Is Dallas Smarter Than a Third Worlder?

Categories: Schutze

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In my ongoing series on cities smarter than Dallas, please allow me to add Seoul, South Korea, another place we need to send a team to right away.

Yesterday the Dallas City Council heard an awe-inspiring presentation by Guillermo Penalosa, a leading-edge planner whose work has helped transform cities from Canada to Colombia. He spoke about bike trails and then my own favorite topic these days (because we don't get it) -- linear river parks.

There's a story about his talk in this morning's Dallas Morning News. And, because of my deep respect for that particular news organ, which verges on fanatical religious awe, I am going to assume they entirely left out his bit about Seoul and the Cheonggyecheon project because of the high cost of ink. So it is my own honor and privilege, here in this ink-free environment, to catch you up on what Penalosa told the council.

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Wikimedia Commons
Cheonggyecheon Creek in Seoul.
Paraphrasing here, I interpreted his remarks to mean: Only idiots who couldn't even make it in the Third World would put a highway down their riverfront.

Penalosa, I am sure, knows nothing of Dallas' fervent desire to put a highway down its riverfront. His PowerPoint presentation is probably the same that he delivers all over the world. I'm sure he had no idea he was jabbing us in the eye with a sharp stick.

In Seoul, as Penalosa pointed out, the city started by building a six-lane highway over Cheonggyecheon Creek, a tributary of the Han River, in 1976. As Penalosa explained, it filled up with gridlocked traffic that spewed toxins far and wide.

So they double-decked it. Pretty soon they had a two-layer wedding cake of toxin-spewing gridlock. Some officials started thinking about triple-decking.

In 2003, a progressive mayor put his hand up and said stop. This is going in the wrong direction. Mayor Lee Myung-bak led a successful campaign to have the whole thing torn down and the river restored as a lovely linear park, now a jewel of the city and an engine of redevelopment along its banks.

What about the cars? Seoul told them to go away. And in fact, Penalosa told our council members, getting rid of cars is the sole solution: "There is no city in the world the size of Dallas that has solved the issue of mobility through the private car," he said.

The answers, he said, are public transit coupled with serious efforts to make walking and biking a better experience. My own two bits to add would be that there's nothing better for walking than lovely trails and linear parks.

Penalosa was not consciously speaking about or to Dallas, but his remarks should have been taken by the council as both a knife in their hearts and a window on a better tomorrow. Otherwise in its approach to the challenges of the future, our city is plunging blindly into the past.

City Hall and the old-school moneybags who still control it are ignorant of the world beyond our city limits, and that ignorance is turning those limits into prison walls. If we allow them to keep spending our money to build freeways through downtown and useless decorative bridges, they're going to wind up putting this city six feet under.

Dallas needs to get out more. We should commission some kind of best practices team to travel the globe -- even if it's only virtual travel online -- to find out how leading-edge cities around the world are resolving the same problems and conflicts that seem always to be so insoluble here.

First stops: 1) Seoul (riverfront), 2) Galway (linear forest park), 3) Detroit (farmers market), 4) Mexico City (air).

For some of us, I know, this may require a tad or two of unaccustomed humility, a touch of modesty, a hard swallow, perhaps. But remember: We could put it up on billboards leading into town: DALLAS -- MODESTY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. How one's heart would swell.

(To watch Penalosa's presentation, scroll to the 16:11 time mark in this video.)


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56 comments
roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

Mass transit is for commies!  Americans love their cars.

Azim Merali
Azim Merali

Ever wonder what NYC, San Fransico, Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Madrid, Buenos Ayres, Santiago, London, Geneva, Hamburg might do if they had an asset like the Trinity?  A big road to go to Costco, perhaps. 

Subnx
Subnx

If world class means living in a box in a tall building and being dependant upon public transportation and being sweaty when I get to the office then I don't want it. With my vehicle I go when I want and leave when I want and I don't have to deal with the elements (or even think about them). I'm too busy being "world class" at my business and spending time with my kids to care to partake in a vibrant urban environment. I'll take the grass and the trees and the convenience of firing up the Yukon and going to Costco over cramped urban living any day.

Guest
Guest

The link takes me to the City's website and the video but after a long wait there's no video.  I was asked to update some software and I did but still no video.  Was it removed from the City's website?  Is his presentation available somewhere like Youtube?  I saw his presentation today on the City's cable channel and would like to watch it agian and perhaps share it on Facebook.

bbetzen
bbetzen

"Only idiots who couldn't even make it in the Third World would put a highway down their riverfront."

Please do not confuse the issue by bringing up our third world prejudices with the issue of who would survive in a third world country.   Keep it simple: "Only idiots would put a highway down their riverfront."

Brian
Brian

South Korea isn't a 3rd world country. They are more developed than most of Europe and have a per capita income of over $30,000.

Dalguy
Dalguy

The Trinity Floodroad has led the world to see Dallas as the city of World Class Idiots, the same way that Rick Perry has made Texas the world's laughing stock.

DT
DT

Detroit resolving a problem????? Have you been there in the last 20 years? I find VERY little there I would strive to emulate. I agree with your overall reasoning but Detroit is one spot in the world more screwed up than Dallas at everything.

