Hey Suburbs, We Thought You Thought Gated Communities Were Cool

Categories: Schutze

darttrain1.jpg
Another busy rush hour on the train as suburban commuters unload.

Culture is the most confusing thing. In today's Dallas Morning News, a state representative from a northern suburb is quoted objecting to a proposal for tolled lanes on U.S. Highway 75, the main road north from the city, saying, "We'll basically be a gated community."

Wait. I thought that was what they wanted to be.

But there you have it. The basic nut, if you want to figure out the culture of the 'burbs, is this: The people who really run the suburbs, the sprawlmeister raw-land real estate developers, are caught on the horns of an inner contradiction. They want to peddle exclusivity, prestige and security. OK. But they want to sell it to everybody. How can their realm be exclusive, prestigious or that much more secure if everybody's there?

Another window into the basic oxymoron: A few days ago the News ran an interesting piece by Brandon Formby (see -- I give them a lot of crap over there, but I really depend on them, don't I?) in which experts were quoted trying to account for the decrease in passenger trips on mass transit in the region in spite of massive investment over the last 35 years.

In that piece, Michael Morris, a regional transportation planning official who has become the region's greatest road-huckster politico, was quoted saying the problem is that we need more rail lines to our farthest-flung suburban outposts. "We've got to build rail to Frisco one day," Morris told Formby. "We've got to build rail to McKinney one day."

But ... why? Isn't that the basic failure? Back when this region first started building a rail system, there was a chance to leave the suburbs out of it, raise the money exclusively within the city and use it to build a heavy rail system with a lot of subway. That would have given the city fast trains that didn't have to stop at streetlights and presumably would have incentivized development of a no-car zone where people could live in high-rises and not even own the damn things.

Unfortunately, DART, our regional transit agency, was corrupted from the beginning by me-too-ism among the raw land elite, who still had great power and influence in the city, who did not want to see Dallas develop an edge that might have diluted their investment in the 'burbs and who saw trains as trophies, like Lionel sets under their Christmas trees. Hence we have wasted decades and untold treasure building the stupidest thing possible, a commuter train system, when what we needed from the beginning was a train system to free people from commuting.

In his piece, Formby quotes a transportation economist at the University of Toronto, Matthew Turner, saying something like that, if not exactly:

"Turner said expanding into low-density suburbs on the outreaches of the region is 'like a Ponzi scheme' because demand there isn't enough to financially sustain the infrastructure costs of rails lines and trains. 'They're big, expensive machines for moving lots of people, and they're going to bankrupt you unless you have a lot of people wanting to move,' he said."

I looked Turner up and found a Q&A in which he talks about congestion pricing, a theme I would assume is related to the proposal for tolled lanes on U.S. 75. He says that building more free road capacity is exactly the wrong thing to do, if you want to relieve congestion. For every 1 percent increase in free capacity, his studies have found, there is a 1 percent increase in driving: "This means that we should not expect either road or transit expansions to alleviate traffic congestion in the long run. The only policy that we know to be effective at reducing traffic congestion is congestion pricing."

Charging a toll, on the other hand, does reduce congestion, he says. "If we impose tolls on congested roads at congested times, we give people an incentive to shift their travel to an uncongested time when we have surplus road capacity. This saves people from waiting in traffic and will likely increase the capacity of our road network."

What we really see in the remark above of the state representative from the northern suburbs is that the raw land culture wants it both ways. It wants to build a gated community without a gate. For obvious reasons it objects to anything that might slow the flow of new homebuyers into its realm.

We in the city are the people who should really want the suburbs to be gated. We need to put a big gate between us -- a vault door, in fact. It's in our interest to see the costs of sprawl honestly priced.

Of course people should be free to live where they want to live in the way they want to live. But they should have to pay the true price for their lifestyle. At the very least those of us who live in cities should not go on paying subsidies to prop up raw land sprawl, which is pretty much what DART and free highways have become.


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102 comments
markie19
markie19 topcommenter

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Subnx
Subnx

Anyone who likes to ride on mass transit is a masochist.

donkey_kong.2010
donkey_kong.2010

"... those of us who live in cities should not go on paying subsidies to prop up raw land sprawl, which is pretty much what DART and free highways have become."


