How to Market Urbanism

Gray Garmon and the folks at Design Future Dallas let me write a semi-silly but mostly serious article about how to get more people to support and appreciate good urban design. Read it here!


What to do with D2

If you haven’t read Patrick Kennedy’s piece on D2, read this first.


I’m throwing my hat in the ring for the C3a expansion plan for 4 reasons:

  1. Creating a hub of activity
  2. Consolidating transportation options
  3. Development potential around Reunion Tower
  4. Creating destinations east of Union Station

1) Creating a hub of activity


My inspiration comes from Principe Pio Station in Madrid. The station has regional rail, local metro, bus line hub, a shopping mall, hotel, theater, and dance club. Replicating this at Union Station in the Southwestern corner of Downtown creates a desirable destination for nearby neighborhoods lacking familiar commercial enterprises. Texans know how to build shopping malls, and they know how to shop at shopping malls too.

The point is to develop a destination in Downtown that can attract national retailers and their customers. People in North Oak Cliff, Cedars, South Dallas, and Downtown shouldn’t have to go to the Galleria for Zara, the West Village for the Gap, or Knox for the Apple Store. If people want to buy at Old Navy, we should provide those options in a place that is accessible to underserved areas. Furthermore, we want to make it easier to get to shopping options by train and streetcar in order to get cars off the road and reduce the need for parking.

We already have commuters that use transportation. Why not provide the amenities that they need on the routes they’re already using?

2) Consolidating transportation options

Union Station can serve as the central node for public transportation of the western half of the City of Dallas. We can better connect DART Rail with the OC street car. The TRE can attract more shoppers from across the region while taking cars off of highways. Moving the West End Bus Transfer Center to Union Station would make the destination function even more like Principe Pio.

A diversity of uses should dilute the negative elements that currently plague the West End Transfer Center in Downtown. Added security hasn’t made the most trafficked Downtown station feel any more comfortable than before, but more eyes and more diversity of users will do much to make sure that negative elements do not dominate the environment.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 12.40.23 AM

source google maps

Additionally the bus lines servicing the station can be reconfigured to address the goal of bringing people to the station to shop, watch movies, or whatever use is located there. Perhaps the D-Link can be directed to Deep Ellum as well. Having a desirable destination at the Downtown end of the Oak Cliff Street Car would certainly inspire more people to cross the river. Tourists visiting Dealey Plaza would also have easy and direct access to other destinations further down the lines.

And what if we actually get high speed rail? If people get to Dallas without a car, they will need to travel around the city without one too. Let’s roll out the red carpet and give the HSR a fancy station to pull into.

3) Development potential around Reunion Tower

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.02.35 AMThe Hunt Family’s new venture aims to focus development in and around the DFW area, and it just so happens they own the land immediately around Union Station. Could they be sold on a 21st Century mall/train station as an attractive project? Even if a shopping/entertainment/transportation facility is built, there still could be enough room for a baseball stadium, hotel, residential, or commercial building on the rest of the Hunt-owned land.

Parking concerns can be waylaid by sharing the huge municipal parking lots. They built the convention center to straddle the DART Rail, so the mall could likewise be built over the tracks. Ferris Plaza, across the street from Union Station, deserves more attention and needs more people to appreciate it.

4) Creating destinations east of Union Station

It would be logical to connect City Hall and the Farmers Market to this line. Both are natural destinations that people will want to access using public transportation, and those stations can be appropriately developed, as long as we’ve learned our lesson from the Ambrose at the Baylor Medical Station. The main question is how to get there.

Not having sat in on any meetings on D2 since 2012, I don’t know if a route that sneaks past the Convention Center to the south has been considered. I understand that this position would be far from the other existing DART Rail lines, but DART Rail functions more like a regional train than hopping on for short commutes, so you don’t want it clogging up so much road. Let’s edit Downtown Bus routes and market them correctly to make mobility within the core more convenient.

Lastly, the cost could be significantly reduced if D2 is kept above ground. Using the current tracks and hanging a left after the Convention Center and following up Canton is a possible way to hit up City Hall and the Farmers Market as the train continues to Good Latimer. Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.44.22 AM

Farmers Market @ Canton & Harwood

A potentially major deal breaker is addressing how a Canton St rail line would pass through the Farmers Market District without disturbing recent developments in the neighborhood. Let’s temporarily suspend disbelief and operate from the standpoint that parking lots aren’t crucial to development and that providing effective public transportation is our #1 priority. Let’s imagine that there could be a train station between the Scottish Rite building at Young and Harwood and the Green Door at Canton and Harwood. Because I can’t readily get a hold of the schematics of train stations, take a look at these admittedly crude measurements (via SketchUp) of the Green Door parking lot and various Dart Rail Stations.

Harwood Young Canton

The entrance to the parking lot is about 56ft from the Scottish Rite retaining wall to the curb in front of the Green Door. At the end of the parking lot, the distance from the retaining wall to the edge of the concrete is about 67ft.

Now let’s take a look at the Baylor Station directly in front of the Ambrose building in Deep Ellum.

Ambrose @ Baylor Station

From one end of the pavers to the other is 60ft, but the distance from a tree to another tree at the station is about 50ft.

Here’s the West End Station

West End Station

The estimated distance between pavers at the West End Station is 50ft. If we measured building to building, the distance is roughly 77ft. What’s interesting at the corner of Pacific and Market, in this case, is that you have the edge of the patio section of both Chipotle and Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse starting at the pavers, which can reflect what the Green Door’s patio would look like.

If the entrance to the parking lot is 56ft and a functional train station uses minimum 50ft, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to plant a DART Rail station between the Scottish Rite and the Green Door. As long as we’re dreaming here, this station could be possible as long as both the Scottish Rite and the Green Door give up significant chunks of their parking to DART Rail right of way. We may also have to suspend parking requirements to make this happen as well.

The objective of this approach would be to provide the reliever route that the DART Rail needs while building and fostering destinations at each of the stops. If we can incentivize good development at each node, ridership will reflect the desirability of the places we will have created.