DK
DK

When I lived in Seoul that area was under water during the rainy season.  It's not exactly an apples to apples comparison with the Trinity creek.

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

Texas is a Road and Bridge state. More roads more cars, more oil and gas. There is no way Dallas should be disconnected from Arlington. At least we have TRE that go to Downtown Ft. Worth. It is embarrasing to have a major river through the city that has never been developed. There should be a major bike trail along the trinity with all types of amenities by now. I am really hoping Rawling can move toward being a progressive Major. I really think he has the tool to jump start the change.

Don Abbott
Don Abbott

Just a quick refresher on Laura Miller:  when asked why she had mysteriously ditched the populous idea of doing the bread and butter clean-up of Dallas, she said her husband had talked her out of it.  I've never paid attention to Laura Miller since then.

Somewhat Anonymous
Somewhat Anonymous

Seoul, Galway, Detroit, and Mexico City. Nope, none of these cities beats the exceptionalism of Dallas or Amer-ca.

Gabe
Gabe

Several people have been on board for this for a long time. A facebook group for links about urban highway removal (and/or boulevard-ing) along with a specific call to action is here:

https://www.facebook.com/SaveD... 

Heywood U. Buzzoff
Heywood U. Buzzoff

DALLAS -- MODESTY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!!!  JimBo, I think this just may make those Keep Austin Weird go away! 

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

I heard once that 70% of Texans vacation within Texas. Hence, I can only assume that the Dallas elite that makes decisions at City Hall have never ventured beyond a Casino at Texarcana.

I would not like to fund some boondogle trip around the world for the GCB City Hall elite. However, how can we show them (via online presentations) that other cities in the world have linear parks?

Should the Dallas Observer showcase projects like Seoul, Madrid or Monterrey? As in a Front Page report so that all Dallasites are enlightened?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

You trying to get some frequent flyer miles and book a bunch of international business class tickets on the company card there, Jim?

All one has to do is look to Boston with the Big Dig or San Francisco with the Embarcadero to see what other cities have done with urban highway eyesores.

Erich Von Erich
Erich Von Erich

If I recall correctly from my dead tree copy of the DMN which I perused this morning, the article spends some column inches discussing bicycle lanes.  I am well past ready for Dallas to stop talking about bicycle lanes and start doing something about it.  I'm not even an avid cyclist.  I just ride around the neighborhood with my kid.  But from a quality of life standpoint, how great would it be?

If you've been to South Congress in Austin lately you will notice some nice new bike lanes, more street parking (reverse angle parking which is safer), and it all accomodates plenty of car traffic as well.  It just can't be that expensive, and it would benefit me a fair piece more than more Cotton Bowl improvements.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I happen to agree that the traffic problems in Dallas won't be solved with more roads, which would only invite more cars.  75 should be a good indicator of that.On the other hand, you can't eliminate cars altogether either.  Regardless of what others may think, a large number of the people who work in Dallas (and, coincidentally contribute to the sales tax revenue of the city) live outside the city limits.  Unless we expand DART to cover more cities, with longer hours of service and better performance, there will still be a need for cars and we'll still have the morning and afternoon rush of traffic.As for the park in Seoul, well, it's easy to be a gem in a city of coal.  the rest of Seoul is a pit.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Jim, you have hit the nail on the head. The basic problem with Dallas is that the people who keep nattering about "world-class" this and "world-class" that have new clue as to what the actual world outside is like.

(They also don't know that anything that's actually world-class doesn't call itself that--e.g. nobody says "Welcome to Egypt, home of world-class Pyramids." But that's an issue for another day.)

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

In every City that I visit people are walking and riding bikes. Dallas is "my car says who I am" so they drive only poor people they think ride DART.City and Civic Leaders wonder why people will not take DART, not one of them will.We have become cement City and wide roads.The street down the River is so silly and where are people coming and going from?

orangemike
orangemike

So, Jim, what can us average citizens of Dallas do at this point to kill the toll road between the levees D-E-A-D dead and make sure its zombie corpse never rises again? 

The pro-tollroad forces lied to win the referendum and continue to cheerlead for this boondoggle in the face of all economic and common sense. The daily paper has been complicit in this duplicitousness, and to read the latest on the transpo blog over there one would think the Corps of Engineers is all in, too. 

It is all very depressing to contemplate that we may be powerless to stop this. 

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I'm convinced, from many conversations in this town, that there are many intelligent progressives in this city. The big issue is the simple fact most of the voters in this town fall into two classes:

A) Issue voters who lack the facts(i.e the southern sector voter)B) Old people who dispute the facts(i.e. the north dallas voter)

I think its going to take a progressive mayor in this town that will finally latch onto common sense when it comes to not only going after business, but makes sure they pay their just share in city taxes to put money into the city coffers..

Storm_71
Storm_71

That's all great and all but for people who let's say live in Arlington and work in Dallas that's kind of a long bike ride. There is no public transportation in Arlington what's so ever well I guess one could count the trolly that takes people from Lincoln Square to the Ballpark. I suppose I could drive to Trinity station and take the "T" link up somehow with DART and turn a 45 min drive into 2 hours or how ever long it would take. In my very humble opinion the Metorplex is just to spread out for anything like that to work.

ts
ts

Indeed.  Maybe Jim needs to add himself to that list of Dallasites who need to get out more.

