After the jump, what does all this have to do with Richardson? Or Dallas?
What does this have to do with Richardson? Well, I'll probably have to let go of my quixotic dream of tearing down Central Expressway. Central Expressway is not an urban freeway. It's one of those interstate arteries that even the urbanists who dream of tearing down urban freeways concede have a purpose. But if support for tearing down urban freeways needs rethinking, support for tearing down suburban freeways needs rethinking, too.
What does any of this have to do with Dallas? Well, Dallas is in the midst of a debate about tearing down IH 345 (a truly urban freeway, it's the connector between IH 45 and Central Expressway). Steve Blow of The Dallas Morning News waded into the debate this week with a dumb column (sorry, read his column before criticizing my word choice -- he practically begged someone to use that word). His argument against tearing down IH 345 boils down to "Where would the traffic go?"
That question has been answered repeatedly by some of the "really smart people" that Blow dismisses, answers that Blow fails to address at all (which is why his own column is really dumb). Earl Swift of The Atlantic uses that report from 1939 to show why the smart people's answers aren't necessarily valid. The highways were built in the first place because there was *nowhere* for the traffic to go. It was choking our cities already in 1939.
Swift doesn't say we are necessarily doomed to suffer freeways through our urban neighborhoods forever. He does say that tearing down freeways is feasible only when they are no longer needed. And getting to the point where they are no longer needed is going to take a lot of work.
It will take weaning American drivers off their dependence on the car, off their passion and demand for it. This is not an easy assignment, seeing as how cars are purchases we make with our hearts, more than our heads. Logic won't convince Americans to change their ways. What will? Maybe, over time, prohibitive fuel prices and withering tolls, and, most importantly, investment in useful and convenient public transit. Only when the carrot is irresistible, and the stick stings too sharply to bear, will the shift begin, and it will take years to play out.
Source: The Atlantic.
So, maybe the dream of tearing down those urban freeways is still alive. But we have to prepare the ground first. We have to keep working on both the carrots and sticks to get to the point where tearing down the freeways becomes the popular choice, not just of the urban planners, but of the everyman like Steve Blow.