A Better Ross Ave. and "Tactical Urbanism"

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At some point the conversation below, concerning the plan to create a so-called quick-win trail that would link Bishop Arts to the Katy Trail across the Trinity, took an odd swerve, with someone insisting that Jason Roberts, Andrew Howard and the rest of the Better Block-ers are trying to "kill the car in Dallas." Um, no, not exactly. As Roberts explains on Better Block, when writing about Sunday's Build a Better Boulevard Challenge on Ross Avenue:
Our Ross Better Boulevard project re-balanced the equation of the street giving equal weight to people and cars. This simple measure dramatically changed the psychology of the street and showed the potential for how our city can move forward in creating great places.
It's what architect and professor Ellen Dunham-Jones refers to as "tactical urbanism" on The New York Times's website today when writing about "automobile-dependent landscapes" that have been "forsaken." Like, oh, Ross Avenue. Writes the professor:
Top of the list of unloved, underperforming and ubiquitous places, [commercial strip corridors] were engineered for the single purpose of swiftly moving cars. But overzoned for commercial uses, they are now clogged with cars on both local and through trips. They provide access to cheaper land and "drive till you qualify" affordable housing -- but then eat up the savings as transportation costs have risen to 20 to 40 percent of household budgets. They are aging with little prospect of funding for maintenance. And their high vacancy rates just add to the dispiritedness of a failed public realm.

Can they be retrofitted into attractive, transit boulevards lined with trees, sidewalks and affordable housing and anchored by mixed-use centers with a public life to be proud of? June Williamson and I are tracking over 35 North American corridors that are being redesigned not to make driving miserable, but to recognize the multiple social, environmental, economic and transportation purposes that great streets serve. Their integration was highlighted in the grassroots-led temporary re-striping of Ross Avenue as "Ross Ramblas" in Dallas this week at Build a Better Boulevard. Participants employed several techniques of Tactical Urbanism, including pop-up shops, chairbombing and dumpster pools.
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Buckeye
Buckeye

Tactical Urbanism?  That's a bit much, wouldn't you say?  What's next?  Urban Jihad?

TimCov
TimCov

The Urban Jihad is part of the overall Unitarian Jihad movement. ;>

Actually, tactical has become one of those overused buzz phrases. I've seen tactical corsets and lipstick holders. It has gotten quite silly.

Glen
Glen

Never underestimate the pure blogging potential of any idea, regardless of it having any possibility of finding a place in the real world. You've heard of Thomas Friedman, right?

Alliwannadoisazoomzoom
Alliwannadoisazoomzoom

"Our Ross Better Boulevard project re-balanced the equation of thestreet giving equal weight to people and cars. This simple measuredramatically changed the psychology of the street[.]"

Yeah, I've heard and seen enough from Mr. Roberts and Co..  Confidence in one's mission is one thing, but exaggeration, self importance, and misused/misapplied terms and concepts is when I, for one, check out.  Besides, the whole cause is a vision of a small group of denizens who wish they were living somewhere else.  I say "go live there."  You want to do something actually constructive? Start a campaign to fix the roads and potholes throughout the entire county; to repair said roads and potholes with materials that last more than 6 months; and to bring Caddilac Heights into the 20th c. (the 21st c. would be even more desirable).  Just for starters.

Enough with the "stuff that white people like" mentality.

Oh yes, am I wrong in thinking that Mr. Roberts owns a bicycle shop? More than mere "community activism" going on here???  Just a thought.  And if that is the case, so what.  I would applaud him for it.  It would be a smart move.

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

You're definitely wrong about the motivations. A bit of over-exposure for Mr. Roberts for sure, but you can't hate the guy, he tries. I wish he'd adopt a few visible partners-in-crime so when some progressive city hires him the ideas would continue to grow.

And not to be too cynical, but has much really come of these stunts yet (NYT name drops aside)?  I mean there still isn't a continuous sidewalk (or bike lane) down Davis from Beckley to Hampton in our beloved hipster utopia.

Gabe
Gabe

I believe the effects are mostly educational/psychological, i.e. software not hardware improvements.

"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there." - Robert Persig

If we can improve/better/fix/increase the quality of our thinking and values, the engineering and asphalt isn't hard.

Jrbraddick
Jrbraddick

Davis is TXDOT owned, not city owned which makes it extremely more difficult to get the funding and collaboration necessary for the street to change along that stretch.  However, it does fall withing the new TIF district and private funding could change that quicker.  Just so you know....

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

Including the sidewalks (unfortunately the only place to ride a bike in Uninsured Nascar, USA)?

Lee
Lee

Are you suggesting that someone trying to make his neighborhood and his city better is somehow wrong or misguided?   I don't own a bike, but I applaud the idea that our neighborhoods should be something other than car centric pass throughs and I am inspired by Jason (whom I have never met), who is willing to work and make things happen rather than sit around and complain. 

If potholes and Cadillac Heights are more important to you, then go for it!  You can make change happen just as easily as he can. 

Right
Right

Wow...the forces that resist change at all costs are personified by you. This is the kind of  of defeatism espoused by old people.  The little "white people" dig exposes you. Your generation has a hard time with the idea of integration so perpetuating racial tension is your raison d'etre.  I guess you didn't realize that our population numbers are dropping and that we are having to cut jobs at drastic levels for schools and at the city because there is no longer a tax base to support our current infrastructure. Who exactly is going to pay for the potholes when there's little retail tax base to cover the asphalt? I think a plan to re-think our infrastructure is exactly what is needed to pull us out of this rut. We can't afford the street in its current form. Are you willing to pony up for some patches? And how exactly is our current infrastructure safe for a kid to cross?

