Changing Tyler and Polk to two-way streets would calm traffic but pinch parking

A view of Tyler Street from Seventh, where traffic moves too fast and wrecks are not uncommon: Photo by Danny Fulgencio
A view of Tyler Street from Seventh, where traffic moves too fast and wrecks are not uncommon: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Sometime in the 1960s, the city of Dallas made Tyler and Polk into one-way streets as a way to move traffic quickly through Oak Cliff and to the suburbs.

Now that our neighborhood is a thriving destination, that one-way “couplet” should be reverted back to two-way streets to slow traffic, encourage walkability and draw more interest to commercial districts along the corridor.

At least, that is how City Councilman Scott Griggs and business owners near Tyler and Davis see it.

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Farther up on Tyler, near Jefferson, the story is a little different.

Part of the two-way plan requires prohibiting on-street parking during peak traffic times. So from 7-9 a.m. and from 5-7 p.m., Tyler and Polk would lose about 20 parking spaces. This is in a commercial district where parking already is tight, business owners say.

Photographer Jesse Hornbuckle owns the 1930s retail strip in the 200 block of South Tyler. He located his photography studio in that block in the late ’90s, and he bought the building about 10 years ago. Now it is fully leased with a karate dojo, an art studio, a hair salon and Oak Cliff Games, a shop that opened in February, where customers can pay to play video games by the hour and hold fantasy card game tournaments.

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The city proposes creating two-way streets by adding a roundabout on Tyler and Polk at Winston. A stoplight would join the streets at South Tyler.
The city proposes creating two-way streets by adding a roundabout on Tyler and Polk at Winston. A stoplight would join the streets at South Tyler.

“I’m all for progress,” Hornbuckle says. “But you’re creating a problem more than you’re solving a problem.”

Businesses near Tyler and Jefferson already are thriving, he says. They are locally owned businesses that made their own success.

“It’s not broken,” says Joshua Corona, who owns the Sweat Shop gym at 218 S. Tyler. “Don’t try to fix it.” He and his wife, Denise, fear that the change in parking will affect their business, which opens at 5 p.m. The parking restrictions will be in effect during their busiest times. The block has one or two streetlights that work only sometimes, Corona says, and most of his clients are women.

Corona thinks the city should scrap the two-way plan and instead spend the $3 million set aside for it to create more lighting on the street, build better sidewalks along the corridor and install other traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps or “your speed” signs that use radar to remind drivers how fast they are going.

Griggs has said he is working to find solutions to the proposed parking losses. And Hornbuckle says he would agree to the two-way plan if all the parking could be restored.

On the Davis end of Tyler, traffic moves too fast, and car crashes are not uncommon. Something has to be done to slow traffic there. But it’s unclear whether making it a two-way street is the right answer for both ends of the street.

Teresa Coleman Wash of the Bishop Arts Theatre Center says the two-way plan likely would make valet parking in front of the theater impossible.

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“We’ve invested a lot of time, attention and resources here,” she says. “We hope the city will work with the people who have worked for this area to make it what it is.”

 

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  • Pingback: See plans for the Tyler/Polk two-way plan next week - Oak Cliff()

  • Andrew Hudson

    Hey thanks for you response! Interesting viewpoint. I checked out the full article… which was a masters thesis primarily about pedestrian safety. Upon further investigation, this thesis is about downtown Charleston, South Carolinas’s “retail hub” of historic King Street which is nothing like Tyler Street! King street has heavy commercial density similar to Commerce and Elm streets in downtown Dallas, which I agree may benefit from a switch to two way!

    You might want to check out an article in the Observer, by Stephen Young, entitled “Dallas Needs a Ton of Cash to fix Obsolete Traffic Signals”. It contains a link to a more recent article than 2004, that sites left turns causing 25% of all pedestrian crashes in the U.S.! No mention of one way or two way scenario. They claim “left turns are tricky because drivers have to make a complex series of judgements in a short period of time”. “Experts call that the driver workload”. I contend the more complex the situation, the heavier the driver workload and the greater the opportunity for an accident.

    Another factor for drivers is the “A-Pillar”, the post on the left side of the windshield that “over the years has become bigger as crash standards have evolved for cars. The pillar has become thicker to withstand rollover and they often house airbags.” These pillars pose a threat to pedestrians.

    “Nationally about 180 pedestrians die each year after being struck by a vehicle making a left turn.” Still no mention of two way or one way significance. They point out that the traffic design is just a small part of the problem. Of greater concern is awareness of drivers and their limited vision. They also site awareness of pedestrians and that a walk sign doesn’t mean it’s safe to step into the street.

    My post was about general safety for all road users. But pedestrians, like bike riders and motorcyclists all suffer from this oversight by auto safety designers.

    This is not a simple problem. But I believe this two way question is not one of safety but of economics. A small group of developers are willing to gamble $3 million of our tax dollars in hopes that these changes will improve the commercial viability of their holdings which make up a tiny part of my neighborhood.

    There are many ways to make Tyler/Polk safer. But I think this shows how fragmented our thinking has become. Auto designers are making their cars safer at the expense of pedestrian and two-wheeled users security… developers are hoping to increase their profits at everyone elses expense and the city knows this cannot work if the infastructure is not properly maintained. The politicians want what their developer backers want and they think we will sit back and take their bullying tactics like a bunch of sheep. This is not democracy, it is plutocracy at it’s worst!

