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In Dallas-Fort Worth, Some Say Future Transportation Plans Are Rooted In The Past

A view of Dallas from the Reunion Tower observation deck.

Trying to figure out the future transportation habits for millions of people in a metro area isn't easy; cities often play it safe and go with what's worked before. 

The North Central Texas Council of Governments adopted Mobility 2045, its $135 billion blueprint for the region's transportation needs, earlier this summer.

In a recent interview with KERA, Brandon Formby, an urban affairs reporter with The Texas Tribune, talked about the plan, the region's growth and the difficulty of predicting travel behaviors.

Interview Highlights

On the plan's focus

The plan is basically an accounting of the budgeted money, coming from the federal government, the state government, the local government and sales taxes, that's going to be spent on transportation and infrastructure for the coming decades. It goes to everything from roads to bike lanes to public transit — basically any sort of mobility infrastructure that helps people get from here to there.

There are a lot of regulations on federal and state money that say: For those funds to go to anything in this region, they have to be in that budget. Of course, over time as things change, the North Central Texas Council Of Governments can amend that budget, take things in, take things out.

On the divide between urban and suburban growth

There are Dallas City Council members that are frustrated at the amounts of money that go to transportation projects like highways, highway widening, tollways, that just kind of exacerbate the suburban sprawl and keep pushing the suburbs further and further out and subsidize a flight from the cities and the inner city core neighborhoods out into those suburbs. Meanwhile, suburban officials are grappling with how to build and prepare for this crush of people that continue to come every day.

On the difficulty of planning for future needs

Transportation planners when they look out and kind of figure out what infrastructure they're going to need decades from now, what they do is they look at the travel behaviors of people today. They say it's entirely too hard to try to predict how people are going to want to move around two, three decades from now, so they use current data.

The problem is that current behavior is based off of people interacting with the infrastructure that is on the ground now, which is centered around the car. So, you have this situation where people virtually almost have to have a car to get anywhere in the area, and then those habits are seen as, "Oh, everybody wants to drive a car, so let's build more roads 15 to 20 years from now."

Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.