Sunday, August 19, 2012

Can a Love Affair be Forced?

Two posts ago, I discussed the battle of the neighborhood near Fair Park that is bisected by S. M. Wright Freeway versus the Texas Department of Transportation over the revamping of the freeway. To recap, the residents would like a four-lane boulevard and TxDoT would like it six lanes to move what they predict to be a still heavy amount of cars. Unsurprisingly, I sided with the neighborhood.

On Wednesday, The Dallas Morning News published an editorial that basically says they should accept what TxDoT is offering. I encourage the reading of the comments in the link. The comments are different perspectives from the same point of view.

I disagree vehemently with their point, though I am not surprised this is the DMN's view, as the entire editorial board doesn't live near here and a good portion do not even live within the city. They have a hard time understanding something that is against what their way of life is dependent upon. Without highways, they couldn't live where and how they do, and therefore do not, or maybe even can not, understand how highways are bad for inner city neighborhoods.

But here's the part they seem to base their entire point on, which in and of itself is flawed.

TxDOT officials say that a very large number of cars — as many as 40,000 — will still need daily access to S.M. Wright, even after a redesign reroutes 67,000 vehicles from U.S. Highway 175 directly to Interstate 45. TxDOT says anything narrower than a six-lane road would create traffic jams and unacceptable hazards during peak hours.

Quoting TxDoT without any context or rebuttal will lead to a flawed standing. TxDoT either totally ignores or significantly downplays the Induced Traffic Principal. They see traffic as primarily a fixed number based more on supply-and-demand rather than the actual behavioral function that it is in reality.

The reality is that this road will contain very few regional travelers. As I describe the roadway, it can be referenced in this Google Maps link. Tx-310 (S. M. Wright) runs directly parallel to I-45 (Julius Schepps). From Overton Rd., where it turns into a limited access freeway from a surface highway, to I-20, there a twelve intersections, of which three are signaled and one is a cloverleaf. Aside from the cloverleaf, the three signaled and, to a lesser extent, the eight others will slow traffic on their own. That slower traffic is the kind out-of-neighborhood drivers dislike. In fact, zoom in on the road in satellite view and notice just how empty this road is. Moving over to I-45 reveals a lot more vehicles using the roadway.

So as current conditions exist, of the 40,000 cars that TxDoT predicts will use the new roadway, few will come from the current S.M. Wright roadway. That means two things. They predict much of the traffic will come from the neighborhood and/or from drivers from C. F. Hawn Freeway (U.S. 175), which used S. M. Wright to get to I-45 prior to the reconstruction of the right-of-way. Both are flawed, I believe.

First, this is a much more transit-dependent community, so fewer neighborhood trips from within will actually use the road than TxDoT believes. Much of Texas has poor, if any, transit service or other alternatives. Therefore, a higher amount will have to use those roads. However, they use the higher amount, regardless of context. Arlington or my hometown of Midland and this neighborhood, can not be modeled the same. But they are anyway.

Second, very few folks will exit U.S. 175 to use the new S.M. Wright roadway, just to merge with I-45 eventually anyway. This is the point that TxDoT misses when it is directly related to Induced Traffic.

When the freeway portions of C. F. Hawn and Julius Schepps get full, people will figure out a new way, mode or time to travel. With TxDoT assuming a linear function for traffic counts, they assume when the capacity is reached, this overflow will go somewhere else, not change their behavior.

That is the essence of this debate. If TxDoT gets their way, they will do like the southern portion of S.M Wright and build an excessively wide, unneeded roadway that doesn't fit within the neighborhood it runs in, keeping the neighborhood needlessly divided.

This is why I will always debate those that say American love their cars. As long as state agencies like TxDoT unnecessarily focus on highways, then we will always have a lopsided choice. We love our cars because it is the only convenient option, not because they win on an even playing field.

No comments: