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Downtown Dallas Needs Zipcars and Bioswales. Or Lots of Pretty Flower Pots.

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As we predicted,

the word

"balance"

was

frequently

used

to describe what a

"great street" could and should be during Tuesday's presentation to the city council's Transportation and Environment Committees. The council was left with plenty to ponder as RTKL's Eric Dohrer more or less told the council that it needs to rip up (metaphorically, at least) downtown's pavement, get the cars off the pavement and create separate,

well-defined

sections

for sidewalks, bicycle lanes and

narrow driving lanes.

Starting from scratch isn't always necessary, he told them.

Medians

can be

expanded and replaced with greenery instead of concrete.

Planters

with

flowers

and trees add

natural

beauty and

serve

as barriers

between foot traffic and cars.

Still.

"Our city has not moved forward thinking about these little, small details," said Carolyn Davis, who likes

the idea

of

integrating

flower pots, plants and trees

onto

Malcolm X

and Cedar Crest Boulevards. "People say it's a bad area, but if you start putting these types of things in this area, it'll change the mindset."

The council,

cautious about overreaching, expressed

interest in initially pursuing small projects

-- if, they said, they were interested in adopting the project at all.

Dohrer

was hesitant to provide specific costs, but

recommended

prioritizing

projects

that would be easy to implement. Davis mentioned

possibly including

a provision for

street

improvements

in the 2010 bond package, while Angela Hunt

singled out

Ross Avenue

and suggested creating

more

links

to Dallas Area Rapid Transit light rail.

This is

about "changing our mindset from, 'How do we move cars as fast as possible?' to 'How do we move people?,'" Hunt said.

One thing that discourages pedestrian traffic downtown is there aren't enough clearly marked intersections and crosswalks. Installing so-called "curb neckdowns" -- or extensions -- is one way of reducing the crossing distance between intersections; they'd also force drivers to slow down. Some of RTKL's other suggestions sounded like a rundown of an urban planner's wish list: bioswales that catch and filter rainwater; solar-powered bus stops; citywide bike rentals; tiny zipcars to supplement mass transit. Or, as RTKL's Tom Brink said, half-seriously, "We were thinking maybe in Dallas it would be a zip truck."

The briefing was ostensibly about improving streets, but the underlying message was shifting Dallas away from city-grid-dominated by cars and trucks. "We're kind of trending away from the automobile ever so slightly," said Dohrer. "I think we'll see $4 gas again before we see $1.50 gas."

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