Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas wish list

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! In the spirit of the season, I am going to throw my downtown wish list out there. Perhaps some important people are watching.

10. More daycare's downtown. There are three church-sponsored and two private daycare's. Granted it is selfish, but downtown would be better off with more kids. When one considers that 130,000 people work downtown, there is a severe shortage of places to put their kids.

9. Fill the empty office space. Before we consider adding more office space, let's see some pre-recession filling of existing office space levels.

8. Renovate each the fortress office tower's lobbies. They don't need to have a half-block to block sized lobby that contains nothing but empty space and mostly unused chairs. Converting these spaces into other uses like retail or at least a pedestrian-friendly design would encourage greater pedestrian activity and therefore greater vitality.

7. More West-Village-type developments. An increase in residential and good urban designed streetscapes are a must if downtown is going to see any increase in vibrancy and vitality. There are lots of solid street-to-street urban blocks that are nothing but surface parking lots and would accommodate these in the proper places, only a couple of blocks from already good areas.

It would be a lovely gift to see a surface parking lot turn into this.
6.  Build out of the streetcar lines. A line down Main connecting downtown with Deep Ellum and Fair Park, a line on Lamar connecting downtown with Victory and the Cedars and a line on Harwood/Olive connecting the Farmers Market with the Main Street District, Arts District and Uptown would let you get near anywhere in the urban core easily.

5. Redo parking. Increase the on-street parking, reform pricing to more of a market approach, lower the number of surface parking towards developments would increase the attractiveness of parking downtown.

4. The addition of the 2nd downtown rail line. My preferred option would be Commerce Subway. It goes under one of the densest parts of downtown and is nearest the most residential units, commercial office square feet, hotel rooms (that is even taken into the new 1,001 room convention center hotel), retail, and park space than any other option. If those are all sold out, I'd even take the Young or City Hall option.

I think this line would carry the most passengers of the four options.

3. Get rid of the one-way street system. For many reasons they have to go: confusion, auto over pedestrian, increased accidents and diminished on-street parking.

2. Removal of the freeway loop around downtown. If I lived in a perfect world, the freeways would run as originally intended, and stop at the city's edge, or in the case, I'd say I-635 or Loop-12. If that isn't enough, I'd settle for the removal of Woodall Rogers and I-345, the strip of freeway between Woodall and I-30 that divides downtown and Deep Ellum and East Dallas.

1. Get rid of the tunnel and skywalk system. I have waxed on and on and on about this, so I'll spare you the repetitiveness.

Santa, any help would be appreciated.


Ken Duble said...

Concerning a second LRT line, the outcome of 2010's muddled mess is that there isn't going to be a D-2; it isn't going to happen. There's simply no money to move forward.

DART's expansion plans now call for an Orange line segment opening in June, an additional Orange line segment to open in December to coincide with expanded Blue line service to Rowlett, Orange line service to DFW Airport in 2014, and a Blue Line extension to UNT's southern Dallas campus in 2019.

The climate in Congress has become extremely hostile to rail spending. In the case of HSR, 100% of federal dollars awarded for fiscal 2012 were deleted from the budget in last year's compromise to raise the debt ceiling. Projects now proceeding were funded through 2011 appropriations.

An interesting note: While you favored the B7 Lamar-Commerce option, this is the option that would have promoted the underground tunnels which you decry. While the underground option would carry the most passengers -- and cost the most I might add -- if the goal is street-level vibrancy, the less expensive B4 Lamar-Young might prove more useful.

My own disappointment was that none of the four finalist options would have served Union Station. As it will be the transfer points between the Red and Blue lines, the Oak Cliff Streetcar, the TRE, Amtrak, and any potential HSR of the future, tying in the Orange and Green lines to connect with all the others would have seem to have been the most far-sighted approach.

Branden said...

There will be one eventually, just a matter of when because DART can not build any of the 2030 plan with the exception of the Cotton Belt Line without another downtown line. The City wanted a subway prior to building the starter line. DART's Board, succumbing to suburban interest, wanted a surface line so there would be a rail line to their areas sooner. Dallas relented on the condition that when the transit mall sees four lines or one train every 2.5 minutes, DART builds a a new line downtown. That has already happened with the rush hour service of the Orange Line. When it opens, and if they go back to running trains on every line ten minutes apart, both conditions will be met.

It is unrealistic to think that the current financial situation will not change. Sooner or later, DART will pay off the capital costs, Dallas will continue to desnify near the core and the desire to build rail lines will surface again.

As for Congress, the pendulum is always in motion. In 2006, it swung to the left, went further in 2008, went to the far right in 2010 and looks to be in motion again this year. Since the current build out won't be done for several more years, I won't worry until then.

I will say the line I favored in not the most expensive. The Convention Center Hotel is. Both the CCH and Commerce Street exceed the money available that DART had before the crash (which mean all option exceed now) and the City Hall was borderline. But, the thing I don't loike about the CCH, is that it carries the least amount of riders, costs the most to build and costs the most to maintain.

The subway tunnel doesn't have to add to the pedestrian tunnel system. If the subway stations entrances are at the street level, then it doesn't matter. When I participated in the committee meetings, DART planners were leaning towards tunnel connections, but the design will make the difference. In fact, it is possible that the subway portion under Lamar could close the portion between BoA and the garage, if the depth issues can't be worked out.

As for the surface line making the street vibrant, New York, London, Boston, Paris, et al. might have some clues as to how to do subway and vibrant streetscapes together.