New Report Says Trinity Toll Road One of Nation's Biggest "Highway Boondoggles"

Categories: Transportation

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Opposition to the Trinity Toll Road hasn't quite reached the torrential flood that will be needed to sweep it into oblivion, but there's at least a decent-sized stream that's been growing, drop by drop as former supporters realize it's a terrible idea.

This morning, the Texas Public Interest Research Group adds another drop with the release of its report, "Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America's Transportation Future." The Trinity Parkway, according to the group, is one of the 11 stupidest highway projects in the U.S.

The specific arguments against the project -- that it will irreparably mar the planned riverside park, that it will hamstring a resurgent Downtown that is already ringed by freeways, that it won't really relieve congestion, etc. -- are well-established by now.

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Oak Cliff Streetcar Is Paid For, Inexplicably Stalled

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DART
When these cars start rolling, they won't really go anywhere.
In a memo prepared in advance of Dallas City manager A.C. Gonzalez' first of what he promises to be periodic progress report to the City Council, council member Scott Griggs outlined multiple issues with the city's Trinity office and transportation department. Among them is the stagnation of the Oak Cliff streetcar project meant to connect the Omni hotel downtown to the Bishop Arts District.

"In this department you've got the failing to do due diligence in the hiring of the convicted animal abuser to run the horse park, you've got the Houston Street viaduct not getting timely repairs and you have this [the failure to proceed with the streetcar project], the department is absolutely paralyzed," Griggs says.

Phase one of the project only goes the 1.6 miles from Union Station to the intersection of Beckley and Colorado, stopping about three quarters of mile short of Bishop Arts. Until phases two and three are complete, the streetcar doesn't really go anywhere.

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DART's Allegedly Public Board Meetings Are Locked Down Like Guantanamo

Categories: Transportation

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Flickr user Jeff Stvan
If you're looking for popcorn-worthy fireworks at a public transit-related public meeting, your best bet is to watch the Dallas City Council decide who should represent the city on the DART board, an exercise that invariably descends, as so many other discussions at City Hall do, into a bitter racial skirmish. The DART board meetings themselves, by contrast, tend to be eye-gougingly boring, filled with arcane discussions of insurance policies and widget contracts.

But the DART board is important, controlling almost a half-billion dollars in local sales tax money and setting policies that will shape Dallas and the region for decades to come. If Joe Q. Taxpayer wants a say in how that happens, he's welcome to stop by and drop his two cents.

He's technically welcome, that is. If he actually makes the trek to DART's headquarters at 1401 Pacific, chances are he won't feel very welcome.

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DART Is Wooing the Exurbs, but It's Losing to Texoma

Categories: Transportation

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Brace yourself, Dallas transit users. We're here to break some tough news: DART is losing.

We don't mean that the agency, now three decades old, has largely failed to woo people out of their cars. That's true, but it's not entirely DART's fault. Neither to we mean that the focus on building a commuter-centered hub-and-spoke system has come at the expense of a denser and more sustainable urban transportation network. There's room there for philosophical disagreement.

The loss we're referring to is far, far more humiliating, because of whom DART is losing to: the Texoma Area Paratransit System.

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Vonciel Hill and Michael Morris Join Forces and Seek Delay on Car-Service Regulations

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Jack Keene
Would be first among equals.
You could see the dark clouds gathering Monday morning. Word had come down from somewhere near Michael Morris' Arlington compound that someone from the North Central Texas Council of Governments was going to make a contribution to the city's interminable discussion about regulating Uber, Lyft, Yellow Cab and any other transportation-for-hire service.

See also: Never Try to Take Public Transit to DFW Transportation King Michael Morris' House

That person, it turned out, was Morris himself, who showed up at the Dallas City Council's transportation committee meeting to regale Vonciel Jones Hill and her charges with the dangers of the city going it alone in the fight to protect citizens from any car service that isn't Yellow Cab.

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Uncertainty about the Path of a Dallas Company's Toll Road Worries Property Owners

Categories: Transportation

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via North Texas Council of Governments
At some point next year, a Dallas-based toll company may get permission from the Texas Department of Transportation to build the only toll road in Texas that is totally supported by private finance. The exact route is something that the Texas Turnpike Corp. is still figuring out, but rural property owners who might be in the way are worried, because the TTC, though private, is legally able to use eminent domain.

"The law gives Texas Turnpike Corp. the ability to negotiate and ultimately pay a fair market price for property that is for public use," the company says in a recent presentation. Though a 1991 state law bans the creation of private toll companies, the TTC was formed shortly before it went into effect, allowing the TTC to retain the special power of kicking people off their own land if a project promises to be really awesome for the rest of the public.