BINGO ! 

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

maybe if the dart light rail had been designed to get people through the most congested areas ie 635 and not just to get people to victory, west end, & fair park from the suburbs, more people would ride the goddamned thing

roo_ster
roo_ster

"Cars didn’t shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We’re way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy’s lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren’t forced to surrender, we were able to retreat."

----PJ O'Rourke

EdD.
EdD.

The suburbs provide more than 50% of DART's sales tax revenue but receive far less than 50% of the service. Under the most optimistic estimates, Addison will have been paying into DART for more than 50 years before the first train pulls into their station.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

When Jim talks about the suburbs he is just plain dumb. I'm sorry. I said it. I like Jim but he doesn't understand the relation between suburbs and central cities.

He doesn't understand that at this point in time older suburbs struggle with the same issues as cities.

s.aten
s.aten

TXDOT currently spends $4 billion to fix & maintain roads in Texas.  The projected cost of new roads in the DFW area thru 2030 is $50 billion. When all that money is spent, the traffic congestion will be the same or a bit worse due to increased population.   If gasoline taxes are increased, 20% of the money goes to public schools (per the Texas constitution).    To adequately fund road construction in Texas, gasoline taxes need to increase about $1 a gallon.  


DART would do better if all the outlying suburbs were part of the system so that funding for the Cotton Belt and other rail lines could be funded now.   Instead of building HOV lanes down the middle of freeways, the HOV lanes should be converted to rail lines like in Chicago.


A better question to ask, where is the water coming from for all those Northern suburbs?

Anon.
Anon.

The Collin County Contingent (CCC for short) really does think it is special. That's not just a figment of Jim's usually overheated imagination. The CCC is proud of the population projections that show the majority of the regional population growth over the next twenty to thirty years to be in Collin County.

The CCC fails to understand the true import of those projections. They fought against improving US75 to Interstate Highway standards (which would truly help mitigate the congestion they have created) because they are afraid of a few more trucks going north on what would then be IH45 on the way to Tulsa (that route saves a truck driver going north a fair amount in fuel costs versus IH35 through Oklahoma City). We'll go into greater detail about the commercial truck traffic later. That truly is a fascinating issue!

Now this same bunch, the CCC, who are afraid of a few more trucks (that are coming anyway and will use that route regardless) are afraid of a congestion mitigation approach that will alleviate some congestion right now using existing, underutilized capacity. The CCC's reaction is predictable, unfortunate, and will cause them to miss some rather obvious opportunities.

It seems the CCC don't want any more traffic on a highway that is owned, not by them, but by the US Government, the CCC does not want higher taxes to pay for more lanes (look at the folks the voters in Collin County are putting in place in Austin and in DC), and now the CCC doesn't want to pay the costs imposed by the congestion they created.

This bunch makes Marie Antoinette look like an amateur.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

"He says that building more free road capacity is exactly the wrong thing to do, if you want to relieve congestion."

There is an axiom in the design of roadways:

"Delay on any roadway will rise to the point where drivers will select alternate routes that have less delay."

In other words if you want people to start using mass transit, quit building and expanding roads.  However, there better be a mass transit system for people to use and that doesn't mean a toonerville trolley that stops every few miles or a bus that comes by once an hour in peak times.

For my daily commute, it is 20 to 30 minutes by car, door to door; or, one and half hours by bus and I get dropped off a half mile from my destination with no sidewalks to walk to my destination.

C6709
C6709

I've worked with a lot of people from/in Dallas and I know the snobbery of it. They feel they rough it cause they live within in the city limits. The funny part is I am from an actual big city and this place is not really close to what a big city is like. It's getting there (definitely much better than when I moved here 15 years ago), but it's not New York or Chicago.  So to make fun of people for living in the suburbs when you basically live in a pseudo-city is a reach

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

So we paid for the HOV scam and now we have to pay for the crony capitalist toll lane scam.

donkey_kong.2010
donkey_kong.2010

@paulpsycho78


This is 100% TRUE. 


No one who goes to a basketball game rides the light rail, 

When they can afford to ride in cars. 


The light-rail should be in place for those that cannot truly 

afford the luxury of a car. 


