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The Right Planning Consultant Could Make All of the Difference

Between DART service optimization and deciding the fate of I-345, Dallas has big of decisions to make. The right consultant, who understands accurate framing of planning issues, could help choose a route that best serves Dallasites.
November 20, 2020, 8am PST | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), with the help of an urban planning consultant, surveyed Dallas residents to answer a seemingly simple question: Would you prefer more service over a larger area or better service in a smaller service area? According to Peter Simek, this simple question had been posed to residents in a misleading way for years, leading to DART policies and systems that failed to serve the best interest of Dallasites. 

"The question just had to be asked in a way that made it clear that they were choosing between quality over quantity," says Simek. Once the phrasing was corrected by an effective and experienced planning consultant, DART learned that a staggering 76% of residents preferred a system that increased, optimized service frequency of fewer routes. 

"The simple rephrasing of the choices facing Dallas residents shows how the right consultants — the ones who understand the scope and stakes of complicated urban planning problems — can propel a public process toward new and more beneficial solutions," writes Simek. 

This issue, a lack of consultancy in Dallas' planning process isn't limited to DART service, Simek argues, describing transportation advocates' well documented struggle to remove highway I-345 and replace the thoroughfare with an at-grade boulevard.

Simek asks: "As with DART’s bus redo, it all comes down to how the engineers, consultants, and bureaucrats working on the project frame the question. Is Dallas trying to solve for moving traffic through the city center or is it trying to revitalize the urban core?"

The answer, Simek says, depends on Dallas' willingness to "hire a traffic consultant who has a proven track record with dealing with urban transportation planning with the nuance and subtlety it deserves."

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Published on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 in D Magazine
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