Last weekend, I went down to Dallas to see the BikeFriendlyOakCliff/BetterBlock Ross Ave Better Boulevard. They took a neglected block and made it inviting by adding shade, traffic calming, water, crosswalks, bike lanes, entertainment, and food. The NYTimes even mentions the Ross Ramblas event in their article about tactical urbanism.
In one swoop, Jason Roberts of BetterBlock sums up the gist of rebalancing streets to meet the needs for people (and not just cars), while saving millions on maintenance, creating new jobs and revenue, encouraging entrepreneurship, and debunking the myth that gas taxes actually pay for road costs.
For Ross Avenue, we took a 6 lane road and developed a pedestrianized center that allowed entrepreneurs an opportunity to test their business while creating greater economics to the area. Normally, we’d generate no money from this street and actually spend millions to fill in potholes and repave. The wider the street, the more costly the maintenance, which directly affects our property taxes…repaving one mile of a 6 lane road in Dallas costs millions and we have hundreds of miles of these throughout the city. An assumption often made is that our roads are paid for by gas taxes. The reality is that none of our residential and non-highway/interstate roads are covered at all by gas taxes…it’s soley property taxes. To make matters worse, when business opportunity erodes in an area, we typically raise taxes to continue maintenance which pushes business away and creates an undue burden on residents to fill in the void. The money we’d save by reclaiming portions of the streets for businesses and people would go far to helping our city’s balance sheet. Fewer potholes to fill while increased area business tax revenue would help cover the costs of pedestrian amenities like lighting, watering trees, et cetera.