But then again... if the city knew that it would cost Millions 

to build a fancy rail line for POOR people..  It may never have 

been built.  

Who, by the way, really wants poor people proliferating the downtown

area(s)?  What they want is Middle-class to Wealthy, isn't that right? 


And THAT is why they are losing money.   


A business man RECOGNIZES what is needed, and for WHOM, 

and he makes it happen, and Everyone benefits. 


Especially he, who invested his time in helping the poor.

flakpanther
flakpanther

@roo_ster exactly. when your suburb's infrastructure gets too old to maintain you'll just flee again, because you have no interest in community or trying to fix what's wrong. Just run.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

But they have a giant transit station. One can board an express bus and get downtown in the same time it would take to get there by train. Yes. Not the same I know.

When they get the cotton belt they will be well positioned.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@s.aten 

"A better question to ask, where is the water coming from for all those Northern suburbs?"

The North Texas Municipal Water District which has not built any new reservoirs in over 20 years.  Their next reservoir is not going to start construction until 2017, if I remember correctly.


The funding equation for NTMWD is not designed to encourage conservation as the water rates are based upon consumption (deliveries to member cities) divided by O&M and bond retirement.  This is vastly different from DWU which is set up as a corporation and therefore has more flexibility as to what it can charge for water sales.


The main problem with NTMWD is that is reservoir capacity is not sufficient to supply its water demand within the known historical cycle of rainfall in the North Texas area.  Whereas the available water supply for DWU exceeds the historical rainfall cycle.  Given current consumption rates on the DWU system, while the reservoirs may become very low, the storage will even out.  The current watering restrictions on the DWU system are due more to peak deliverability capacity of the system rather that the available storage.


hth

dingo
dingo

@Anon. 

100k moving into the area every year.

2040 population projection at over 10 million.

The bulk of growth to the north.

A rail system layout that reinforces the Dallas 'CBD' as the socioeconomic hub of the area at a time when migration toward clustered business districts is the reality.


More freeway capacity plus congestion based toll roads plus an east to west rail line along the Cotton Belt (to eliminate the CBD as a required light rail point) all seem like approaches to be considered with respect to this reality.


One more point is that you cannot have this discussion of transportation infrastructure without consideration of where people will live. You cannot have a discussion about where people will live without having a discussion about school districts. You cannot have a discussion about 'certain' school districts in the equation and their effect on resident migrations without having a discussion about immigration policy (I know, groan).

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul ""Delay on any roadway will rise to the point where drivers will select alternate routes that have less delay.""


So blockade all roadways and people can walk or ride horses like the good old days.


Subnx
Subnx

New York and Chicago are awful places. Please don't move Dallas in that direction.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@C6709 its a lot like Chicago.  sprawling mid-west city with miles of burby neighborhoods.  

d-may
d-may

@C6709 
"Dallas people are total snobs, and they don't even understand what a big city is, like I do. I've lived in real big cities that are SOOOO much better than Dallas."

AeroRazavi
AeroRazavi

@WhiteWhale The problem is nobody is paying for anything when it comes to transportation.  So yeah, regional planners and state agencies have to get creative.

flakpanther
flakpanther

@dingo @Anon. School districts are a self-fulfilling prophecy of the demographics fleeting them, or certain segments of the school district breaking off to selfishly hoard their money. I don't blame the individual for choosing to live in this or that school district but it's not really material to the larger discussion of transportation and regional migration.

And those suburbs whose ISDs are today considered good should look around the country and around Texas to see that just because your suburb is relatively wealthy today does not mean that it will ever be thus.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@dingo @Anon. fuck toll roads, a 10 cent per gallon gas tax hike would more than double our road funds and no expensive toll roads.  Expensive to build, operate, and it's all a way to sell bonds on the financial market.

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

@dingo @Anon. Seriously...immigration and schools?  Talk about a red herring.  People attack immigration because they are too chicken s*** to talk about black people.  I got news for you: Being brown doesn't make you an illegal immigrant.  And even if they are are immigrants that doesn't make them illegal.  Look at the worst schools and check the demographics.  For the sake of argument, lets say we remove every illegal from dallas country schools.  What improvement do you REALLY expect that to make?  It won't make a dent in about a quarter of the heavily poor, heavily poor performing, and heavily BLACK schools.

