We heard from three experts Tuesday at MetroTex Region 2015 at Brookhaven Country Club. The first two were a tough act to follow: Dan Lamers, Senior Program Manager at the North Texas Council of Governments, and our favorite economist (and Princeton man) Brit Fair of Hexter-Fair Title Company. Brit’s presentation is coming up in a future post.
By the way, the third speaker was me!
Lamers took a beating from most of us — he’s the guy responsible for our chewed-up highways and never-ending repair road conditions — though he did get applause for LBJ now that the super highway is FINALLY almost complete.
LBJ almost finished, can you feature it? Surely the process will just start all again, on another major Dallas roadway.
NTCOG coordinates planning efforts (including highways) between all 240 local governments in North Texas, a daunting task given our size (almost 10,000 square miles) and our mega growth. Since the 1970’s, DFW has grown by more than 150 percent. We are now the fourth largest metro area in the country with a population of 7 million. Here is how Lamers put it into perspective: we add about a million people here every 8 years. No wonder our roads are so bumpy! Admitting COG has done a terrible job of maintaining North Texas roads (despite all those repairs), Lamers said the City of Dallas needs $24 billion dollars to catch up, just catch up, on road maintenance. Don’t we know it!
As much as we need to get into public transportation, “roadways will continue to be our primary method of travel in the DFW Region,” said Lamers. Still, Lamers and COG works hard to get people out of their cars and into bike lanes, light rail, buses or just plain walking. Dallas apparently has the largest light rail system in the world; have you ever used it? But we will continue to build more roads, even as Lamers likes to encourage development of mixed-use developments — are you listening folks fighting that multi-use development over at Inwood & Forest?
“Sure some people have to drive to work — people drive to work in Dallas daily from Waco and Hill County –” said Lamers. “But let’s do everything in our power to keep the activities at home or at work to minimize the car time.”
A lot of newcomers to Dallas, says Dan, actually don’t drive. They thrive on public transportation, particularly in the urban areas, particularly millennials.
Bottom line: everyone is in love with Texas and wants to move here, but the onslaught is contributing to our traffic woes. And it’s going to get worse: it’s predicted our population will be 11 million by 2040. And what will happen when people move here from other states and start getting stuck in 3 and 4 hour traffic jams a la LA? They will put their city/suburban homes on the market and burrow deeper into the country, like buyers who have ranches out in places like Aubrey and Pilot Point and are already tiring of the congestion.
Dan Lamer’s takeaways:
- Encourage more mixed-use developments to get drivers home from work and into places where they can walk to dinner or errands
- We will need to build more roads in North Texas to accommodate the newcomers
- We have to develop and and maintain a comprehensive transportation plan that increases mobility and balances environmental development
- Texas is in a toll-road mindset. With budgeting so tight for building new highways or even maintaining the old, charging tolls to drivers makes the roads a “pay as you use” model. LBJ express lanes are a good example
- Our roads need $94.5 BILLION in transportation improvements.