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Transforming a Car-Dependent City

From January through May of 2008 I lived in Dallas, Texas. As far as the city goes, I wasn’t a huge fan (although I loved interning at Southwest Airlines).

I consistently felt overwhelmed by the car-culture. Everyone I knew drove a car. Almost all of my fellow-interns owned a car (how they afforded it, I’m still not entirely sure). People often talk about how cars offer the ultimate freedom. Living in Dallas made me realize why this belief is so widespread, and yet, why it's so misleading.

From my apartment window I could see construction workers hammering away on DART’s Green Line. Every day I imagined how much different my life would be if it were operating. The northern section of DART's Green Line is scheduled to open in a week, and again I’m caught thinking how my life might be different if I lived in Dallas today.

(from Diorama Sky on Flickr)

Even though I lived only about 3 miles from Southwest’s headquarters near Love Field Airport, walking, biking, or taking public transit were all significant challenges. Between streets with missing sidewalks, heavily congested arterial roads, and bus routes that didn't serve the area where I needed to go, my options were limited; so much so that it was easier to spend my energy lining up rides from co-workers to and from work every day.

If the Green Line existed when I lived in Dallas, I could have lived in many potential neighborhoods and had easy access to my internship. I would have spent a lot less time worrying about getting to and from work. I might have left Dallas feeling a lot differently about the city. Who knows, maybe I wouldn't have stayed for that whole summer.

When the Green Line opens next week, the city isn't immediately going to shed its car-loving image, but it is a step in transforming a city where live revolves around the automobile into one that's more livable for everyone else.

Comments

Neil Schlager said…
Rob, you are entirely right about the drawbacks to living in a city like Dallas that treats pedestrians and transit riders so poorly. I too have been waiting anxiously for the Green Line to open. After spending years commuting to work from my home near Royal Lane to my office in Oak Lawn, I'll be able to take the Green Line starting next week. In one fell swoop, my daily habits will change dramatically toward public transit and more walking (both positive changes in my opinion). A lot more needs to happen in Dallas, but at least we have some positive trends happening and a lot of city leaders as well as community activists working hard to make Dallas more livable and pedestrian-friendly, and with more transit options.

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