Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pedestrian Tunnels (and Skywalks) Again

You + Dallas released another video about urban problems in downtown Dallas and this time, the tunnels are in the their sole spotlight.

I've posted before about their problems, and nothing has changed since then. I like this story more for the back story. The guy who has railed against the tunnels in the You + Dallas video series, Jack Gosnell, shared his story that he was initially for the tunnels before he was against. Perhaps more than another technical post, this is the lesson of this post.

Elected officials and some of the general public, particularly in the 50's through early '70's were quick to embrace the modern. This growth-mind set saw the old as not only an obstacle, but a problem. The new then (much of which is a problem today) was unquestionably welcomed as urban renewal. We didn't learn from these projects until well after the implementation.

Planners used buzzwords and showed pictures with lots of people milling about (sound familiar) to sell their projects to elected officials and the general public. I question any project that uses watercolors or digital portraits to sell their idea. Remember the widening of Ceasar Chavez? That has a set of renderings that show people just hanging out on the street. Must be okay to make more room for cars. See, only a few cars are on the street and dozens of people, this project just feels good.

That may be the most valuable lesson in the video. Though I do like the fact that You + Dallas is raising awareness on some of the ills of downtown, the fact is that an unquestioning acceptance of anything new is a practice that must end. Critical analysis has no substitute in the planning field. Perhaps if the tunnels were questioned more in the first of the planning phases, they may have been avoided. Probably not, but one can wonder.

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