Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Downtown Transportation Plan

PUBLIC MEETING
DALLAS CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT
COMPREHENSIVE TRANSPORTATION PLAN

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 – 6:00 p.m.
Dallas City Hall – Conference Center Auditorium L1FN


WELCOME AND BACKGROUND

Mike Sims of the North Central Texas Council of Government (NCTCOG) welcomed guests. He began the meeting by explaining the role the North Central Texas Council of Governments and its transportation policy board, the Regional Transportation Council (RTC), play in transportation planning and implementation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Mr. Sims provided a background on how the Dallas Central Business District Comprehensive Transportation Plan evolved. A few years ago, the Regional Transportation Council established a policy to look at improving both downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth, recognizing that the health of both major downtown centers in the region are good barometers for the long-term health of the region as a whole. Eighteen months ago, with funding from the RTC, the City of Dallas, Dallas County, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), a study was begun to look at transportation and land use issues in downtown Dallas. Since then, Jacobs Civil, the consultant firm selected to perform the study, has worked with the Dallas Central Business District (CBD) steering and technical committees to develop recommendations, which were recently presented to the sponsoring entities.

Mr. Sims asked that anyone wishing to make oral or written comments fill out a public comment sheet. He explained policy officials, who are the decision-makers, would review the comments.

Keith Manoy, City of Dallas, provided background on the City’s current transportation plan that was adopted in 1971. He noted the last update was completed in 1988, and the current effort would be the first comprehensive update. Mr. Manoy pointed out this study focused on a truly multi-modal plan with a real emphasis on pedestrians in downtown and not so much on vehicular circulation. The effort was geared toward a vision based on users’ input, which became the guiding principles for the study.


PRESENTATION

Terry Watson of Jacobs Civil, located in Dallas, presented the CBD Comprehensive Transportation Plan. URS, Goode Fulton and Farrell, and Dennis Wilson and Associates supported the consultant team.

The target year for this study is 2030. The approach was to not just study supply and demand for transportation, but to include three elements which would make the plan comprehensive: Context, Function and Consensus (see Slide #2).

Context. Many factors played a role in the context of this study: the environment of downtown, the City acting as a government seat for the City of Dallas and Dallas County, Dallas being an economic engine for the region and also serving as a cultural/entertainment center. Other parts of the context, from the standpoint of timing, are studies that are currently underway--the Parks Master Planning effort, continued planning and implementation on the Trinity River improvements, Fair Park, and TxDOT’s Pegasus Project which is addressing the canyon area of I.H. 35 and I.H. 30. More importantly, there is DART’s implementation of new light rail lines and beginning considerations for the second light rail alignment. The plan was for the study to recognize that context and give it the relative importance as a transportation center serving the different functions that come together in downtown.

Function refers to transportation. Whether it is recreation, education, to and from work or home, these are some of the functions the comprehensive plan needed to satisfy with safety in mind and at a level of service for effective public use. The functional mix also includes bicycles, mass transit, goods movement, and taxi cabs.

Consensus is to get as much buy-in as possible. The goal was to bring together the context, satisfy the functions, and reach consensus on the development of a comprehensive plan. Consensus is being achieved through a public involvement process that includes:

A steering committee made up of representatives from the City of Dallas, DART, Dallas County, and NCTCOG.
A stakeholders committee whose members are business owners that could be impacted by changes made in the downtown area.
A technical committee comprised of the sponsoring governments’ staff members.

How the study was performed. (Slide #3)
Public involvement has continued throughout the process.
A planning context was developed after a historical inspection and consideration of past studies.
The vision statement was then developed and moved into technical analysis utilizing the land-use plan, which also had to be developed.
Land-use drives demand. The demand for travel was generated based on projections of land use. Using the vision statement, a land-use plan that represents today’s best thinking from land-use experts was developed.
The regional travel demand model was used along with the demographics from the land-use plan and the NCTCOG travel demand model to place all this in terms of the regional transportation context.
A very detailed tool for traffic and transit simulation was then developed. This tool goes down to the detailed movement of individual vehicles. The regional travel demand model was then placed into the traffic simulation tool.
One of the more important issues most people are interested in is if there will be a second light rail alignment in downtown Dallas.
Enhancements, such as converting some of the one-way street systems to two-way streets were considered.
Other general street enhancements, such as a few street closures still remain as potential enhancements to the transportation network.
All these items come together into this comprehensive transportation plan.

A graphical history of the previous transportation studies, dating back to 1970 was shown (see Slide #4). The context and history were studied along with statements made by both government and private entities regarding the downtown area’s needs.

