UTA Institute of Urban Studies to investigate walkability of downtown Dallas
It’s home to the Dallas Arts District, the Dallas Convention Center, Dallas Area Rapid Transit trains, the headquarters of AT&T, Hunt Consolidated and Comerica Bank. But is downtown Dallas walkable? And what would the city have to do to make it more so?
The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs is partnering with the city of Dallas to find out.
Students from CAPPA’s Institute of Urban Studies are embarking on an analysis of pedestrian traffic along 184 street segments and 66 intersections throughout downtown. The results will be used to further understand the street-level experience for people who work, live and visit downtown.
“Walkable streets could help us be more physically active, and live healthier,” said Shima Hamidi, director of the Institute of Urban Studies and an assistant professor of planning. “A scientific analysis enables community leaders to identify elements that impact the appeal of a place, and to plan enhancements for the pedestrian experience.”
Student researchers will evaluate characteristics including density, block size, noise levels, parks and landscapes and building uses. The study will capture the number of active storefronts, patio spaces, parks, proximity to light rail and employment concentrations in the downtown area.
Hamidi calls streets “the most important built element of the public realm” because they carry people to work, to shop and to other daily destinations.
“I’m pleased to see the city of Dallas engaging the UTA Institute of Urban Studies in this critical work – and that is determining how we can enhance the pedestrian corridors in our central business district,” state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said. West, who was awarded UTA’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award, received his bachelor’s degree from UTA in 1974 and his master’s from UTA in 1979. “Increasing walkability in downtown Dallas will bring new life to the city’s core, improve the health of the people who live and work there and add to the vitality of our city.”
The downtown Dallas walkability study highlights UTA’s commitment to shaping sustainable urban communities as outlined in the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.
CAPPA Dean Nan Ellin said the Dallas walkability study is one of many examples in which the College is partnering with regional entities to enhance the vitality and vibrancy of places and communities. In the past two years, the Institute has completed a Dallas Fair Park and enrvirons plan, a Mineral Wells downtown redevelopment plan and many other projects.
“We believe in learning through doing while also contributing to the larger public good. The CAPPA motto is ‘We work with our hands, heads, and hearts to change the world one place at a time.’ ” Ellin said.
One of the primary objectives of the Dallas’ Department of Economic Development is to implement Downtown 360, the strategic plan first adopted by the Dallas City Council in 2011 as the collective vision for the downtown Dallas community.
This plan acknowledges challenges facing downtown, including streets that can be unfriendly to pedestrians. The Downtown 360 plan generally identifies vehicular circulation, broken sidewalks, physical obstructions, inconsistent landscaping and tree canopy, and a lack of buffers to fast-moving traffic as impediments to downtown’s walkability.
Karl Zavitkovsky, Dallas’ economic development director, said that the UTA study will provide insight on pedestrian activity and the built environment, helping to shape downtown economic development and design decisions.
“A better understanding of pedestrian activity and the areas that are most appealing for walking will greatly help our plans to further improve downtown’s ground floor,” said Zavitkovsky, who added that the Institute was a natural fit for the study his department needed.
CAPPA’s Institute of Urban Studies was established by the Texas Legislature in 1967. The Institute provides a broad array of services to communities and municipalities, including: customized planning, management services, comprehensive plans, corridor plans, transportation plans, feasibility studies, park and open spaces plans, market area studies, retail analysis, neighborhood development research and others.
Established in 2015, the UTA College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs unites the former schools of Architecture and Urban and Public Affairs, offering programs in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, public administration, and public policy. The College includes the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, the Digital Architectural Research Consortium, the Institute of Urban Studies, the Arlington Urban Design Center based at Arlington City Hall, and the Parallel Construction design/build program.
About The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a Research 1 – Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of more than 53,000 degree-seeking students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.