Dallas Man Writes Letter to One of the World's Foremost Urbanists, Social Media Magic Ensues

Categories: Development

reinhartletter.jpg
Twitter (Jeff Speck)
The letter.

After reading Jeff Speck's book Walkable City, Brian Reinhart had to respond. The book spoke to the issues he and his friends faced in Dallas so clearly, outlining many of the problems they've had and the aspirations they have. He wanted to give Speck "an update on the lay of the urban land in Dallas."

With all the discussion that's occurred over the summer about the state of urbanism in Dallas -- whether at the New Cities Conference, the U.S. Conference of Mayors or even last week's "Connecting Dallas Beyond the Automobile" panel -- the letter provides an interesting snapshot of how things are for at least one man who is really giving Dallas a go as if it were what he wishes it was.

Speck shared the letter via his Twitter account, because, he tweeted, "it deserve[d] to be published."

"I was moved to share the letter -- and a bit trepidatiously, not having permission -- because it was one of those little collections of particulars that powerfully communicate grand universal themes," he says.

The letter describes the struggles involved in trying to make the most of the few public transit and walkable options Dallas provides. Reinhart is able to ride the train to his job at Irving's North Lake College, for instance, but he has to walk through a half-mile of parking lots to get from North Lake's train station to his workplace. He notes he has a friend who recently moved to Dallas who still hasn't purchased a car. Her friends have started a pool to guess the date she'll crack.

"The personal struggles of Brian and his friends, the daily inconveniences and insults -- and injuries -- thrust upon them by their auto-centric landscape put a human face on the theoretical arguments we planners make every day, and made them more real," Speck says.

Despite the difficulties that remain, Reinhart is hopeful that urban issues are beginning to be acknowledged in Dallas.

"There's more awareness. Now there are starting to be token steps, little things being conceded to us and as the little things go the bigger things will follow," he says.

Until they do, he, and others like him, will continue to do what the can, Reinhart says in the letter.

"It's like a challenge -- an act of subversion, rebellion. A while back I walked four miles each way to the movies." Reinhart says. "Why walk across Dallas? Why did that guy climb Everest?"


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84 comments
Catbird
Catbird

"an act of subversion"...now we're getting down to it.

BIAPBOB
BIAPBOB

It really isn't safe to walk or ride a bicycle in Dallas County for more than a mile, maybe two.  Depending upon the season & neighborhood you can be readily hit by a vehicle, physically assaulted or die of exposure to inclement weather.  As we used to say in the Armor/Cavalry community:  "If God had meant for us to walk more than a 1/4 mile, he wouldn't have given us horses, vehicles & diesel!"

charlie.w.ingram
charlie.w.ingram

Sorry, but walking around Dallas is far from a challenge, and it isn't even rebellious. It's just plain stupid and stubborn is what it is. I used to think "Urbanist" was a cute and harmless word, now I think it is nothing but two very not so cute and very subversive four letter words combined.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

Speaking of suicide, Robin Williams was found dead in his house.  The cause of death was asphyxia, and there have been strong suggestions it was suicide.


What a funny guy and a comic genius.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

What's strikes me here is that no one in this forum has so far puzzled that the above handwritten scrawl is either:


1. A 5th graders homework turned in on manila construction paper.


2. A freshman college students first attempt at a blue-book essay.


3. A screed from the Unabomber.


This is and of itself is somewhat telling.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

I missed, on my first read through the letter, the part where he gets into the cost of his annual pass: $600.

I emphasize annual, as it is not an option for the everyday commuter, I'm guessing it is something only for city/county/state employees.

I'm not complaining about my monthly pass rates, it saves me a ton of money over driving.  But it is rather grating to see someone moaning about their struggles, when their choices  are being further subsidized to the tune of $360/year.  Not their requirements or needs, their choices.

hwy77
hwy77

Ironic to see a walkability crusader complaining about having to walk from a transit stop to his office.



RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

"The personal struggles of Brian and his friends, the daily inconveniences and insults -- and injuries -- thrust upon them by their auto-centric landscape put a human face on the theoretical arguments we planners make every day, and made them more real," = utter horseshit.