  • lakewoodhobo

    Excerpt from one study:

    The Traffic Engineers Handbook published by the Institute of
    Transportation Engineers indicates, “vehicles turning left out of one-way streets
    appear to hit pedestrians significantly more frequently than do all other turning
    vehicles.”13 Furthermore, in an article published in the Journal of the Institute of
    Transportation Engineers in 2004, a computer model was used to compare one-way
    and two-way networks and concluded that on one-way streets, vehicles travel at
    higher speeds, have a lesser average delay, and stop less often, and because of
    these attribute are not safe for pedestrians.

    Full article: http://nacto.org/docs/usdg/charleston-south-carolina-case-study_baco.pdf

  • Andrew Hudson

    Please elaborate! I would love to see the data supporting your belief!

  • lakewoodhobo

    Yes, I believe 2-way streets are safer.

  • Ryan Behring

    My intent was not to assume. Just a general statement about those I know and have spoken with. Just curious, what are the negative consequences that you are concerned about?

  • Paola

    Why are you assuming? My family and I will be affected by this and we don’t like a bit…

  • Andrew Hudson

    I have lived in the 100 block of S. Tyler since 1991. Tyler and Polk are predominately residential, two churches and two schools. The blocks at Jefferson and Davis are the only commercial properties involved and the majority of businesses and residents on the Jefferson end are opposed to the plan. No one has mentioned the Tyler Manor high rise which has 180 apartments of low income elderly. There is minimal mention of the residents. Many do not know about the change. None of us living here were ever officially notified about the change. We found out about it late last year when 5 residents showed up to city hall to find out what the proposal was… what it was was a plan and we were informed that it was going to happen. Google two way street conversions… you’ll find success stories in areas of dense commercial activity. You will also find negative results in areas similar to Polk and Tyler which lack sufficient commercial density for this plan to be effective. Why have I never seen a speed trap in my immediate area over the last 23 years? Traps have been used regularly in the more affluent sections north of Davis and Colorado. Do people really believe a two way street is safer? The most common accident to motorcyclist is someone headed the opposite direction turning left in front of them… I believe this is true for bicycles as as well. The only thing a two way would do is slow traffic, but really $3 million? When diligent use of speed traps would generate income why should so many, spend so much for so few beneficiaries?

  • Mara

    Parking in Dallas is a breeze compared to Chicago IL.

  • Mara

    I went to the meeting they had a couple of months ago at the theatre. Scott asked people, particularly the business owners present about the parking. Most said they would rather keep the parking with no limitations but move through traffic toward Polk. He was going to look into it. I agree with business owners. They should not have to ask their patrons to move for a couple of hours each evening. People will find another way around the area to get to where they are going. There are plenty of other routes. Our house is affected at the round about but I am all for slowing the traffic down even if I have to go around the block everyday to gain access to Winston.

  • Ryan Behring

    I like this idea, Norman. I think it’s important to remember that we are only talking about 0.9 miles of road, a road that then returns to 6 lanes on either end. So, for the commuter to drive that one mile at 30 MPH, vs. 45 MPH, would be a difference in commute time of 40 seconds. While the benefit to the neighborhood of having tenant spaces with 24 hr streetside parking along a blossoming commercial corridor is attractive for current and future businesses and residents. I don’t see why the peak hour no parking need be part of the proposal.

  • Ryan Behring

    My general feeling is that residents are in favor of the two-way proposal.

  • Jonathan Braddick

    More than just a small number of residents on Polk will be affected and will have opinions about this project. That’s why there’s a FB group dedicated for those online to discuss it and for the city to hold public meetings about it so more will understand how it will affect them

  • Jonathan Braddick

    yes, there have been other past articles w/ pro reasons for this project, but the title of the article mentions both, so it would make sense to have both sides in the article

  • Tipster1908

    they’ve printed plenty of articles over the years w/ the pro side of the argument. this might be the first time we’ve seen them print the opposing viewpoint.

  • Tipster1908

    other than a small number of residents on Polk there really aren’t any residents to be asked. also, the business owners we’re talking about here took a big chance on an unproven section of commercial property and have made it work. it’s completely legitimate for them to complain/worry about changes that would adversely affect their business. as a resident living a block away, I support the two way street plan, but I think these business owners deserve to retain their parking.

  • Norman Alston

    Seems like the simple, cost effective solution is to NOT prohibit the parking during rush hours. That way, even the commuters can stop into a local business on their way home if they like. We have that same parking shut down in downtown and it’s an horrific pain-in-the-posterior. If someone is going to have to bear some burden to make these neighborhoods function better, why shouldn’t it be the folks that are just driving through to somewhere else? Plus, if it is actually a problem for commuters, it is likely they can find another way that they like better. Seems that the “no parking during rush hour” technique is a holdover from the old, discredited way of doing things.

  • lakewoodhobo

    Any idea how the surrounding residents feel about this? It shouldn’t just be the business owners that have a say.

  • Jonathan Braddick

    Dean, while I appreciate your point, these funds aren’t coming from one pool of funds, like public works or streets. There are TIF funds, among other areas of $ that can be used to improve our city in a number of different ways. Regarding the pot hole issue, Streets budgets gets cut every budget season. That’s why we have such poor surface streets.

  • Dean Rose

    I’d appreciate if the City would fix BASIC INFRASTRUCTURE before starting new projects like this.

  • Jonathan Braddick

    Why aren’t their viewpoints from the pro side of this issue and only from one’s that oppose?