The vision statement (see Slide #5) was then developed, during which transportation functionality, land-use/economic development, and quality of life were considered.
The vision for downtown, expressed by the steering and technical committees and the stakeholders, is best exemplified by land use/economic development. There is a lot more emphasis on living in downtown. As more people live in downtown there is more need for shopping and retail activity. There is continued development of learning opportunities as higher education and some of the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) facilities are in downtown. And there is continued development of cultural, entertainment and recreation opportunities. The vision is there will be more people moving around downtown, more 24-hour activity or 18-hour a day activity. Downtown will not be just an office park, but a center that has activities throughout the entire week.
The transportation functionality, consisting of transit, traffic, circulation, parking, goods movement, is related to the vision issues.
Quality of life: The quality of the downtown experience was in the forefront as recommendations were developed—the experience as a pedestrian, safety and security, attractiveness/enjoyment of the environment.

The public was referred to the maps that were on the back wall of the room. These maps showed the framework plan that identified the street level land uses in downtown.
Land use plan
Light rail train alternatives
Recommended light rail train corridor
Recommended boulevard system
Recommended major thoroughfare system
Recommended pedestrian way system
Bike routes for Dallas CBD
Roadway Classification System

Transportation alternatives (see Slide #7): the second light rail transit corridor which is a primary importance, one-way to two-way street conversions, street closures, pedestrian enhancements, and network enhancements.

Three basic light rail alignments were analyzed for the second light rail (see Slide #8). These had been narrowed down from about 14 alignments that previous DART planning work had identified.

This first one, shown in green, would connect the northwest part of downtown from the Victory area, along Griffin or Lamar north/south down to a street south of Commerce, Jackson or Wood. It will be DART’s responsibility to refine the exact alignment in their next study. The east/west part of this alternative is along streets Jackson, Wood, and possibly Young. This line would proceed eastward to Canton street, intersecting Good Latimer, east of downtown near the freeway. It would then connect up to the line that is being developed that serves Deep Ellum, out through Fair Park and serves southeast Dallas.

The second alternative also begins in the Victory area. In this case, it connects with the north central lines along San Jacinto. One attractive feature of this particular alignment is it avoids a rail-rail crossing if the second alignment is at-grade. This crossing at-grade is a limitation on the overall capacity of the system and something that would have to be analyzed to see if it allows enough trains through to serve and deliver enough transit seats to the public to meet the demand for transit.

The third alternative, shown in light blue, connects the southwestern lines to the current line in Oak Cliff in the southern part of the community. It would run up Griffin Street and then eastward along the previous alignment on Jackson and Wood and connect to the central corridor.

Total vehicular delay and total person delay were also evaluated both for a.m. and p.m. simulations as one measure of transportation effectiveness (see Slides #9 & #10). Since total train throughput is important on the light rail side, a qualitative evaluation was conducted to determine how well each of these alignments served the different districts in downtown and how well they served the different functions--office, residential, retail, pedestrian operations, light rail operations.

The second light rail alignment recommendation (see Slide #11) correlates to the alternatives described on Slide #8.
The first corridor is the recommended and preferred corridor.
The second recommendation is for DART to directly proceed as a component of their long-range planning and refinement into their Alternatives Analysis with the second alternative in mind.
The third recommendation would be, at a minimum, to adopt a below grade alignment within the recommended corridor. It would begin in the northwest part of downtown, and at a minimum, would be grade separated between Ross and Commerce. It could emerge from a tube or below-grade alignment in a street such as Jackson, or DART could consider the entire alignment to be grade-separated. This has been a very significant finding of the study. The light rail system at-grade with an at-grade intersection was not believed to contain enough long-term sustainability. There is a need to have a more sustainable future with a longer-range prospect for transit development, which would be best served by the grade-separated alignment.

Slide 12 –The corridor just described is shown here in the light blue outline. As mentioned before, this is the single recommended corridor. If the steering committee and the city council adopt the recommendation, then their recommendation to DART would be to study the specific alignment within this corridor.


Road recommendations:
Slide #
Convert from one-way to two-way
13
Street closures
14
Pedestrian enhancements
15
Other enhancements
16 & 17
Maps:

Recommended Boulevard System
18
Recommended Major Thoroughfare System
19
Recommended Pedestrian way System
20
Bike Routes for Dallas CBD
21
Roadway Classification System
22
Wrap-up

Future Public Involvement Meetings
23
Ordinance Approval
24





PUBLIC COMMENTS

Larry Hamilton, Hamilton Properties Corporation Denver, CO
Mr. Hamilton referred to Slide #13, and suggested the addition of at least three more streets to convert from one-way to two-way streets.

