How Public Opinion on Political Initiatives Has Changed in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas has a long and storied history, stretching back to the winter of 1840 when Jonathon Bird established a settlement three miles east of what is now Birdville. In 1843, Sam Houston arrived and the city has been growing ever since. Today, Fort Worth is one of the five best metropolitan areas in the country and is projected to overtake Chicago as the third largest metropolitan area in the United States by the 2030s. However, as we have seen with other cities over the past century, this can change.

Detroit was counted as one of the five largest major cities in the United States in 1950 and was a powerhouse in the automotive manufacturing industry. But since then, its population has been steadily declining according to the Michigan Citizenship Research Council. In order for North Texas and Dallas to maintain their competitive edge, they must focus on protecting their burgeoning leadership and advancing initiatives that bring new economic opportunities and make Dallas an even better place to live. One such initiative is housing affordability. Fewer homes equal more expensive homes, and more homes equal less expensive homes.

Cities that have hindered the development process have some of the highest housing costs in the country. The Dallas City Construction Department must decide how many people from across the country will call Dallas home with current immigration patterns. To do this, they must focus on alternative transportation rather than just highways and light rail. An active transportation network that connects DART stations, streetcars, protected bike lanes and bike trails can offer residents an alternative to cars. Dallas has always been inhospitable to cycling, but this can change over time as we have seen across the country. It starts with prioritizing cycling infrastructure and continues with planning and budgeting.

Minneapolis is a great example of this; starting from a stalemate around 2000, it is now routinely ranked as one of the three most bicycle-friendly cities in the country each year with a relatively high percentage of residents commuting to work by bike. Eliminating one-way streets is another great start; Dallas has several successful examples of converting one-way streets to two-way streets across the city but it takes years for this to happen. Road diets are also a great idea; they improve safety, mobility and access for all road users and create a complete urban environment to adapt to a variety of modes of transport. The best example in Dallas is the Jefferson Boulevard road diet promoted by Councilmember Chad West which decreased traffic accidents by 82%.Dallas should also create a road allowance commission to explore all opportunities to eliminate redundant roads or reduce road widths to make neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly. Neighborhood residents should have priority over passing travelers.

To make up for its lack of natural amenities like mountains or an ocean, Dallas should focus on parks and trails; it can lead the country in parks per person among large urban cities if it does so. Urban parks and green spaces enjoy a long list of benefits including increased community connection and engagement, improved air quality and encouraging an active lifestyle for residents. They can also lead to economic development and an increase in residential and commercial real estate value. Klyde Warren Park is a great example of how an idea can turn into a transformative project in a short period of time with the right leadership and resources; it has united Downtown and Uptown and now enjoys more than a million visitors a year. Parks for Downtown Dallas (PfDD) is another great example; in just over a decade, an incredibly short period of time in the history of a city, their big idea became reality under their guidance. Both initiatives were public-private partnerships that took advantage of private money with public funds; Dallas should follow this model as it continues to build green spaces. Organizations like the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Trees Foundation are doing great work as are the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department and the Dallas Department of Transportation.

The city's permit granting process must also be streamlined so that neighborhood consensus can be brought to full implementation within a reasonable time.