Accurate Measuring Sticks Are Needed for PD-15 Traffic and Density

If traffic and density are supposedly the issues most feared by PD-15 development, we need an accurate measuring stick to insert reality into the discussion. The coming traffic study will do that, but …

In the fullness of time, I started to think about one of the tidbits from last week’s PD-15 meeting with City Plan Commission. As I reported, the chief opposition speaker was Carla Percival-Young, an architect with Alabama-based GMC and an Athena resident. She was asked if a coming traffic study revealed negligible effects on the neighborhood, would the opposition have a re-think.  The answer was no because they disagreed with every aspect of the proposed updated PD-15 draft. Later she was asked what she thought was a fair number of units per acre. After hesitation, she replied 60 units per acre compared to the draft’s recommendation of 90 units per acre – 30 units less per acre.

Some things began to gnaw at me.

First, after failing to build a second Preston Tower in the 1960s, the original 1970s Preston Place was planned to be a high-rise containing 125 units before it was scaled back to the 60 units that were built and burned.  The 20-odd stories housing 125 units equate to very large units – probably larger than Athena’s 1,721-square-foot average and definitely eclipsing those in Preston Tower.

Young’s 60 units per acre would equate to two-acre Preston Place essentially using the existing surplus units not built back in the 1970s. (The strategist in me wonders if that’s the opposition’s goal – give Preston Place what they had and forget the rest?)

However, that density was from the market forces and economics of 40 years ago. Back then, the minimum wage was $2.10 per hour and the median home price in Texas was $12,000 – today it’s $217,000 in Dallas. I’m sure construction materials have risen in a similar fashion.

When you look at the rendering of 1970s Preston Place (above) with its grandly oversized units, don’t you wish it had been built? Regardless of whether it began as apartments, by now, it would have been condos. It also would have had sprinklers and so not have burned. I daresay that its existence wouldn’t have stopped anyone in the greater neighborhood from purchasing their home either.

Regardless of the reason why it wasn’t built – finances, neighborhood pushback, or market forces from the tail end of the mid-1970s recession – it would have economically helped the neighborhood in a way the old Preston Place couldn’t. Hindsight is 20/20 (foresight o/o).

Traffic and Density

The 30-unit difference between the city’s proposed 90 units per acre and the opposition’s 60 units equates to 120 additional residential units across approximately four acres. Carmageddon is going to result from 120 units?

The intersection of Preston Road and Northwest Highway sees between 40,000 and 50,000 cars per day (and reports show has been declining for 20 years). Those 120 additional units would result in potentially 240 trips per day assuming two cars per unit and two trips per day. Those additional units/trips would increase traffic 0.0054 percent – so many grains of sand on a beach. That’s what the opposition is fighting over?

Sure, the impact will be greater on internal roads, but there’s an answer for that – Tulane Blvd. The good news is that apparently, the coming traffic study will show what opening Tulane to Northwest Highway can do to minimize internal traffic.

No reason for Pink Wall residents to cut through from Preston Road

Those Preston Hollow single-family homeowners who waxed about traffic from new Pink Wall development running rampant on their streets by “cutting through” are wrong. Who in their right mind would be driving south on Preston Road and cut over to Edgemere on a random through street? They’d essentially be bypassing their home and entering from the far side. And for what? To avoid waiting the same amount of time to turn left from Preston Road onto Averill Way (while also adding Stop signs on Edgemere)?

Traffic crossing between Preston Road and Hillcrest isn’t Pink Wall traffic.

Those few cars residing in the Pink Wall and traveling east may cut up to Park Lane and over to North Park or take Bandera over to Hillcrest, but that’s the only thing that makes sense. North/south traffic may also result in some Edgemere to Walnut Hill trips, but with all the Stop signs and traffic divots, Preston Road or Hillcrest would be faster and less bumpy.

Let’s also not forget that given the average age of Pink Wall residents, the lion’s share are retired and no longer part of commuter traffic – in fact, we avoid rush hour.

If Preston Hollow single-family homeowners are seeing increased traffic, they may want to investigate navigation apps. Unlike the good old days when we stuck to the main roads with the occasional shortcut, GPS-based navigation apps try to cut every second off a journey. This may be particularly informative to Park Lane residents as Park Lane crosses the Tollway with no traffic signal nor exit ramps. In fact, for those looking to avoid tollway-related traffic, Park Lane does the trick in a pretty straight shot from Webb Chapel to Abrams Road – throwing in a less-congested Central Expressway crossing to boot.

I use GPS to navigate to a new Silicon Valley office. In the half-dozen times I’ve been there, I don’t think it’s taken the same route twice.

