Friday, May 18, 2012

How Far Will You Walk to DART?

First, a thank you to The Dallas Morning News's Rodger Jones for becoming aware of my existence.

On the News's blogs, Jones responded to me calling his complaint that Richardson lacks walkability "whining." Basically, he says, "Guilty as charged." As Stephen Colbert might say, "I accept your apology."

Then Jones goes on to say that I accused him of being ignorant and/or dishonest. That's not exactly right. What I said is that I couldn't tell if he was just being obtuse or was deliberately misleading readers. Come to think of it, I guess it's my turn to say, "Guilty as charged."

After the jump, the case I made.

I accused Jones of telling only part of the story. I accused him of not telling his readers about the Central Trail from Renner Rd south to the Galatyn DART station. I didn't say he was ignorant of that southern route, only that he didn't tell his readers about it. I couldn't come up with a reason why he, a professional journalist, wouldn't.

Jones suggests his motive wasn't dishonesty, but safety (I think). He says, "I've seen no data that indicate that female pedestrian commuters are interested in walking home alone through the woods in the dark at night."

Well, okay. I'd be shocked if any study showed that people in general, not just women, are very interested in walking home alone through the woods in the dark at night. So, suppose we cut down the trees and put up street lights. Would that solve the problem? The City of Richardson did just that when it bulldozed the trees through the Spring Creek Nature Area from Glenville Rd to Renner Rd and laid down the Routh Creek Parkway, with a wide sidewalk and regularly spaced streetlights. No more need to walk that meandering Spring Creek Trail through the woods. Are there now many more people walking from Galatyn station to those apartments on Renner Rd west of Central? No. That's because the reason the trail usage was low is not because the trail used to be dark at night. It's because the apartments are too far away.

How far would you walk to public transit?
I ... was doing some research regarding how far people are willing to walk to get to a bus or light rail stop. A variety of studies have been done in North America; however, most found that the distance varied from a quarter mile to a half mile or roughly no more than 15 minutes on average.
For people living more than a half mile or so away from a train station (Rodger Jones is in that category), we need more convenient and frequent bus service. Rodger Jones's commitment to walking is admirable, but most people just aren't going to walk that far, no matter how pleasant the walk or nice the day. More power to the many who are willing, but they are a small percentage of the total market for public transit.

Maybe more important, we need more opportunities for people to live within that magic radius. Laying down another sidewalk across an open field or installing lights isn't going to get many people to walk a mile or two to catch the train. What's needed is transit-oriented development -- construction of apartments, townhomes, restaurants, shops and offices surrounding the station. When people can live, shop and play all within walking distance, they'll walk to the train station, too.

Jones focused on the symptom, the lack of a sidewalk, when he should have focused on the cause, the vacant land all around the PGBT station. Leave the land vacant, but throw down a sidewalk, and Jones will continue to have a very lonely walk. But develop that land properly and crowded sidewalks will follow. That aim is coming along, slowly but surely.

1 comment:

Gabe said...

Funny that you post about walking to transit. Fairly recently a new site opened called

It lets you see how far you can get within a set time by public transit. It doesn't take into account headways, but pretty cool nonetheless.