Nobody is owed a walkable lifestyle.  Brian's personal choices have led to his difficulties, plain and simple.  I can sympathize, having made the attempt to reduce my own dependency on a vehicle over the last several months.  It is difficult to do so in Dallas, even more so since I live on the far southeast side of the Grove.  Yes, I walk a mile and a quarter to and from the nearest bus stop.  Yes I have to leave earlier to get where I want to go and have to plan on walking intermittently to get there.  None of these things were thrust on me by Dallas' 'autocentric' landscape.  These are the tradeoff I make to save money and live a little bit healthier.

And to compare his walk to climbing Everest....... what a turd.

Subnx
Subnx

I hate urbanism. The so called experts should stop forcing it on us.

Subnx
Subnx

I hate urbanism. Stop forcing it on us.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Watch out Bryan, Tony Stewart's lookin' for a place in Oak Lawn.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

Without addressing Mr. Speck's delusions of self-grandeur - not to mention errors, Dallas actually does have dozens of "walkable" neighborhood enclaves with adequate services.  But, Mr. Speck's thermometer must have broken instead of his crystal ball. 

I actually admire what I perceive to be his goals, but it would take decades to "redesign and re-do Dallas without catastrophic impact on so many of its citizens who like it the way it is. 


In a city with temperature extremes from measurements ranging from 107 F. to 21 F, opportunities for normal people for walking are rather limited.  In fact, Dallas is subjected to such extremes that downtown merchants don't host sidewalk cafes because they wouldn't receive profitable use.

This is another reality the bicycle people seem to have missed.

For grins, do a traffic study on the Katy Trail, and you'll find that the heaviest use in near-downtown where living density is the greatest (and most residents are younger.)  But, it's still not all that crowded, even on weekends.  By the time you get to Knox and the Park Cities, the use is almost scarce by comparison.

I'm all for the "walkable" enclaves we have; we walked everyplace in the neighborhood as kids. But, we were bullet-proof, impervious to Sun and arctic winds, and never worried about strange people molesting us (other than polite police officers asking why none of us owned shoes or very many clothes.)

This penchant for "walkable cities" may sound good on paper as a means of promoting better health and better air quality, but the reality of Dallas is that we are an automobile city with many neighborhoods that are not all that dense, large well-kept yards, roomy houses, and a fortune in parking spaces. 

That's why so many people have moved here.

 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I bet Brian gets the last laugh when he sees an obese driver squeeze out of the car and waddle into Krispy Kreme for a donut hit.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

There is more than tokens. Perhaps instead of complaining to a guy who doesn't live here maybe he can hook up with one of many organizations and people making Dallas and its outer areas more livable. Get off your fat ass and help.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Now isn't that special.


Personally, I would like some relief from the daily struggles of life.


I'd be willing to bet that this guy has lots of trophies for excellent participation.

JSSS
JSSS

"but he has to walk through a half-mile of parking lots to get from North Lake's train station to actually get to work" -- is he under the impression that public transportation should be like that depicted in The Jetsons, where a magic tube whisks you directly to your office or place of business?  Heck, even some people that drive to their jobs have to walk that far to get from their cars to their "work" (I suspect that some of the people that park in the lots Mr. Reinhart walks through do exactly that). 

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

Oh so tough.  The train takes you to your place of employment, in less than 30 minutes, and you don't have to deal with traffic and the rest of us jagoff drivers.  And on top of that, you have to walk a whole half mile.  THROUGH A PARKING LOT!!!  Cry me a river pal.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@Q8DHIMMI That's the absolute truth.  Any moron who rides a bicycle in the bike lanes downtown has a death wish, and it's prima facea evidence for insantity.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@noblefurrtexas

63 years old.  Was in rehab for alcohol.  

Great comedian.  Good actor.  Too bad.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@holmantx

And Chevys are pretty cheap now.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@OakParkStudio

He did say he was from San Antonio.