If The Towers Were Built to Orignal Specs …

It’s important to remember that while today’s PD-15 towers have about 500 residential units, the original developer, Hal Anderson, foresaw a second Preston Tower and a 40-story, double-sized Athena. Had those plans come to pass, we’d essentially already have the number of units possible in the city’s draft proposal – and it wouldn’t have cost us a devastating fire to get here.

The addition of 120 total units to the opposition’s 60 per acre are a pittance in the grand scheme. However, the opposition is too blinded by minutia to see the grand scheme of quality and design they should be focused on. It’s The Laurel all over again – “how short” and “how few” that will result in “how ugly.”


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

17 Comment

  • I think most people must be complaining about the light at Pickwick. It’s the only spot that makes sense when people say they have to wait 3 light cycles to get through.

    It took me 7 minutes to get to the 6:00 meeting at Hyer while I heard another person claim it took him 25 minutes. Head to Hillcrest or Preston if it’s a busy time of day.

    I’m not buying the traffic argument… really in a very convenient and easy location compared to a lot of other places in Dallas.

    Thanks for continuing to report on this and continuing to look at facts and remain logical.

  • I drive up and down 75 everyday and the traffic is getting worse and worse. I am not going to complain about my “quality of life” being taken away from me because of the tremendous growth in Plano, Richardson, and uptown/downtown Dallas. I am thankful for the benefits that these growth has brought to my career and home value. To life easier, I carpool every morning, do not drive the oh-so popular XL SUV, and use/promote public transportation as much as possible.

    Instead of asking our Government to put in policies that limit/halt growth, I would rather us come up with best strategies TO grow. Let’s talk about improving mass transit, car share programs, walk-ability, carpooling, etc. Let’s focus less on first world problems and more into future/YIMBY.

    As you said, “Traffic crossing between Preston Road and Hillcrest isn’t Pink Wall traffic”, it is because of reasons such as NorthPark Center being one of the best places to shop regionally, the vibrancy of Preston Center, and their proximity to the wealthiest neighborhoods in Dallas.

    My older son is almost taller than me nowadays, I’m not annoyed and wish he would stop growing. I just buy him new clothes.

    • mm

      Thank you for commenting. Your last line is elegantly-worded.

    • mm

      Naw, let’s build a wall around Dallas. No more move corporate moves. Then we won’t need VisitDallas, can fire the whole kit and caboodle. Let all the growth happen north, south, east or west of Dallas. You wanna move to Dallas, well by Jiminy we don’t want you! Lock the door, let no one else in!

      KIDDING but seriously, that’s what these folks are saying…

      • Candy, you failed to mention that the CPC
        plan would allow 1,200 PLUS people to move into PD15!!! That is TOO MANY PEOPLE.

        • mm

          I failed to mention it because it’s untrue unless what’s built rents rooms by the hour.

        • mm

          The plan being studied would equalize density at 90 units per acre within PD-15. That’s 5 units per acre more than Preston Tower has enjoyed for 50 years. The low-rises would benefit most because they have the lowest density from an existing 15 to 30 units per acre.

          • Candy, can you translate that to how many more people these numbers equate to. That makes it more clear than units per acre

          • mm

            That’s hard to equate. Theoretically a housing unit could be a studio or 10-bedrooms. If you figure on average two people per unit, the delta of 120 units would be 240 people. That said, given the population in the towers today, there are far less than that (for example, on my floor there are 8 units with 10 people in units containing 20 bedrooms total – 1.25 people per unit).

  • Jon, first let me say that while I am on the opposite side of this issue from you, I appreciate your attention to it- I’ve leaned a lot from you. I am one of those Carmageddon people until the city takes a look at a larger area (instead of stopping at Bandera to the north) and tells us the difference will truly be negligible. To my knowledge they are not looking at that. That would ease my concerns and those of a lot of the neighbors I talk to. I agree that staff’s proposal won’t affect NW Highway or Preston. As far as not driving past one’s house and doubling back, the same map apps you cite have me doing just that to access the Tollway via Walnut Hill to and from work every day, even though my house and my office are closer to NW Highway. There’s no turning back on those apps- I use them constantly- but in my opinion that reality does not mean neighbors shouldn’t have some say in the number of residences in the neighborhood, which will also affect traffic within.

    I also disagree with how you presented the numbers. The concern (at least for me) is the increase from how things were before the fire vs. staff’s proposal. How many additional units is that? I honestly don’t know the answer, but isn’t it quite a bit more than your 60 vs 90 comparison? And don’t most units average more than one car? (I’m also not sure I agree that 90 per acre is the practical maximum, but you know more about that than I do and I’ll defer to you.)

    • mm

      Fred, while we wait for Jon to reply, let me just say that the trend is to have fewer cars on the street and to own fewer cars in general. The ride-share app companies are here to stay, and thus I don’t think you will see more than one car per unit. Very soon Intelligent cars will be driving us, too, just as they did in Frisco this past summer. Yes, Dallas will always be a driving town, but PARKING is becoming so difficult, especially downtown, I just refuse to do it and I Uber.

