap between the way the city presents its bike facilities and what they are like to use.

The Vox report looks at how the Biden Administration’s infrastructure bill could impact urban cycling, and it uses Dallas as an example for how there is sometimes a disconnect between ways cities promote and fund bike facilities. It finds that Dallas has woefully underfunded bike infrastructure through the years, making Dallas one of the unfriendliest cities for cyclists in the United States.

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Business

Kourtny Garrett Totally Dogs Dallas in Favor of Denver

| 2 months ago

D Magazine has operated its studios in downtown Dallas for a little over a decade. In that time, we’ve watched the place take huge strides toward becoming an actual place and not just a collection of office towers. Kourtny Garrett deserves much of the credit for that progress. The CEO of the nonprofit Downtown Dallas Inc. has worked for 20 years to make the city a better, more vibrant place to live, work, and play — which is astounding, because I think Garrett is just 32 years old.

Garrett is very good at her job. Which is why I’m sad to say that everyone in the city now hates her. Because she’s leaving us. For Denver, if you can believe that. Weird choice, right? I mean, even if you’re from Colorado, as Garrett is, why the heck would anyone want to live there? Landlocked. No scenery. Repressive marijuana laws.

Anyway, here’s the full press release out of DDI. Read it with malice in your heart.

(All kidding aside, cheers to you, Kourtny Garrett! We’ll miss you — until we hit you up for your spare bedroom when we come ski.)

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Urbanism

The Guardian Explores the Human Costs of Oak Cliff Development (And How to Resist It)

| 3 months ago

When you live in a place and are involved in its day-to-day life, it can be difficult to recognize the pace and scale of change. Neighborhoods change slowly, evolving over years and decades. Case in point: North Oak Cliff. New restaurants open all the time, and townhomes and apartments seem to spring up from vacant lots weekly. It takes a big news event — like a recent council election or a planned new master plan  — to refocus attention on how all those little changes are driving neighborhood development.

Now, a new report in the Guardian draws our attention back to just how much has changed in Oak Cliff in a relatively short period of time. Here’s a striking statistic cited in the piece:

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Good Public Transit

It’s Official: DART Will Roll Out New Bus Service Plan in January

| 3 months ago

At last night’s meeting, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board approved its Final Bus Network Plan and January 2022 Service Changes – agency speak for the reimagined bus system we’ve been banging on about for years and years.

The bus system redo has been formally in the works since 2019 when the agency hired the firm of respected transportation planner Jarrett Walker to help lead the effort. Since then, it has heled 15 community meetings, two Facebook Live events, numerous stakeholder meetings, and received nearly 2,500 responses from its “DART Zoom” public input survey. Now we get to see what the new network will look like.

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Transportation

How Will the Senate Infrastructure Bill Affect Dallas’ I-345?

| 4 months ago

For months, urban advocates have been excited by the prospect of a major piece of infrastructure legislation that would earmark new federal funding for urban highway removal. Early versions of the bill set aside as much as $20 billion for tearing out highways, and the White House appeared keen on highlighting the projects as one way to target social equity in its signature infrastructure initiative. There was much disappointment, then, when earlier this week a bipartisan infrastructure bill passed the Senate with a greatly reduced pot of money for a highway removal pilot program – some $1 billion to be spent over five years.

Still, $1 billion sounds like a lot of cash, particularly when allocated for an idea that only a few years ago was largely considered a fringe concept in transportation circles. What exactly is the “Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program” established by the new Senate bill, and how might it affect Dallas’ I-345? I spent some time digging through the text of the legislation to try to find out.

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Urbanism

Why It Is Time to End Mandatory Parking Minimums in Dallas

| 4 months ago

As you may have heard, the city of Dallas is currently reviewing its parking ordinances with an eye toward relaxing or eliminating regulations that force businesses to create way too much parking. The process has been in the works for more than a year, and back in June, the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee received a briefing about feedback the city solicited at a few public forums about the proposal. “Public,” however, may a bit of an overstatement.

A grand total of 33 people spoke at the online meetings, representing a whooping 0.0025 percent of the city’s population. That low turnout is understandable given how wonky an issue parking policy is, but parking policy also has an outsized impact on shaping the environments everyone of us interact with every day. Despite the low turnout, the feedback did include some common fears and misconceptions about parking and how we use it, including arguments that public transit needs to improve dramatically before we can even talk about parking as well as fears that changing mandated parking minimums will somehow going to magically make all the parking disappear (if only!).

Those fears suggest that it is a good time to step back for a moment and take a broader look at why there is a push to revisit the parking codes and the role parking has played in destroying American cities.

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Urbanism

Deck Park Will Finally Give Historic Neighborhood ‘A Place to Walk to’

| 5 months ago

In the Dallas Morning News yesterday, columnist Sharon Grigsby writes about the new plans for the I-35E deck park in Oak Cliff. The city’s second deck park is being constructed as part of the massive Southern Gateway project – a rebuild of the interstate highway that tore through some of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods when it was built back in the 1960s. Like many of Dallas’ recent park projects, the new deck park is being pitched as a way to stitch these communities back together.

Grigsby digs into the new plans for the Southern Gateway Park, which will be constructed in two phases. The first phase set to open at the end of 2023, and the second phase will require some additional fundraising. You can also learn more about the project and see more renderings on its website. But after reading about the new park, I wanted to point out a couple of things that struck me about the project.

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Transportation

Urban Expert on TxDOT’s I-345 Options: ‘You Can Do Better’

| 5 months ago

Last month, the Texas Department of Transportation unveiled initial designs for replacing or removing I-345. TxDOT included five possible options for the future of the road that cuts through Deep Ellum and which, as we have argued for a number of years, should ultimately be torn down. They include:

  • Doing nothing
  • Rebuilding the existing road
  • Replacing I-345 with a trenched highway
  • Removing the highway altogether
  • A “hybrid” option that includes some removal and some trenching

Last Thursday, the Coalition for a New Dallas hosted a conversation with renowned urban planner Peter Park to discuss the options. (Full Disclosure: The Coalition was founded by D Magazine’s late founder Wick Allison.) Park’s takeaway: the designs aren’t there yet. In fact, Park even found TxDOT’s design for I-345’s removal to be lacking and said that none of the early plans for the future of I-345 fully maximized the full potential of what a reimagined I-345 could mean for Dallas.

“I think you can do better,” Park told moderator Patrick Kennedy, who started this whole I-345 teardown business.

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