Friday, April 9, 2010

Glaring Urban Failure

"Glaring urban failure." That's what The Dallas Morning News' Rodger Jones calls Richardson's pedestrian access to its DART stations.

"There's no way to safely walk from the Galatyn and Bush DART rail stations to the nearest residential neighborhoods. C'mon, folks. Build some sidewalks."

Does he have a point? Yes. Does he omit some important information? Also yes. After the jump, the context.

When Jones says "build some sidewalks" he falsely gives the impression that none exist today. He ignores the gem of a hike/bike trail through the Galatyn Woodland Preserve and the Spring Creek Nature Area. That walk north from Galatyn Station to Renner Rd is the most enjoyable walk in Richardson. Jones ignores it because the trail is not lighted, so he considers it unsafe after dark. Unsafe is a relative term. A lighted trail is safer than an unlighted one, granted, but I'm not sure that walking an unlighted trail through the woods is any less safe than walking a lighted sidewalk along Central Expressway at midnight. It's a subjective call.

By writing as if the trail doesn't even exist, he shortchanges what Richardson did right in providing a great walking option that satisfies many Richardson residents, just not Rodger Jones. If Jones would ask for *additional* pedestrian options, he'd get my enthusiastic support. Not "build some sidewalks" but "build some *more* sidewalks."

Jones has more of a point regarding the Bush Turnpike station. On the Richardson side, there are no walking options at all, except bushwhacking through undeveloped land. But it's just a matter of time before that changes. The land recently changed hands and there's hope that it will be developed in the not too distant future. The city ought to make sure that whatever plans the developer brings to the city include convenient pedestrian access to that station. In fact, pedestrian convenience ought to be a requirement for any development anywhere in the city.

Jones also has a point that east-west connectivity across Central Expressway is too limited. Richardson needs to bridge, tunnel or punch holes through Central Expressway to let pedestrians and cyclists get through to those DART stations and amenities like the wonderful Spring Creek Nature Area. The city's master plan calls for doing just that south of Renner Rd, eliminating the need for hikers/bikers to share the road with cars when crossing Central at Renner. Also, the city is seeking bond money to extend the bridge over Central at Galatyn Parkway. Support for hikers/bikers ought to be part of any such construction plan. All such crossings, whether at Arapaho, Belt Line or Spring Valley, are in need of enhancement to give hikers/bikers a fighting chance against the automobile. If the highway builders could find a way to thread the Cottonwood Trail through the High Five intersection of Central and LBJ, they can find ways to better connect east and west Richardson. The Richardson City Council ought to insist on it.

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