Monday, January 30, 2012

A String of Pearls on the Red Line

A few isolated urban centers, left to fend for themselves, are going to wither on the vine. Nurture them to grow together into a string of overlapping vibrant urban centers all along the DART line from Spring Valley to PGBT and Richardson will have a cornucopia.
Source: The Wheel.
That's what I said in a recent blog post. After the jump, a supporting argument I read a few days later in a Slate article by Matthew Yglesias.

You need train stations surrounded by densely built structures, not parking lots. And you need the stations to be relatively close to each other. Dense building around one station creates a little circle of walkability. A series of stations built close together, each surrounded by its own little circle, creates a string of walkable pearls that re-enforce each other. That’s how you get whole new communities where people get by with fewer than one car per adult, spurring a circle of demand for pedestrian-oriented businesses and decreased demand for car ownership. And that’s what gives you big public health and environmental benefits.
Source: Slate.
Yglesias is referring to the D.C. Metro’s Orange Line in Fairfax County, Virginia, but it could apply as well to the DART Red Line.

Yglesias calls for a "string of walkable pearls." I called for a "cornucopia" of fruits on a vine. Regardless of the metaphor, the important thing is that each urban center not be thought of in isolation. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, if the parts are close enough to each other to reinforce each other. This raises the need for Richardson to double down.

Arapaho Station is a potential gem in that string of pearls. A few years ago, there was some initial interest in development of the area around the station. The economic downturn quashed that idea for now, but the city needs to keep that vision alive and find a way to make it happen.

Of even more importance to Richardson's future would be a new DART station on Main Street. It would be a win-win-win, reinvigorating downtown while at the same time helping reinforce the urban centers to the south (Brick Row) and the north (that new mixed-use urban center needed at Arapaho Station). Infilling new stations in the Red Line would be challenging, but the Blue Line did just that at the recently opened Lake Highlands Station. Quixotically, the City Council created a near-term action item to advocate for Richardson access points for the HOV lanes on Central Expressway. If the council wants a quixotic action item that would really benefit Richardson, the council ought to advocate for another DART station at Main Street.


mccalpin said...

You could argue, as I think you do, that the HOV lane is at odds with the use of the DART rail line.

Years ago when I lived in Rome, I noticed something about how I drove and used public transit. Since I lived just outside of town, I would drive into town looking for a place to park. As it turns out, I would drive to the Vatican on the edge of the City center, because that was the last place I could consistently park. Once parked, I would then take public transit.

Yet back here in Dallas, while the city was subsidizing public transit, the city was also paying to building parking lots and garages. In Rome, public transit is heavily used because even though you could drive into town, you couldn't park once you got there.

Are we doing the same thing here, spending money on highway improvements and HOV lanes, while wondering why people don't ride public transit?


Mark Steger said...

I'm not against HOV access points for Richardson. I just think the issue is a distraction from more important issues, like another DART station at Main Street.

As for parking, I believe that our cities would be healthier today if, instead of decades of passing zoning laws that require a minimum amount of parking for a given acreage of development, the zoning laws specified a maximum amount of acreage that could be spoiled by asphalt.

Nathan Morgan said...

Italy is a world away from this North Texas time capsule. The dissimilarities are countless, not the least of which is public transportation system. So many that comparisons between public mobility modes are virtually meaningless. The Dallas territory/society has unique features that has co-opted its development. Come to think of it, there may be more similarities with the Roman Empire here.

DART ridership and roadway traffic is what it is because Dallas society is what it is.

Trains and roadways are jam packed during rush hours.

No more capacity can be added to the trains because some genius constrained the number of cars to the distance between intersections on the street-level tracks in downtown Dallas. Had the tracks been built above vehicle traffic, additional cars could be added to accommodate increased numbers of rush hour travellers. As it is now, trains are at capacity, standing room only during peak service hours. Sardine city at flu season.

As for HOV lanes, there's not a good reason to separate the lanes with those ridiculous popsicle sticks. Richardson air quality has not improved, which was the original purpose for the funding of the HOV lane. Traffic would move smother and faster, depositing less carbon monoxide on Richardson Main street, if the lane dividers were removed. Of course, then it would be more difficult to install the toll lanes.

Then there's the High-5 spaghetti bowl, originally designed and built for a single zipper lane on Central Expressway through Richardson. In the middle of construction, Richardson convinced TxDOT to build the lollipop lanes instead, in spite of the High-5 design. Now, we have a really screwy High-5 major intersection that needs a re-do.

A lot of the transportation woes in the Dallas area can be attributed to poor planning and engineering. I hear the planners are Longhorns and the engineers are mostly Aggies. That fits.