A Lesson From Fort Worth: How to Slow Down Cars in Dallas – Roundabouts

RoundaboutFW2

I spent 30 hours in Fort Worth and loved it. Visited my dear friend Eric Prokesh, saw his house, toured some Fort Worth neighborhoods and drooled, just drooled over the housing stock there. Had lunch and dinner on West Magnolia and cannot wait to return. Fairmount is becoming a huge real estate success story: it was a little like Olmos Park Terrace in San Antonio and Dallas’ Hollywood Heights & Winnetka Heights but on a much larger scale. In fact —

Located on the near south side of Fort Worth, Texas and covering about one square mile, the Fairmount Southside Historic District contains one of the nation’s richest collections of turn of the century housing. Fairmount is comprised of about 20 subdivisions platted between 1883 and 1907. At the time, Fairmount was a fashionable neighborhood.

About one third of the houses were occupied by business executives who managed their own firms. Professions were represented by many doctors, lawyers, and educators. It was a diverse neighborhood, where craftsmen, inclucing brick and stone masons lived next door to railroad workers. As Fort Worth’s suburbs grew following World War II, the neighborhood fell into disrepair.

Today, through the efforts of of many property owners, residents are working to revitalize the area to restore its past glory.

But Ryan Place captured my heart, and not just for the homes. (We will talk about these and more FW neighborhoods in future posts.)

It’s the ROUNDABOUTS!RoundaboutFW1

At first blush, I thought they were part of the old neighborhood charm. After all, Ryan Place was developed in 1926. But no, Eric told me, the roundabouts are new — just three years old in fact. They were built in place of speed bumps to slow down traffic on connector streets. Obstructions, yes, but what attractive obstructions!

So if speed bumps detract from a home’s value, as some have claimed, a roundabout could only ADD to a home or entire neighborhood’s value. Ryan Place seems to be doing just fine!

Ryan Place has them on Elizabeth Boulevard at every intersection. And they really do make you slow down. They are also kind of fun.

I-345 teardown and anti Trinity Tollway fanatics, listen up: this is the neighborhood that successfully fought to oppose the city’s plan to widen Fifth and Sixth avenues to provide arterial access to downtown. In 1969. They won the battle, and the neighborhood began the return to founder John Ryan’s early vision of grand homes (a la Swiss Avenue) of Mediterranean stucco and stone to Georgian bricks.

Ryan Place FW

Eric Prokesh house

The charming home of Eric Prokesh in Fort Worth’s Ryan Place

Roundabouts are an old-fashioned way to slow down traffic that is gaining popularity across the nation. And Fort Worth wants MORE. Here’s what one expert, Dan Burden, had to say about slowing FW traffic last May: narrow streets and more roundabouts: 

The city should pursue more roundabouts, consider narrow roads and slow down traffic to encourage pedestrian activity, a walkable-environments expert said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Dan Burden, co-founder of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute based in Washington state and a consultant to the Blue Zones Project-Fort Worth, presented the results of eight walking audits conducted throughout Fort Worth and called for changes in how the city is designed.

“Unfortunately, during much of the last 40, 50 and even 60 years, our built environment has lost the qualities that we seek. We have essentially built endless miles of roads people have to travel, because it has so far been the only real mode invested in heavily,” Burden said.

“The roundabouts are more of a hazard than anything else,” said a woman who lives a block away and also asked that her name not be used. “Nobody knows what to do, who’s got the right of way. It’s just somebody’s idea to spend money on something we don’t need.”
Roundabout 1
Of course, this is Texas and some folks just drove over the center “obstacle”.  What are you going to do with Cowboys?
Maybe this is a solution to slow down cars on the “connector” streets in Preston Hollow and other neighborhoods in Dallas. I’m thinking Northwood, Deloache, streets recently named as being connectors from Preston to Hillcrest, as drivers seek to avoid Northwest Highway at all costs.
Maybe Transwestern could create a roundabout for Bandera Behind the Pink Wall to slow that street down?
I am loving these roundabouts, what do you think?

 

10 Comment

  • I agree with the woman who said the roundabouts are a hazard. My brother used to live on a roundabout in Addison circle (the one with the big blue sculpture) and you could hear frequent horns honking. Many people simply don’t understand who has the right of way.
    Maybe if they become more common people will become accustomed to them.

  • So glad you have discovered the wonderfulness of Fort Worth. My husband and I are both Dallas natives (he graduated from Jesuit; me from Highland Park HS) met at SMU, married at Christ the King and never expected to end up in Fort Worth. You could count on one hand the # of times I had been to Fort Worth before we moved here for his job at TCU. We fell in love with this town. Friendly people, beautiful neighborhoods with lovely homes, great art museums, lively downtown, Trinity bike trails…have to admit it’s tempting to keep this a secret so we won’t have too people moving in and spoiling the small town feel.