Probably stood in line all day waiting for the Alamo Basement tour.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@RTGolden1  My firm subsidizes annual passes at same rate.  It used to be $600 for the regional, but with the collapse of categories, DART made the regional > $1000.  Firms claim the subsidy against some kind of air pollution tax saving so federal taxpayers take up some of the slack.  I think DART stopped actually providing a discount to which the subsidy was added.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@RTGolden1 A dollar a day isn't bad.  I don't remember what my subway pass was when I was in New York City on TDY for 90 days.  But, it was an arm and a leg and part of my backside to purchase.  The good news was you could use it as often as you wanted to - day or night.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@RTGolden1 my company pays for DART passes and we get a company discount on Annual Passes.  I have a co-worker who got a group of 6 at his office to go in on a DART annual, because his company wouldnt pay for one,but DART had to come to the office make sure they were legit and then get payroll involved where the annual pass was auto deducted from their paycheck.  Still it was worth the Hundreds in savings for sure

zappas.stache
zappas.stache

@noblefurrtexas Climate wise, Dallas weather is more conducive to bicycling/ walking. We have 9 months of damn good weather vs. someplace like Portland, Or where it rains constantly in the winter. Sure we have our bad days in January and February, but our normal winters are comparatively mild. As for the heat in the summer, anyone who has lived here for very long is able to handle it. And you also realize it is pretty nice in the mornings and evenings even in August. Certainly young people will be the leaders in the walkable/ cycling movement by virtue of their youthful energy among other things. But I am 50 and ride my bike to grocery shop, eat out at restaurants, go to the bank and do other errands.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

This is so uninformed I don't know where to begin. Cities are not static.

To put the errors and lack of insight into perspective, Dallas once was a town for horse and foot. Then it was town for horse and street car. Then street car and automobile. Then automobile.

One can always say "We are an (insert here) city" and it is rarely true for any city for a long time. It went be for Dallas either.

WylieH
WylieH

@JSSS In many better planned parts of the world, the mass transit options bring you almost to the doorstep of your final destination, rather than the edge of a gignormous parking lot, as is often the case here.

TheLetterWriter
TheLetterWriter

@JSSS well, the real problem here is not walking a half-mile (that's fine!) but the overall DART station policy. DART acquired land on the cheapest spots available, without much regard for convenience of use, which is why riders face inconveniences at many stops outside of downtown: Deep Ellum station being outside Deep Ellum, the North Park Mall station being a mile across the freeway from North Park Mall, or most obviously, Love Field station being a bus ride away from Love Field. Most cities with comprehensive public transport make a better effort than that.


Thanks for reading!

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@bvckvs @charlie.w.ingram When you think about it, "subversive" is an accurate word. 


The development of the United States has been nothing but spectacular.  It's one of the exceptional traits of our country.  But, if you've ever studied modern American city planning, you find that most early county seats were the center of a town square, and surrounded by various retail stores and businesses. 


The development and growth of larger cities also has a patten of growth and development.  And, transportation means other than walking become necessary.  Horses, wagons, coaches, eventually horse-drawn streetcar rail, and heavy rail allowed people to be able to setter farther away, and still have access to the necessities and government transactions without walking. 


Most New World cities were NEVER made for "walking".  If they were, New York  and Chicago and San Francisco would look very different. In fact, one reason for building tunnels and sky bridges in Dallas was to allow people to walk to some parts of downtown without dodging traffic and without the dangers of inclement weather - - much of the time. 


There's nothing wrong with certain businesses locating near dense housing and apartment areas; that's good marketing.  And, MOST personal dwellings are sold on access to businesses; restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. 


UPTOWN is an excellent example of the symbiotic relationship of businesses and personal dwellings.  But, most of the safe walking has only a two or three block extension.


Trying to turn Dallas, Texas, one of the most car-centric cities on the planet, into some kind of quaint California walking community like Carmel is neither good planning nor good interaction with municipal government. and terrible interaction with reality.



charlie.w.ingram
charlie.w.ingram

@zappas.stache @noblefurrtexas Dude, like who is stopping you. If that's how you get off, fine do it to yourself. Just don't try to ram it down everyone else s throat. What you think is so high minded, the rest of us think is just plain stupid. And, as you have already discovered there are a lot more of us than you. Personally, I think you've been biking too many miles in the summer in this city and have baked your brain. 

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@zappas.stache @noblefurrtexas I can't remember when I saw this, but there was an index of mass "transportation necessities" for various ages that I found fascinating.


At 65 and above, there is heavier ridership to doctors' offices, dentists, the Zoo (time off for retirees), arts amenities, and shopping.   (Most people going to or from hospitals go by car or cab.)


At ages 43-60, most trips are work, grocery stores, other shopping necessities, plane/train travel locations, arts amenities, some to healthcare professionals, some to clubs, exercise facilities, a lot to restaurants,   Most - not all - dating is by car or taxi. 