      • I still fo not see number of people and cars
        the Zoning equates to. I believe it equates to roughly 390 more units. Plus two cars per unit. Almost 800 cars. Most units in my complex have 2 cars. We need to find a solution for all people that feel this is too much!!! Stop wasting time and fighting. The vote shows 70 percent of the vote is OPPOSED to CPC recommendations. Lets find a solution that is good for all people in PD15 and surrounding area

    • mm

      As for cut-thru traffic, I am not sure how far north the study goes. But one can surmise that whatever it says about traffic south of Bandera, it will dissipate the further away from the study area you are (every car isn’t going to follow the same path). Have you read my column discussing the opening of Tulane? I believe that is a critical piece of the traffic puzzle.
      .
      Numbers-wise, something is going to be built. It’s going to be more dense than what was there. That’s a given.
      .
      Between Preston Place (60), Royal Orleans (20) and Diplomat (15) there were 95 units on those 4 acres.
      .
      At 90 units per acre it’s ~360 units total (265 new). If the opposition’s 60/acre are used, that’s 240 total units (145 new). As I said, the delta between 60 and 90/acre is 120 new units.
      .
      As for cars, I don’t know. The current PD requires 1.22 spaces per unit. While the Athena can’t offer each unit 2 spaces, it has not caused an issue in 50 years because most units don’t have two cars. Will the new residents be vastly different? I can’t say.
      .
      But let’s say it’s 360 total units – that’s the same as Preston Tower. The lion’s share of traffic is going to want to get to Preston, NY Hwy and to a lesser extent Walnut Hill and Hillcrest. If Tulane is utilized properly, all that traffic is flushed onto NW Hwy only. But how much traffic?
      .
      ALL TRAFFIC: 360 total units x 2 cars x 2 trips each = 1,440 potential trips per day – a “trip” is roundtrip, so that’s equal to each car making a roundtrip to an office and also a second roundtrip each day. That’s very heavy use. Most people who go to work don’t go out again and if they do (go to dinner or movie) they use one car, not both. Also, all units won’t have 2 cars – lots of people live alone, especially in 1-bedroom units. I would bet the number is closer to 800 trips per day. This sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Remember, there are between 40,000 and 50,000 cars at Preston and NW Hwy daily. It’s less than adding 1-2 cents to a dollar. REMEMBER, this is total units, not just the additional new units.
      .
      JUST THE ADDITIONAL UNITS: At 265 new units x 2 cars x 2 trips = 1,060 net-new trips. But again, both cars are unlikely to make 2 trips every day so let’s estimate 600-ish net-new trips per day on average. At 60 units/acre and 145 new units that’s 145 x 2 cars x 2 trips = 580 net-new trips/day. And again, this is high with a more likely number ~380 net-new trips per day. The differential of additional trips/traffic between 60/acre and 90/acre is ~220 trips per day. Almost nothing. (We’ll see how accurate I am when the professional study is released. We’ll also see accurate counts of existing traffic and patterns.)
      .
      Also, remember, a higher ratio of 1-bedroom units will result in a lot more single-car households, further driving down the number of trips.
      .
      And again, opening Tulane to NW Hwy while blocking movement to Bandera or east to Diamond Head Circle forces traffic (regardless of how much/little) onto one choice – NW Hwy.
      .
      Make more sense?

  • I think your question was for me. And if so, yes. Thanks for the detailed breakdown. I know that one developer expected to have to allocate 1.5 spaces per unit. You’re correct that not every car is going to travel out every day, and definitely not within the neighborhood. But we will also have deliveries, domestic workers, etc. coming and going. I’ll let the traffic experts tell us how many expected trips that would be. If the vast majority of new traffic will use Northwest Highway for ingress and egress, that’d be great. Opening Tulane is a good start, but I think it will take more. I talked to a traffic engineer with the city a couple of months ago and he seemed open to suggestions, but he needed to see the traffic study first. I did read your traffic piece, though long after it was published, and just read it again.

    • mm

      Yup, all for you (don’t tell anyone).
      .
      Remember that delivery-wise, UPS/FedEx/USPS typically deliver once per day. Regardless of eventual density, that’s not going to change.
      .
      You’re right on domestic help and again that will be dependent on who the tenants are. Unless it’s home healthcare, most cleaners don’t come every day (once a week?). A good traffic engineer can estimate. That said, Athena doesn’t have a ton of outside spaces and there’s usually no issues there (unless there’s some huge building-wide project going on).
      .
      Thanks for asking good questions. I have no problem being disagreed with by people who understand and still disagree. It’s the fact-free disagreers that bug me.