Federal Street, between Akard and Ervay. His company is developing a residential project (430 units and 630 parking stalls) on the NE corner of Akard and Pacific across from Thanksgiving Square in the former Fidelity Union Life Insurance building. This links the arts district with the historic district. He stated he has been in contact with Mr. Manoy, City of Dallas, on this issue.
Akard Street between Ross Street and Commerce Street or at least to Elm Street. Again for reasons of access. The Davis building was developed with 183 residential units and 608 parking stalls in the metropolitan garage. It would be very helpful to have these streets two-way so residents can get around. 1505 Elm is an interesting project, former Chamber of Commerce building, that has been converted to residential and has a parking garage that is immediately to the north. They have valet parking and the way they have to park is the valets wait until there is no traffic coming from the north and back up into parking garage.
Field Street – His company owns the 12-level Metropolitan Garage, which is on the southeast corners of Field and Elm Street with 608 parking stalls. He referred to Slide #17. His company provides parking to the public for $1/hour to provide ease of parking for shopping during the day. If Field Street could become a two-way street, valets would only have to go through two traffic signals instead of the current six or seven they now go through.
Patterson Street could also be converted to two-way to the north of Elm. He added that making Akard a pedestrian area is a very good idea and converting it to a two-way street is consistent with it becoming a pedestrian way. Two-way streets are more conducive to pedestrian ways than one-way streets.

Terry Watson stated Mr. Hamilton’s proposals have been well thought out and they would be taken into consideration.

Stan Aten, Cedars Neighborhood Association & Wynnewood Heights Association Oak Cliff
Mr. Aten expressed his concerns about the second DART line. He understood the second line was going to be a subway because traffic would be too great. He stated he has been reading about other cities and their transportation studies and has learned that keeping the two lines fairly close together within walking distance one or two blocks apart will allow people to transfer easily between the two lines. Making it easy for people to use will also increase ridership. Mr. Aten asked what impact the rising price of energy is going to have on people wanting to come downtown? He stated there is no mention of the cost of energy in the study and recommended it should be considered. Mr. Aten recommended another street for the pedestrian way--Lamar Street from the convention center south into the Cedars. He suggested that sidewalks be widened in the pedestrian way. He stated that the two-way streets were a good idea and that they should be user friendly, especially if this is where people live.

Terry Watson thanked Mr. Aten for this comments and suggestions. Mike Sims added that Mr. Aten’s comments have a lot of fans among the steering committee members.

John Rader, Rader Properties Dallas
Concerned that proposed at-grade crossing seems to be a choke point.
Expressed concern about the west transfer station being saturated and the increased congestion along Main and Elm streets. Suggested removing buses off of Main Street.
Some head ways made: Second line system under the ground instead of at-grade.
Curious about bus transfer centers.

Terry Watson began with clarifying how the recommendation was phrased. The inter-local agreement did have some triggers related to headway on looking at a second alignment. He noted that they started the study not being told that the second line had to be subway or perhaps they presumed that the first thing they would look at would be if it could be at-grade. He recommended, in addition to the corridor, that it be grade-separated, and it would go underground as it crosses in the vicinity of the current light rail line at Pacific. At some point, when DART does its alignment studies, some point north of Ross, they would bring it down. This could be just outside or inside the CBD because a lot of engineering determinations have yet to be made for that. It would go down and run underground below-grade until it could turn and come up on Jackson or possibly would stay down in Jackson and be totally subway downtown. That part would need to be determined. They did feel that the grade crossing was a little too restrictive for a longer term, even longer than the study, to be a sustainable configuration. It limited the number of trains that could get through town at that point. He said that they thought long and hard about it because they consider the Pacific/Bryan mall to be very successful, but didn’t see it as sustainable as they felt it should be in downtown’s 30-year horizon. He wanted to make sure that it was understood, that they were recommending the below-grade alignment. He identified the critical part of the below-grade alignment which would be where Pacific, Main, Elm, Commerce, Jackson, Wood, Young are about 200 feet apart, yet the stations they’re trying to plan for are about 400 feet long, so there is an obvious disconnect. The block lengths are too short that way, yet those are streets that cannot readily be closed. He added that the second study, the alignment study, would probably make the determination to what extent it would be grade-separated. He said they focused their recommendation on the part where they felt that it should be separated at a minimum in that location.

