Friday, January 21, 2011

Random Musing

In my previous post, I mentioned that having the pedestrian- and alternative-transportation-friendly Elm Street redesign stop just outside downtown is proof that Dallas officials are content with keeping downtown a business district rather than a vibrant urban area.

In retrospect, I don't believe that is entirely true, although there is truth to it. I think Dallas tends to overly rely on corridors, rather than districts. Like Elm in Deep Ellum, Main Street underwent a road diet in the early '90's from five lanes to four and again a few years ago down to two. Market Street is the heart of the West End and is two lanes (albeit still a one way). The recently built Arts District (although not a great urban area at all, still illustrates the corridor thinking) is centered around Flora.

In the case of Main, it is bounded by Elm and Commerce, ten lanes total. Flora is bounded by a freeway on the north, and Ross, which might be one of the highest trafficked streets in downtown. Only Market lacks the obvious car-only borders, but Lamar sees a bit of traffic and the west boundary is fuzzy. Perhaps that is partly because there are no heavy car streets.

So after much thought, I don't believe the City is still intent on keeping downtown a CBD. However, I don't think they are willing to abandon policies that made it a business district. I believe they are trying to strike a balance to ideas that are close to polar opposites. I don't think you can design a downtown that handles a large amount of cars from the outlying areas and suburbs while simultaneously making the area a vibrant urban neighborhood for residents and visitors. What makes an urban area vibrant is the public life, the outdoor. All those cars require too much space that comes at the expense of walking, biking or other modes of travel. But maybe more detrimental, all that space required for cars takes a little space from the public, which helps to empty out downtown, in more than one way.

If I ever get around to my critique of the AT&T plaza renovations on Akard, I'll really how you an area that is prime for district thinking, rather than corridor.

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