Anon.
Anon.

@dingo @Anon.


All this too is true. 


About 1,200 people per day move to Texas.


The Cotton Belt turns the existing hub and spoke rail system into a network. Not much of a network, but a network nonetheless. Riding the Metro in DC a few times is very educational about how to use a rail system. 


I'll avoid stepping into the immigration discussion or the quicksand of a "certain" independent school district.

Anon.
Anon.

@C6709 I've read your other posts in this discussion, and agree with many of them. It is true that the CCC is proud of the population projections (which really are quite astounding - I have no idea how that many people are going to be accommodated under the existing zoning across the areas where these folks are projected to move). Keith Self has publicly stated that over a million people are projected to move into just the southwestern portion of Collin County alone. 

Dallas is not a high density city. Most of the City of Dallas is built on the suburban model. In fact, a visitor dropped into almost any Dallas neighborhood would be hard pressed to distinguish it from almost any suburban residential area that developed in the same time period. So I agree that the instant frenzy that some Dallas residents are overcome with whenever suburbs are discussed is puzzling. Even Jim lives in a "suburban" type neighborhood.

It is true that the CCC fought against turning US75 into IH45 because they are afraid of a few more trucks. It is true that the voters in Collin County have been courting Tea Party types that pledge to not raise any taxes, no matter how much the additional revenue is needed to pay for public infrastructure. True as well is the fact these same folks who refuse to raise taxes also do not want toll roads.

The only answer, given these constraints, is that US75 will not only remain home to the most congested intersection in the region (at 75 and 190), but the rest of the corridor will become impassable since there is no new revenue to rebuild the corridor to accommodate the traffic on it now, much less the traffic that is coming, and the CCC is against using any kind of toll feature on the corridor. 

These are facts. Collin County has seemingly painted itself into a corner. At least a million people are coming to just a part of Collin County. The CCC doesn't like the congestion, but, given a choice, the CCC will not pay what it costs to mitigate the existing congestion, much less the increased congestion that many more people will create. 

No highway is free. Not a single one. It has to be paid for. Both in construction costs and the maintenance costs, which seemingly have no end. 

How does the CCC want to pay for improving US75? Raise taxes or introduce a toll component?

Those are the only two options.

Subnx
Subnx

A half mile in a suit on a typical Dallas day equals a soggy person.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@scottindallas @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

Crossing LBJ is the bitch part.  It is half mile if I walk across LBJ and an extra 2 miles if I walk to the nearest bridge with sidewalks to cross.  So with the walk, it will be a two and half hour commute.


My point is that it does not make economic sense to use DART in my current situation.

C6709
C6709

@scottindallas @C6709 That's a pretty general description. There are many things that differ (for the better in my opinion) from Chicago and Dallas. . For example, one of the biggest issues is that a city like Chicago is a very walkable city. Dallas is not.

I'm just saying in my experience people that live in Dallas take issue with those who live in the burbs and I'd guess that most of those people also live in the burbs....of Dallas. 

 



C6709
C6709

@d-may @C6709 Right, that's what I said.


So by that logic I am a "real" big city snob who lives in the suburbs.  Genius.

Anon.
Anon.

@scottindallas @dingo @Anon.


That's what I've been saying. The policy question is what is the appropriate funding mechanism for highways? Tax supported or toll supported? I favor paying for highways through taxes - at the end of the day that is the cheapest and fastest way to get a highway built and to maintain it over time. 


You see from the comments from the CCC that they don't want to do either. They want an improved US75 with no tax increase and no toll component. Rather than talk about immigration and school districts, the discussion should be about sustainable regional development patterns. What the CCC wants is not sustainable. There is no additional funding to rebuild US75 the way it needs to be built to accommodate that vast influx of new Collin County residents that aren't here yet, but they will be. They will be. 


Anyone can live wherever s/he wants, how s/he wants, within the means of the individual or family. Part of being a responsible elected official is to make damn sure you are helping lay plans that will bear fruit, not today or tomorrow, but ten, twenty, thirty years or more from now. The CCC seems to be sticking its collective head into the sand and willfully ignoring the reality around us. That is not the behavior of a responsible elected official.