Mike Sims added a comment regarding depressing versus second rail alignment at-grade. One of the original intent of the study was to make sure that due diligence was exercised to look at whether it could be done at-grade. The reason was the wide variety of alignments looked at early on in this study and the enormous cost of going below-grade or elevated. It was necessary to thoroughly assess the at-grade options to determine the possibility of building at-grade. A lot of elements in Mr. Watson’s presentation address the at-grade portion if making an investment in a depressed facility was ever going to be considered.

John Rader: Please elaborate on the west transfer congestion.

Terry Watson: The west transfer center is very well utilized, and yet the east transfer center is used less. In dealing with a 30-year plan, not much focus was placed on the shorter or mid-range bus operations, but it certainly would seem to imply that there are some needs for DART’s ongoing planning and their operations planning will probably address that.

John Rader: Are there any engineer drawings yet?

Terry Watson: There are no engineering drawings because we’re engaged in a planning study. Part of this would be a tunnel and would probably have a subway station on one of those parts of it because that would facilitate transfers. If running at-grade, it would go down gradually until it runs below the street level. Specifics are to be deemed by DART in their Alternatives Analysis study.

John Rader: Bus system designs. Changing to satellite operation. Has DART changed from hub and spoke system to satellite system?

Terry Watson: For the CBD study it would be a hub and spoke element.


Richard Schumacher, Citizen Dallas
Would you elaborate on the delay measures in the presentation? (Slide #9)

Terry Watson: Total vehicular delay is stop delay for the trains when they’re stopped by a traffic signal, not with the doors open serving passengers and similarly for automobiles when they’re stopped at a traffic signal. Total Light Rail Train (LRT) delay would be when the trains are delayed either at the station or waiting to cross a street, or in some cases with the at-grade crossing they might have to wait outside of a station area at another signal or outside downtown area all together to wait before they can get clear passage on into downtown. Through the simulation tool, the time those vehicles are stopped can be measured. Total person delay is using the vehicle occupancy as well as the train ridership or a surrogate for the train ridership using the load factor for the trains. We actually estimated the total person delay, not just the vehicles, but also the vehicles multiplied by the people in the cars or on the trains. We felt that when it came down to running the signal system, it is better to look at total person delay rather than number of vehicles. We had both a.m. and p.m. hour analysis. It is the average of the peak hour.

Richard Schumacher: Could you comment on signal pre-emption?

Terry Watson: There is a lot of consideration of what kind of signal priority and what kind of operation should be operated in downtown Dallas. We believe that DART and the City of Dallas have reached an agreement to move toward a priority type of system that would give priority and even pre-empt some signals in certain key locations so that when a train was ready to go, the signal would go into the green movement to the train. We, in fact, studied a full pre-emption to say every time the train gets the green phase to get on through the system, then the signals go back to their cycle to serve the rest of the vehicular traffic when they can. It is something that DART and the City of Dallas are working on. I think you can expect to see in the future, somewhat of a modification of the priority scheme that is used today (train & vehicular actions). We did look at full pre-emption and we believe a hybrid priority system probably has a lot of merit as well. You will see some operational changes as time goes on, certainly as DART opens the new light rail service in upcoming years where we’ll have more trains on Pacific and Bryan so there will be modifications made to the signal system.

Richard Schumacher: The delay numbers would decrease with the grade-separation?

Terry Watson: Yes, the delay numbers should reduce with grade-separation.

RAN SIMULATION TOOL

Richard Schumacher: Did you consider thru traffic underpasses?

Terry Watson: Grade separations we looked at would be fairly disruptive and at some point we’ve recommended bringing an area up to grade and creating a boulevard environment.


Martin Malloy, Halff Associates/Dallas Chamber Dallas
Referred to Slide #8 – what’s connected to what? Order? In the recommended alignment, new lines are designated that run from Carrollton to Las Colinas. That would come down and interline out to the southeast—Fair Park and Pleasant Grove area. The north central line out to Oak Cliff in the south part of town would work as it does today. How close can you get a person from DFW Airport to a convention center and hotels?

Terry Watson: From DFW, one would transfer, and then take the line that drops off at the convention center station.

Martin Malloy: We would like to get the station as close as we can to the convention center and would like consideration of stations on the green route.

Terry Watson: Good point…we placed the stations for purposes of the simulation, but when DART does their study, they will look at several station opportunities.


Comments for the steering committee were solicited and the public was invited to view the simulations again and review the displayed maps.