G_David
G_David

Thanks for your 2 cents.  And thanks for "checking out".  Buh-bye.

elbueno
elbueno

You couldn't be more wrong actually. There are no political or business interests involved here on the part of the citizens that are creating this stuff. 

It is all simply about improving the quality of life...improving the place we live, INSTEAD of moving somewhere else.  There are so few people willing to do this and for you to shit on them is simply unfair.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I don't know if he's being paid for all these specific things, but Roberts DOES actually own a consulting firm that presumably intends to profit from fees on these various projects or in the future on similar ones.

Llamalu
Llamalu

You are wrong about him owning a bike shop. He does own a fun restaurant though!

Alfredo
Alfredo

Professor Ellen Dunham-Jones is full of shit

TimCov
TimCov

"Can they be retrofitted into attractive, transit boulevards lined with trees, sidewalks and affordable housing and anchored by mixed-use centers with a public life to be proud of?"

I would to see this done to Garland Avenue in Garland. The long strip of tote-the-note car dealerships does nothing good for people's impression of Garland. Yet, right behind these dealerships are older neighborhoods with lots of young/working class families. Wouldn't it be great if some of the dealerships were replaced with restaurants and stores that catered to other needs besides transportation.

Luke
Luke

I'm with you there, man. I live in one of those neighborhoods, and I can see that area going one of two ways in the next 10-15 years: 1. Young couples get priced out of East Dallas and realize that they can go up the road ten minutes and have cool old houses for much, much cheaper while still being close to their East Dallas and Lakewood haunts, the car dealers along Garland get razed and redeveloped into places people would actually want to visit, or 2. All the old people die off, the cool old houses get bought up and made into poorly maintained rentals, nothing gets done with the car dealerships, and we're in for another 50 years of decay. I would love it if the idiots who ran Garland would stop fluffing their interests on the north side of town and realize that on the south side, they have a gateway straight into one of the coolest parts of Dallas; ten minutes from the Arboretum, Fair Park, etc. Connecting downtown Garland with East Dallas via a redeveloped Garland Road would be really, really awesome. I'm just afraid we don't have anyone with enough vision or wherewithal to do it.

TimCov
TimCov

I live in that area too. I've been finding interesting little things by riding my bicycle around the neighborhoods early in the morning. I found the Resistol/Stetson hat factory and outlet store. I've also found a house that looks like a castle (and it isn't a McMansion).

Luke
Luke

Yes! I did a double-take the first time I saw that. How cool is it to have that factory right in the middle of your neighborhood?! Hopefully they do something worthwhile with the Garland Shopping Center now that it's been razed. I hear the "biggest and best" Race Trac station is going in where the old Prestige Ford used to be. Their words, not mine. I'm not too excited that another gas station is going in there, but hopefully that will kickstart them doing something with the old Hypermart hull. If Garland knew anything, they'd work with Dallas and have a dedicated streetcar line going all the way from downtown Garland's square down to White Rock, or even Fair park.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Luke, you are right. I bought in Casa View in 1986. At that time it was older white people. They started dying, and went to rent houses. It was not pretty. Now, the area is mostly hispanic families. Very nice place to live. Very big trees. Lots of affordable houses.

We bought here for exactly the reasons you mention. We can be in deep ellum in 15 minutes, We can be in Oak Cliff in twenty minutes. Close to the lake. And now a artisan beer garden going in on Peavy.

scottindallas
scottindallas

That area is likely ripe for a TIFD.  It would be great to get Garland and Dallas working on that together.  I live in LH, on Ferndale and consider that my neighborhood too.  More the Peavy/Easton/Jupiter end of it but find myself on Garland up to Miller frequently enough.  I think you made an astute prognosis.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Tax Increment Finance District.  If enough people vote on it, a portion of sales tax revenue is sequestered for whatever the TIFD is passed to support--development along Garland Rd, in this case. 

Luke
Luke

What does TIFD stand for?

El Rey
El Rey

The Better Block concept can be done anywhere. Tulsa did it. So did a few other cities. Contact Jason and he will get you started.

Roberttturner
Roberttturner

Good idea, Tim, but that doesn't fit in with the downtown/uptown/OakCliff/Trinity vision of the very few... and the very savvy (and connected), publicity wise. The rest of the city really doesn't count in their eyes. Now, they will deny it, for sure. But their plans and their actions say it all.

Anonymous
Anonymous

For a fee, I'm sure Roberts (and his recently formed consulting firm) would be happy to do it for you. I don't know if he charges for the ones that are in his neighborhood, or whether all of this is gratis while he builds up a track records as the basis for charging down the line. In any event, you can't expect someone whose mantra is "let's fix the localized transit issues and the neighborhoods will improve themselves" to go outside his little slice of the city. His entire point is the one person/group/committee is not going to solve every problem. He's just trying to show people what they can do with limited resources and vision

elbueno
elbueno

Exactly what El Rey said, the concept is meant to inspire others. You can't expect Jason and Andrew to do it for you.

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

If Roberts wants to play nice with the 2011 Bike Plan, won't this trail have to connect through the Jefferson Viaduct? Every other viable alternative is planned for or under construction: Continental Ave, Santa Fe Trestle, I-30 bike bridge (if that's still even on the table).

Nick R.
Nick R.

Band name alert?

El Rey
El Rey

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing after reading 'chairbombing' and 'dumpster pools'.

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