At ages 30 - 43, most trips are work, shopping centers, arts amenities, Zoo, restaurants, some business travel locations, some to graduate school facilities, financial (loan, banks, savings), some dating (highly variable as to origination and destination),  and grocery and shopping. 


Ages 18-29 (close if not correct) were all destinations you might predict.  Educational, work, airports, exploration transit (light rail and buses), social venues and clubs, shopping, and into neighborhoods as well as commercial centers. 


Under 18 most people already know or could easily predict.



noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@JohnSmallBerries Fair enough. 


So, how about saying Dallas is now, and must remain for decades, a street, road, bridge, signal light, stop sign, traffic cop, parking space and parking garage/lot city.


I think you fail to recognize that switching from horses to street cars, to trucks and cars didn't require a great many changes in superstructures that wouldn't already have been needed if they started with cars. 



They still required parking spaces, service businesses, and connecting streets and bridges. Need proof?  Look at street maps of Dallas a hundred years ago, and you'll see most of today's downtown and near-downtown streets were there, then.


Also don't forget that trolley lines still operated with other vehicles.  What basically changed was easily moveable routes with buses, faster transportation, parking lots and garages, and less expensive street repairs that didn't have the impediment of imbedded rails. 



JSSS
JSSS

@WylieH @JSSS And where would that be? Because I've used mass transit (not buses!) in many parts of the world and rarely have arrived at "almost the doorstep of [my] final destination."

Subnx
Subnx

Those places aren't better planned. They are crowded, expensive inconvenient and noisy

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@TheLetterWriter @JSSS Early on, DART was warned by planners and municipal transportation experts that the rules for infrastructure requirements were about the same for street cars.  But, more than that, Dallas need to have inexpensive taxi zones downtown, or ridership would dramatically suffer. 


And it has. 


New York subways, and Chicago elevated rails, work because businesses, hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas were easily available from rail stops because of inexpensive cabs readily available to take you to the specific destination you desired. 


Dallas still suffers from vision in that area, and has allowed cab fares to steadily increase instead of keeping fares low and keeping driver income steady because of an increase in passengers. 

I think walking around your own neighborhood is great exercise and good for seeing neighbors as well as learning about new places in the area.  But, serious transportation in Dallas is years away from being "walkable", and possibly never. 

 



JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

There is no "North Park Mall" station. You have no idea how DART managed these station selections.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@TheLetterWriter  Myrna has found that to be true with some stations.  But, keep in mind, as those of us who have lived in NE cities know well, Dallas has a vast land area that has yet to see realized the kind of density which is characteristic of older cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

anon-mouse
anon-mouse

@The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley @TheLetterWriter  Hey fake, it looks like someone expressed his/her views on a subject and that YOU just had the need to jump on his/her ass because that is your form of exercise.   And of course his nice reply is simply too much for you to decuntlize yourself.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @noblefurrtexas @JohnSmallBerries 

Very true. 

One of the worst things about this mess is that the previous city policy that did all street repairs on a timely basis, and based on need in terms of hazards or traffic pattern, were always done out of a robust street maintenance budget.  

However, when George Shrader - our best city manager ever, retired from City Hall, his successor - Chuck Anderson - relegated street repairs to bond campaign budgets (an irresponsible move ), and it's never again changed back. 


So, Dallas is now always behind on street maintenance and repair, and the quality of Dallas streets has greatly degenerated. 

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

Yes. "Park Lane." not "North Park." Why does the obvious need to be said?

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@anon-mouse @The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley I have learned a new word - "decuntize".   I presume this is a phrase intended for the fairer sex since someone can hardly take from his ensemble of assets that which he does not have.


As Benjamin Franklin once opined, "Calling someone by another name is like calling an ox a bull. He's thankful for the honor, but he'd much rather have restored what's rightfully his".

charlie.w.ingram
charlie.w.ingram

@JohnSmallBerries Some people don't think and don't know enough about Dallas to know. They just know what THEY want, and the bottom line is what they want is NOT DALLAS. It is some mythical figment of their imagination, an alternate reality that is not and will likely never be.

Mervis
Mervis

@JohnSmallBerries Some of us see a 2 and a 2 and in our minds think "That equals four." Others need the whole thing spelled out.

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