C6709
C6709

@Anon. I apologize for my sarcastic response but your original comment seemed to be written by someone who falls into that category of snobby Dallas dwellers. I can see your thoughts are a bit more measured.

As far as my overall thoughts on 75, I've never understood why it made sense to have an HOV lane road that leads into a portion of 75 (South from the burbs) that has no HOV lane. It always made sense to me that the portion from 635 to downtown would be the most congested (fed from 635 and 75 to the north) and it would therefore be better to either have the HOV lanes south of 635 or not at all. Having HOV lanes from the north feed into less lanes towards downtown is moronic. 

 I'm not really sure why we have to improve 75. Why not just tear down those hideous HOV pylons and just have an extra lane for now. 


I am far from conservative or tea party but have we not already paid for the HOV lane construction? If so, it does bother me that we paid for the HOV lanes once and now  may have to pay a toll  to use them. It's like buying a car outright with cash and then still having payments.

Subnx
Subnx

That's silly. It would take a long time and you would be a stinky mess when you got there.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@C6709 @Anon. No, it's like buying a two-seater economy car outright with cash, and then siring 2-4 kids.  You need to upgrade your capacity for both riders and groceries.  Not to mention the maintenance due to more use (school, sports, activities, etc)

The same thing applies to the road system and the expected population boom in Collin County.

The point of Jim's piece, even though it is overlooked by butt-hurt suburb dwellers, is that increasing capacity won't work for the roadway system.  You have to take measures to decrease volume, which tolls are very effective for.  As are the light rail trains, which Jim disregards.

Last night's fireworks at Fair Park sealed the success of my recent switch from driving to buses/trains.  I got to the Park about 30 minutes after my neighbor, who drove.  I got into the Park about 5 minutes earlier.  On leaving, despite crowded trains and buses, I got to my suburban home almost a full hour before my neighbor.  I also didn't have to pay for parking and the cost of my fare was basically subsidized by my $80 monthly pass which was purchased for the work commute and saves me over $100/mo just on that alone.

Anon.
Anon.

@C6709

Not a problem. I actually agree with getting rid of the soda straw pylons and opening the HOV lanes up completely. That won't happen because of how they were built to begin with and with whose dollars. Those lanes were built with Federal transit dollars and that means they have to remain, and in their current configuration remain free to high occupancy vehicles. They were put in to help combat the air quality issues we face, so there are EPA issues that enter into the equation as well.

This is not a simple question about how to get from Point A to Point B.

What the CCC fails to understand (at least publicly) is the proposal to allow SOVs in the HOV lanes, for a price, will help with the very congestion problems they contend with every day. No one in a SOV will be forced to use the HOV lanes, but if the driver of a single occupant vehicle wants to, then that driver has a legal option to do so. At the moment that single occupant vehicle risks a significant fine if that lane is used.

How is it a bad thing to have more options about how to get from Point A to Point B?

d-may
d-may

But you might also lose some weight. So stinky mess vs fat slob. #personalpriorities

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@AeroRazavi @WhiteWhale raise the gas tax ten cents.  This would generate $1.5 billion in road funds.  Currently, we're spending $8 billion on debt service on roads and $500billion on new construction.  

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@AeroRazavi @WhiteWhale I personally believe we need to change the gasoline tax so that it is a percentage of the price instead of x cents per gallon. This indexes it to inflation and usage. For those that argue that high MPG vehicles will be getting a break. That's true. But, High MPG vehicles generally way less and cause less wear and tear on the roads. I don't drive a high MPG vehicle (just in case anyone is wondering).

Also, when the tax is passed, part of it should be that the funds raised can only be used for building and maintaining roads.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@AeroRazavi @WhiteWhale Reducing road capacity while charging more money for it is not a solution.  If they are going to do that they might as well as leave it alone.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Anon. all our freeways are built with federal transit dollars.  The toll roading is because we won't raise the gas tax.  Texas spends $500 billion in road construction, and $800 billion in debt service this year alone.  Raising the gas tax 10 cents would generate $1.5 billion in revenue.  

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Tim.Covington @AeroRazavi @WhiteWhale I don't see anything wrong with using some of the money to fund mass transit, schools, or even to off-set property taxes.  Just so long as the carve out is open and declared.  

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