What’s the holdup?
Innovative public transportation projects are popping up around the world, such as driverless pods about to roll out in Singapore, and Finland and Switzerland are planning to have autonomous buses by 2017. Technology is moving forward attempting to tackle the growing world population that is leading to more traffic, congestion and pollution. Except in Dallas, where we are expected to add millions in the next few years, not much ingenuity is driving our transportation plans. Last year, Dallas-Fort Worth had the second-largest (behind Houston at #1) population boom in the nation according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The DFW area gained 144,704 people from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015, bringing our population to more than 7.1 million. So, why are we not the leaders in innovative solutions to solve congestion and environmental issues to combat this growth?
Remember back a few months when the North Central Texas Council of Governments presented their Mobility 2040 plan, and they themselves stated the plan would not ease congestion in the DFW area? There is a wealth of studies and evidence that show highway and road expansion increases traffic by increasing demand. Yet, we are focusing our efforts on road construction and vehicle access. Dallas Love Field is considering spending $230-270 million dollars on a single rental-car facility at the airport. So, tourists can enjoy the congestion and add to our ozone pollution that is still not below EPA standards? This is the same airport that does not have public transportation access — unless you make a less than optimal walk to the DART Orange line.
The future in technology is coming to our backyard and access to the cutting edge of transportation markets could be right here in Texas. Texas A&M University just announced a $150 million research and development campus titled RELLIS Campus, from an acronym for the Texas Aggies’ core values of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service. RELLIS will be housed on a former air base in Bryan, Texas and will focus on attracting companies working in new technologies, including driverless and connected vehicles, robotics and smart power grids and water systems. RELLIS’ intention is to “help companies move ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace while also offering a new path toward a college degree.” The idea is to bring together the creative energy of students with the leading technology companies to take research out into real life. Hopefully, this innovation will drive forward new technologies to be established in both of our large growing cities in Texas, DFW and Houston.
Dallas City Center is increasing residential facilities of high-rise type apartment complexes that are more environmentally friendly than urban sprawl, which destroys more land outwards. The new, growing residential community at Victory Park is an example of providing residential and amenities together within walking distance on promised “walkable sidewalks.” Located near the Katy Trail, it’s feasible that you could ride your bike to other amenities within the city, especially after the hopeful completion of the Mockingbird connection to the Katy Trail and an even farther dream of connecting to the White Rock Lake trail system. The downside is if you need to get out of Victory Park in another direction, the public transportation options are limited and the car is your quickest exit.
Will our city continue to move forward with the same old solutions that aren’t working, or will we be known for being worldwide leaders in transportation innovation that is good for people and the environment? On the front page of this paper last week we highlighted the M-Line to Knox trolley or street car project that is looking to unite Downtown, Uptown and Knox-Henderson by providing an alternate to vehicle traffic in this area. They’re not looking to stump economic growth, they’re looking to preserve the character of their neighborhood and perhaps even add economic value. The American Public Transportation Association states, “Every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.” More public transportation is not just good for the environment, it’s good for local businesses.