Albert
Albert

So when you go to Oklahoma, do you tell everyone you're from Canada?

Jpgreenan
Jpgreenan

Ridiculous. The Dallas Elite fly by private jet to Colorado for the summer (where a car picks them up and takes them to their vacation home where they keep a couple of extra cars) and vacation in France and Italy and the best spas. They get out of Texas all the time. The Elite just don't understand why you would want to build bike paths when you can just take a limousine?

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Sillies.  We can't have a big expensive urban renewal eyesore tear-down-and-replacement project unless we build the eyesore first.  Sheesh, how many years did you go to college?  

Guest
Guest

By making it just a little bit harder to drive down the DNT or 75 in the Tahoe from the McMansion in Prosper, we can start to encourage people to live in the city. Or at least one of the closer in suburbs served by DART. Developerlandgrabville up by the OK border will never have mass transit.

Gabe
Gabe

This sort of thinking that Jim is talking about isn't really about eliminating cars, just making them NOT the sole stakeholder in transportation spending decisions. 

Albert
Albert

Never been to LA, eh?

Mike
Mike

Laura Miller was as close to a liberal mayor as the city will see. She ran against the CC twice and won. The sad part is people in southern sector got so wrapped up in defending that idiot police chief and following the orders of the paid CC lackeys they considered leaders. They did not recognize the opportunity she offered. Well she is off doing very well, the CC does very well, and South Dallas once again is working on DMN drops of whatever. When you do not take opportunities, you need to stop blaming others for your plight.

The CC learned its lesson and will not let that end around happen again.

jfpo
jfpo

What I meant to say before my iPhone locked up on me...

Since Dallas mayors are essentially annointed by the Citizen's Council, our chances for a progressive mayor anytime soon are slim.

Imagepimp
Imagepimp

You live in a city (Arlington) that has repeatedly shot down mass transit (3 times?) and is run by people who take pride in the fact that Arlington, Texas is the largest city in the country without public transportation. As a City of Dallas taxpayer, why should I give a damn about your commute time to work from Arlington to Dallas? Tell your city to get on board and run a train up I30, otherwise, what's your point?

Guest
Guest

A toll road in the river isn't going to get you downtown from Arlington any faster.

And really, should the city of Dallas be designing itself for the benefit of the people of Dallas or the people of Arlington and Plano and McKinney and Irving, etc.?

Kent Betts
Kent Betts

Heh heh ....Last year I spent a week in Hong Kong and experienced its amazing mass transit system.  Then last month I was in Kuala Lumpur and saw another amazing rail system.  And Bangkok here has a convenient system.   I rode the train from FW to Dallas once but somehow it wasn't the same.  Probably slower and more expensive, and less frequent service.  Really if Kuala Lumpur can put in a nice rail system then I would tend to think that Fort Worth should be able to do so as well.  But yeah, get out more, by all means.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

The point is they tore them down, so don't built it in the first place. Duh.

cp
cp

Never been to NYC, eh?

orangemike
orangemike

Laura Miller toed the CC line by the time she was done. The euphemism-filled Balanced Vision Plan was created during her tenure, with the Orwellian "Trinity Parkway" forever after propagandized as the linchpin of it all.

Now if you'll excuse me, my solar-powered water taxi has arrived. Oh, wait.

Azim Merali
Azim Merali

Of course one could look for a job in Arlington[Bonus : no commute & the planet thanks you], I hear they have fine world class sports facilities there, maybe that is good place to work also ? Imagine, one would be going to work in a place where millionaires play sports. Seriously, Dallas has a unique opportunity to be WOLRD CLASS here. I hope they don't blow it by putting a road in the park.

Albert
Albert

No-one brings shotguns to school board meetings, and English is a first language.

Storm_71
Storm_71

Why would anyone live in Dallas? Oh I forgot the bridge, the bridge.

Mike
Mike

Laura was smart enough to realize one more plan from Mary Suhm was not going anywhere. None of those plans mean anything. I think Laura got tired of banging her head against a council filled with soon to be convicted criminals and other people that I doubt could satisfactorily fill a paper sack with groceries. We forget about the councilman that wanted to created a tall bronze statue of himself and the councilwoman that did not want 13 sections in the bond issue because it was unlucky. When she moved out of Oak Cliff to Preston Hollow, you knew she had enough.

Albert
Albert

Shotguns are not racist.

Rangers100
Rangers100

Racism.  Fun.  Arlington do what it do.

Jamaisvu182
Jamaisvu182

 Unlikely. I am dying (as opposed to living)  in Arlington. The place is very car friendly. Not so friendly to humans. UTA is the second largest employer in the city (following the ISD). The university is up against serious structural limitations, namely the short-sightedness and provincialism of the city "leaders."

Albert
Albert

Arlington has two-world-class sports venues in spitting distance of each other, Dallas has a a designer bridge.

Give us a little time, we'll take that bridge away from you too.

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