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Yellow Cab President's Ideas for Regulating Uber and Lyft: Make Them Just Like Taxis

Categories: Transportation

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Jack Keene
Yellow Cab's vision of what Uber and Lyft cars should look like.
Tuesday night, in the packed chambers of the Dallas City Council, the public had its biggest say yet in the ongoing struggle to develop new regulations for car and taxi services in Dallas. Many in the crowd wore pink shirts in support of Lyft and one group brought along one of the company's signature pink mustaches. Clearly, this was an issue that people cared about, and there was no doubting the passion of the three dozen or so speakers who addressed Vonciel Hill's transportation committee.

See also: Dallas' Unfair Fight to Crush Uber

Beyond the mere testimonials for Uber, two distinct lines of comment developed. Those affiliated with Dallas' taxi providers -- people like Jack Bewley, president of Yellow Cab -- consistently touted the need for the insurance requirements placed on cabs to be effective 24/7 for Uber and Lyft cars as well, something that isn't required in the draft transportation-for-hire ordinance. Additionally, Uber and Lyft cars should be marked and required to use a more traditional cab-like fare structure. Supporters of the smartphone app-based services, including spokespeople, drivers and a few customers, touted the superiority of the services to cabs and told the council that too much regulation would stifle innovation and potentially ruin an already great service.

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Collin County Might Kill Planned Toll Lanes, but Dallas Never Put Up a Fight

Categories: Transportation

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Matthew Hillier
Welcome to Dallas.
There's something fascinating happening in Collin County. Residents are voicing an opinion on an issue -- in this case they loathe the idea of tolled "managed lanes" running down their portion of Central Expressway -- and, lo and behold, their duly elected leaders, including Collin County's entire legislative delegation and commissioners court, are taking up their cause. Not only did they write a letter to the Texas Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation Council urging them to make HOV lanes free to all rather than charging for their use, but several of them stood before the Texas Transportation Commission yesterday, the better to voice their constituents' concerns. It's a bit weird. No one in Dallas County was doing that eight or nine years ago when toll TEXpress Lanes were being penciled in for the rebuilt LBJ and Interstate 35.

Why are Collin County leaders raising hell while Dallas', faced with the exact same issue, meekly deferred to the wisdom of regional transportation planners? Reflexive conservative populism seems to be the proximate cause of the Collin County leaders' revolt, but it's not much of an explanation for why Dallas stayed calm. Everybody hates toll roads.

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Dallas Executive Airport's Neighbors Are Being Heard, But Being Listened to Is Something Else

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Eric Salard
The city-owned Dallas Executive Airport has a new website. It's slick, a vast leap forward from the static, text-heavy site that seemed a relic from the dial-up era. Just in time, too, since the airport is on the cusp of a major expansion. There, amidst bold-faced promises of Dallas' "world-class shopping" and "five-star entertainment," in apparent response to pretty well substantiated concerns that neighbors were shut out of the planning process, is a tab headlined "Being a Good Neighbor." It is topped, somewhat puzzlingly, with a photo of Klyde Warren Park but goes on to tout the public outreach that's being done in the area that actually surrounds the airport, some 10 miles to the southwest.

Head over to the DEAneighbors.com, local gadfly Raymond Crawford's agitprop watchdog website, and you'll find documents (e.g. sign-in sheets from key Planning Advisory Committee meetings composed entirely of city staffers and people who do business at DEA) and jeremiads detailing how the public was left out despite the promises and Federal Aviation Administration rules to the contrary.

Two months ago, the city sheepishly apologized and, according to the documents posted by Crawford, then-interim Assistant City Manager Theresa O'Donnell and aviation director Mark Duebner promised to reboot the public-input process so neighbors could have a meaningful say.

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Texas Highway Speeds Limits Are the Fastest, but Good Luck Hitting Them

Categories: Transportation

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Marcia Cirillo
This Dallas driver could be going 70 down this road.

Maybe the image that comes to mind when you picture Texas roads is zipping down a West Texas highway in a pickup truck with a dusty breeze whipping through your hair. It's the image Ford has probably seared into your mind through years of advertising, and one that's occasionally pretty accurate -- as long as you steer far away from Texas cities.

A Governor's Highway Safety Association report shows that Texas roads have the highest speed limits in the country. But we also have through-the-roof traffic numbers. You may be allowed to drive faster on Texas roads than in any other state, but you probably won't be able to because you'll be crawling in traffic past that 75 mph sign. In other words, your rush hour commute has just become about 10 times more frustrating.

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