It took years for the Oak Cliff Streetcar route to go from a dream to reality. Rail expert Hayley Enoch breaks down the long process of how new mass transit comes on line.

It took years for the Oak Cliff Streetcar route to go from a dream to reality. Rail expert Hayley Enoch breaks down the long process of how new mass transit comes on line.

By Hayley Enoch
Special Contributor

[Editor’s note: The now free Dallas Festival of Ideas kicks off tomorrow and runs through Saturday, with speakers and panels focusing on the future of our city. One subject that comes up time and again is the need for walkable cities and more accessible mass transit. To facilitate that discussion, we asked rail journalist Hayley Enoch to break down the long process of how mass transit ideas become reality.]

Dallas-area residents don’t have to travel too far from their driveways to see that our local highway system has not kept up with demand. One hour drive times, even for small errands, have created a population eager to invest in light rail, streetcars, and other forms of public transportation.

Despite the demand, new public transportation projects and expansions to the existing system have been slow to materialize. This gives ammunition to those who call for wider highways and more toll roads, and believe that public transportation cannot efficiently serve Dallas-area residents. However, what makes expanding the system to keep up with demand difficult isn’t so much that civic planners are unaware of the need for additional capacity, but that there is a  complex pre-planning process that must be carried out before any new construction can begin. A better understanding of the process could help residents of Dallas-Fort Worth plan for our transportation future.

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One of the architectural gems in Dallas is Fair Park, a 277-acre recreational and educational complex southeast of downtown Dallas. It is home to many George Dahl-designed Art Deco buildings constructed for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936, and is registered as a Dallas Landmark and National Historic Landmark.

Mark Lamster

Mark Lamster

But this park, home to the Texas State Fair each fall, is underperforming the rest of the year.

The next Dallas Architecture Forum event will address “Making Fair Park Work,” a panel discussion moderated by Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster, who is also a professor in the College of Architecture Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA) at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The main question will be, “how can Dallas transform Fair Park into a year-round destination and economic engine for its South Dallas area?” The city is now faced with several options for its redevelopment, and must choose the best path forward.

“The Dallas Architecture Forum is pleased to present this next panel in its 2015-16 series of thought-provoking panel discussions on topics impacting the citizens of Dallas both locally and globally,” said forum executive director Nate Eudaly. “Moderator Mark Lamster will be joined by a panel of well-respected community leaders to discuss this extremely important topic. The result will be engaging and thought-provoking discussions for our attendees.”

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