The photo you see above was taken and sent our way today by, who else, Jason Roberts, for whom I happened to have many questions. So, good timing. As always.
First thing's first: That's Three Sheets's double-decker, which will be rolled out at the end of the month as part of that Better Boulevard Challenge set to temporarily transform a section of Ross into a walkable, hang-out-able stretch. The bus will be planted in the vacant lot next to Three Sheets -- host of the Build A Better Boulevard and Dallas Complete Streets Kick-OFF dinner June 26 -- as a way to "help fill in the space," says Roberts.
"That's part of the the whole Ross challenge: It lets us work with folks who've communicated with us in the past and who want to get involved," he says, ticking off students, architects and retailers planning on getting involved. There might even be a beach, Robert says, and he adds that the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market will even set up shop "in the middle of Ross," a la Las Ramblas in Barcelona. "Only we're calling our Ross Ramblas," says Roberts.
The Better Boulevard experiment is part of the larger Complete Streets Initiative, which Roberts and Andrew Howard are helping the city make tangible after so much talk, talk, talk at City Hall. And part of that, of course, is the new Dallas Bike Plan, which passed council unanimously today as expected. So I asked Roberts how optimistic is he that it'll become something more than just another good idea that works up a sweat pedaling to nowhere.
"We're a part of the Complete Streets team, and what we're pushing for -- as are others, including Angela Hunt -- is that when our streets need maintenance, they'll go ahead and stripe them for bike lanes. We have striping going on all over the city all the time. That'll be the emphasis of the Complete Streets team -- a policy that says if it's on the bike plan you have to stripe it for a bike lane. And other cities have done this. In New York they did 200 miles in short order, so I feel pretty good about it. But you're right -- plan stuff does tend to get forgotten after a while."
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"But the cost is part of their routine maintenance. All you have to do is look at map on the bike plan and say let's go ahead and stripe this. That's the biggie. The city has brought us on, so our emphasis is on these demonstrations as well, which gives us a chance to do testing. We're going to put things on the ground. That's what we do. What we found is it's more like the scientific method: If it doesn't work it's not a big deal, because you've only invested a few days and learned something in the process."
Whether it's the bike plan or Ross Avenue.
But this brings up something else: I see here the city just offloaded a handful of striping trucks. I've got some calls in about why -- I believe that task is being outsourced now? -- but Roberts was well aware of the fact they were being sold off for about half the sticker price. And he's bummed he couldn't get one:
"If I could get just one of those," he says, "I could fix the city."