    On the walkability of a city, when I was about to start 1st grade at Christ the King, my parents moved from Preston Hollow to University Park. My mother insisted that they buy a house that was walking distance to the school as she refused to be a carpool Mom. As a bonus, my sister and I could walk to Preston Center. We rode our bikes to the University Park pool. Back then, we were all free range children. Before we were old enough to drive, we even took the bus downtown by ourselves. There used to be department stores, shoe stores and movie theaters downtown – my grandfather was an executive with Interstate Theaters and we always had a stack of movie passes. A lot has changed.

  • Candy, I would strongly encourage the officials in Fort Worth to visit the town of Carmel, Indiana (a suburb north of Indianapolis) to observe firsthand the benefits associated with the successful implementation of the roundabout model. Traffic flows efficiently, vehicle fuel consumption is reduced, and city infrastructure and maintenance costs have been reduced. Re confusion from drivers, there are simple rules to follow and residents get the hang of things very quickly. The roundabouts also enhance the aesthetics of the community via more greenery and landscaping as well as art installations. Carmel has done a fantastic job executing and expanding their plan.

  • “Of course, this is Texas and some folks just drove over the center ‘obstacle’ What are you going to do with Cowboys?”

    What you do is what’s done everyplace else in the world: You put some sort of a statue or fountain in the middle. Dallas has a beautiful one at Cedar Springs, Turtle Creek and Gillespie.

    If anything, these roundabouts look unkempt.

    Were Fort Worth truly committed to roundabouts, the city would remove the lights at University, Camp Bowie and W 7th. Otherwise, it’s just talk.

  • Roundabouts were/are designed to keep traffic flowing. Look at traffic FLOW around the world & you will find roundabouts used, not stop signs or stop lights. Those create gridlock. When I moved to Vail valley in mid 90s the town of.Vail was installing roundabouts at base of exit / on ramps & major intersections in town to keep the traffic flowing. It worked quite well. The other exit on ramps West of Vail soon had them as well. They keep the flow going. The people in towns & cities that use these roundabouts will talk about when coming home & jumping back into the energy flow & rythymn of that place.

  • We have a roundabout in our neighborhood and it is awful!!! A black rubberized, narrow silly thing that slows people down all right….it’s smack in the middle of a street leading to an elementary school. Lumbering SUVs, mini-vans, pickups try to navigate the thing and everyone is just confused, annoyed, and disgusted. The intersection did not have a roundabout for YEARS and suddenly some city official thought this would be a great idea. The people whose homes border the roundabout aren’t too thrilled with it, either. It has been in place for several years and we’ve given up hope that the thing will ever go away. Although in Plano they did finally remove a traffic “improvement” that proved to be otherwise (not a roundabout, but it was evidence that judgement could be reversed).

    A neighboring (smaller) community has one in its downtown, and I guess it’s quaint but I don’t see that it helps traffic at all. In fact, I see people trying to speed through it as quickly as possible to avoid other cars.

    BOO HISS let’s not embrace this concept as a new standard, ok? UGH

  • The problem with roundabouts has been pointed out my many commenters. Unfamiliarity. Studies show they’re more efficient at moving more traffic than traditional signaled intersections … in Europe where they are utilized in far greater numbers. The problem isn’t the roundabout, it’s that US drivers don’t know how to use them. It’s funny, I think of New York City’s Columbus Circle. It’s a large roundabout that’s been US-ized with the installation of signals at every entrance to the circle – thoroughly defeating the roundabout concept and creating a nightmare intersection that only serves to protect the statue in the middle.

  • Because roundabouts are new to our area, it is our individual duty to educate ourselves as to how to correctly negotiate them. I’ve found this very education video that shows simply how roundabout traffic works (and also shows the incorrect way to negotiate them.) I hope folks will take a few moments and educate themselves regarding roundabout usage from the AMA Driver Education website: http://tinyurl.com/q7524ar

  • I love, love, love the Roundabouts and think it is a wonderful idea. No need to coordinate signal lights. The center of the roundabout could be nicely landscaped and add to the attractiveness of the neighborhood. Thinking about the fountains in the Park Cities at Oaklawn @ Preston, and in Snider Plaza. I found this information when I Googled Roundabouts. Roundabouts USA is © Copyright Bill Baranowski http://www.roundaboutsusa.com/history.html England and France have been using them since the 1960’s. They were first constructed in the US in the 1990’s in Summerlin, a major Las Vegas residential subdivision. Today you can find them in places like Park City, Utah, Vail and Beaver Creek Colorado. Like when building a new house, you need to begin with experienced designers and planners, (in this case Roundabout designers), who will work with the Cities, Counties, State highway/road departments, to encourage uniformity of roundabout design and signage. “Experienced engineers need to show developers, planners, the public and local politicians the simple benefits of modern roundabouts. The future success of roundabouts will depend on the roundabouts themselves. When they are constructed at proper locations and designed correctly demand for them will increase.” I knew they had been in England and France for as long as I could remember, which would have been our first trip there in the 1980’s. Love your Newsletter, Gail