FrontBurner

A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Arts District

A Quick Tour of the Arts District, the Prettiest, Deadest Place in Dallas

| 3 weeks ago

Having worked through lunch today (let me hear the violins!), I popped out for a late sandwich and decided to walk the half mile from the D Magazine studios (way cooler than “office”) to the 7-Eleven in One Arts Plaza. On my return, on this beautiful, sunny day, I took the following pictures for you as I strolled down Flora Street. As you look at them, imagine seeing downtown’s cultural gem through the eyes of a visitor to our fair city.

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Local News

Scenes from the Agenda for a New Dallas Summit

| 4 weeks ago

Dallas is a city in transition. With unprecedented population growth on the horizon and increasing inequity, now is the time to recreate our infrastructure to achieve a livable, connected city. On March 19 at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Coalition for a New Dallas and D Magazine brought leading transit thinkers and planners from L.A., Denver, Seattle, and Houston to shed light on how their cities have reoriented their policies and tax dollars to restore their urban cores.

They were joined by local leaders who are working to define and deliver a new way of thinking about the restoration of Dallas’ urban fabric. Topics ranged from the options to remove highway I-345 to investing in buses for a functioning transit system and how to prevent pedestrian deaths. You can read our highlights here, and look through the slideshow for images from the morning.

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Urbanism

How To Save Pedestrians, Tear Out a Highway, and Use Buses to Enhance Our Transit Network

| 1 month ago

Dallas has long prioritized commuters over city residents, and it’s time to reverse the order.

That was the central thread on Tuesday, as an auditorium full of engaged Dallasites spent their morning at the Dallas Museum of Art learning about the transportation challenges and opportunities of our city. They heard about the way I-345 has ripped up neighborhoods and swallowed hundreds of acres of developable land between downtown and Deep Ellum. They learned of case studies from places like Milwaukee, which recently tore out a mile-long stretch of elevated highway, boosting development in the process. And they dug into public transit, the rail system, the buses, and what a functional web of options might actually look like. What emerged was a picture of how it could come together to better serve every facet of the city.

Patrick Kennedy, a partner at a Dallas-based urban design firm who writes about Dallas’ infrastructure, laid the foundation for the day.

“If you design for cars and traffic, you will get cars and traffic,” he said. “If you design for people, you will get people.”

Kennedy handed the microphone to city planner Peter Park, who has worked in Milwaukee—overseeing the highway removal—and in Denver, spurring the creation of its heralded Union Station. He cited a study of highway removals that showed neighborhood improvement in each instance. “There’s proof that it works,” he said. “It’s not theoretical.”

And he compelled the audience to start thinking in terms of effectiveness and return on investment. Capacity has often reigned supreme, and building for capacity has equated to building more highways. But this only induces demand and continues the cycle of congestion. “Nobody loves congestion,” says Park. “But that’s not the singular thing we should be designing for.”

The event was hosted by the Coalition for a New Dallas, in partnership with D Magazine. Here is a sampling of key thoughts from a morning of panels and keynote speakers inside the Dallas Museum of Art:

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Transportation

How To Take Advantage of Free Uber Rides Through DART

| 1 month ago

Dallas’ public transportation system doesn’t work for far too many of its residents. It’s disjointed and unorganized. There are too many Dallasites who live beyond reasonable walking distance to buses and rail. We’ve written about the way DART has repeatedly made plans without keeping our residents in mind. We’ve also written about the way Dallas seemed to be doing something right a century ago, only to tear out the old rail system and start on something much leaner.

Which is why many will welcome the news of a partnership between Uber and DART. When it comes to closing some of the system’s gaps, it’s a starting point. This week, the two sides said people in certain transit-excluded neighborhoods—such as the southern Dallas neighborhoods near the Inland Port, Rylie, and Kleberg—can get free rides to certain DART stations. Here’s how it works:

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Urban Design

Dallas Public Transit Was Better in 1919 Than It Is In 2019, Cont’d

| 2 months ago

Last week, Peter wrote about a rendering by the New York-based artist Jake Berman of our expansive streetcar network as it existed in 1919. It took you all over the city—East Dallas to Winnetka Heights, Fair Park to Oak Lawn, Highland Park to North Oak Cliff. The piece was popular on Reddit, and there have been subsequent requests for Berman to create another map showing the existing DART light rail system to compare it with. (And, yes, don’t come for us Redditors, we got permission from Berman to use this.)

It will make you sad.

On the left is the 1919 map, with the dense streetcar network. On the right is what we have now, the DART rail in white and the minor streetcar lines in North Oak Cliff and Uptown in yellow.

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Urbanism

Meet the Kings of Dallas Sprawl

| 2 months ago

Let’s start with the way they talk. The two bureaucrats who, more than any other planners or elected officials in North Texas, have driven the region’s growth. Gary Thomas and Michael Morris. First up, Thomas, the president and executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, a position he has held for 17 years.

In August 2016, Thomas appeared before a transportation committee of the Dallas City Council and was asked a straightforward question by Councilwoman Sandy Greyson about DART’s application for a huge federal grant. The future of a budgeted $600 million project through downtown Dallas, it seemed, hinged on some curious math. Greyson pointed out to Thomas that if DART had asked the feds for slightly less to fund the new line—just about $2.5 million—its grant application would have received a higher rating and would have more likely been successful. So why did the agency overshoot by that small margin?

In the video of the meeting, you can see that Greyson never gets her answer. Thomas, who dresses like an accountant and speaks in a monotone, aw-shucks manner reminiscent of a Quaker preacher, first attempts to dismiss Greyson’s concerns. She doesn’t buy it. Then Thomas’ No. 2, VP of rail planning Steve Salin, steps in. Salin sports a 19th-century railroad conductor mustache and possesses a decidedly gruffer manner than does Thomas. He kicks up a dust storm of transit parlance, and, when he’s finished, he isn’t even talking about the light rail federal grant anymore, but rather a planned streetcar project. Greyson is bewildered by his performance and seems to not notice they are off topic. She smiles and thanks the men for the non-answer.

This is how much of the transportation planning in North Texas gets done—through a rhetorical ballet choreographed to create confusion. Just a day after the City Council committee meeting, Salin and Thomas offered yet another set of explanations for that federal grant application to the DART board’s planning committee. Which brings us to Michael Morris, the transportation director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, a role he has held for an impressive 29 years.

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Urban Design

When it Comes to Encouraging Walkability, Austin Runs Past Dallas

| 2 months ago

As any regular follower of Frontburner knows all too well, Dallas is a city that hates pedestrians. On any given day and often for weeks on end, dozens of sidewalks are closed, chewed up, or made impassible around the city. We all know Dallas’ basic street infrastructure is poor, but its pedestrian and bike infrastructure is even worse.

Perhaps one of the reasons why so many areas of the city are so unsafe for pedestrians is because, outside of our continuing series on messed-up sidewalks, there are few if any pedestrian advocates who can raise their voices and demand better, safer streets.

Not so in Austin. Austin’s city government has a Pedestrian Advisory Council, which meets once a month to discuss issues relating to walkability and offers improvement suggestions to the city council. The body was created back in 2013 in response to both ongoing urban development in the capital city and a spate of traffic deaths.

Urbanization + dangerous traffic = a need to reconsider how the city’s streets function and protect pedestrians.

Makes sense, right?

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Urbanism

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 21

| 2 months ago

These posts tend to center around downtown and Uptown. That’s where our office is, and that’s where the concentration of development is in the city. Which means there are plenty of sidewalks to take over and it’s easy to snap a photo and produce some #content. But yesterday I went to lunch at Wabi House, and came across this scene in Lowest Greenville. 

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