Spring 2018 Mobility Matters

Public Participation Key to Transportation Solutions

Regional planners are developing the next long-range blueprint, Mobility 2045, which will lay out improvements to Dallas-Fort Worth’s transportation system through 2045. The new plan will be shaped by the users of the system, thanks in large part to the extensive public involvement effort that began last year and will continue through spring 2018.

 

Planners have used public meetings and other outreach methods to gather opinions of those who use the system every day. The result will be a plan that balances the preferences of its users and needs demonstrated in some of the region’s fastest-growing areas.

57 percent

The projected rate of population growth through 2045, when 11.2 million people will call the Dallas-Fort Worth area home.
NCTCOG planners are working on a transportation plan to meet the needs of the expanding region.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan must cover a horizon of at least 20 years and often projects up to a quarter-century into the future. The most recent plan, Mobility 2040, was adopted by the Regional Transportation Council in March 2016. It identifies $118.9 billion available for projects through 2040, focusing significant resources on maintenance, management and operations, and land-use strategies.

 

A new air quality conformity determination is needed by November 2018, making this a good time to revisit the mobility plan. Because 10 Dallas-Fort Worth area counties do not meet federal ozone standards, the plan must be reviewed to ensure proposed improvements to the transportation system do not make air quality worse. The plan must be endorsed by the federal government to ensure this is the case.

 

According to preliminary estimates, mobility needs are outpacing the money expected to be available for improvements. This means financial and technological innovation will again be important in order to develop a system that keeps the region moving into the future. Mobility 2045 will incorporate some of the latest planning initiatives, including high-speed rail, modern people movers, automated vehicles and other emerging technologies, all of which could work together to revolutionize how people travel.

 

Mobility 2045 will allow the North Central Texas Council of Governments to incorporate federal and state requirements into transportation plans. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act established performance measures and targets requirements, as well as providing new dedicated freight funding. The plan will also include outcomes resulting from the 85th Texas Legislative Session, and be consistent with the 10-Year Plan and the Statewide Freight Plan.

 

Demographics data through 2045 is now available, and it estimates that the region will add about 4 million people to push its population to approximately 11.2 million. This represents a 57 percent increase. More than 2 million jobs are expected to be added, bringing regional employment to approximately 7 million. To accommodate the population and business expansion, a significant investment will be necessary. The proposed plan, which includes an emphasis on sustainability, could allocate $135.5 billion through 2045. Final numbers are not yet available. As always, the plan must be constrained to available resources, meaning the region can only spend revenues it expects to receive by 2045.

 

Public meetings were held in January and February to present draft recommendations. The final phase of public involvement will begin in spring 2018, when residents will get their last review of recommendations to roads, rails, bicycle-pedestrian trails and more. For more information about Mobility 2045, visit www.nctcog.org/mobility2045.

State Electric Vehicle Record Shattered at DFW Event

The Dallas-Fort Worth area’s National Drive Electric Week celebration set another record in 2017, when owners of 155 electric vehicles gathered at Grapevine Mills Mall in September.

 

This represented a State record for the number of EVs in one location, improving upon last year’s mark of 128. This year’s Grapevine gathering was also the largest NDEW celebration outside California and kicked off a week of educational opportunities for people interested in electric vehicles.

 

DFW Clean Cities and NCTCOG offered a series of lunchtime webinars during the week to discuss public and private uses for EVs. Electric vehicles are becoming more popular with drivers and manufacturers.

 

There are approximately 8,000 EVs in the region, a 43 percent increase over 2016. This trend will likely continue as more vehicle manufacturers are committing to electrified transportation. Volvo, for example, announced in 2017 that by 2019 its new cars will all have electric engines. For more information on NDEW, visit www.driveelectricdfw.org.

 

NDEW is a nationwide celebration to increase awareness of the widespread availability of plug-in electric vehicles and to highlight the benefits of driving electric vehicles. It began in 2011 as National Plug In Day and expanded to involve an entire week in 2014, in response to the growing popularity of EVs. More than 200 events were scheduled across the US and Canada, as well as a few other international locations, during NDEW 2017. For the first time, there were NDEW events across all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

 

Save the Date: The next Dallas-Fort Worth celebration of National Drive Electric Week will be at 10 am September 8 at Grapvine Mills. Mark your calendars now for this exciting, informative gathering of EV enthusiasts. You could learn from EV operators why these vehicles are so fun to drive.

 

North Texas at Forefront of Tomorrow's Transportation

A proposal from Texas has been named one of 10 winners worldwide of the Hyperloop One Global Challenge. And Dallas-Fort Worth stands to benefit handsomely from efforts to bring this ultrafast transportation to market.

 

The experts behind this concept will build the system. They have the know-how to get this Jetsons-esque technology moving. They have the tools. What they need is a place to test the technology, and a region that has embraced innovative ways to finance and build projects would be a terrific laboratory. Through close collaboration with local, State and federal officials, as well as the private sector, Dallas-Fort Worth has managed to build roadway and rail projects that have greatly improved mobility.

 

  • The agreement to build Sam Rayburn Tollway 10 years ago produced a bounty of resources that could be applied to other non-tolled transportation projects necessary for the region to prosper.
  • The region’s TEXpress Lanes were the result of the willingness of public officials to partner with the public and private sectors to give people the choice to pay for another commuting option. They can still drive on new pavement on the LBJ Express, DFW Connector North Tarrant Express and Interstate Highway 35E for no charge. But if pressed for time, they can opt for the TEXpress Lanes.
  • The Fort Worth Transportation Authority is blazing a trail directly to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for Tarrant County residents. TEX Rail is scheduled to open in late 2018. 
  • The City of Arlington is delivering next-generation driverless vehicles and an app-based transit service.

These are just a few examples. The list will continue to grow as opportunities for bold region-defining projects present themselves.

 

The Hyperloop allows us to take the same creativity we’ve used to finance projects and extend it to a new option, which would have been dismissed as fantasy just a few years ago. But in an era when high-speed trains and automated vehicles are being presented as safe, efficient mobility solutions, no longer can we dismiss this idea as a cartoonish fantasy. 

 

As a fast-growing region with a business-friendly environment attracting and educating some of the brightest minds in the nation, Dallas-Fort Worth is a logical place to host a Hyperloop test track. We have a corridor tailor-made for a Hyperloop lab. Dallas and Fort Worth are approximately 30 miles apart. Running right through the middle of both cities is Interstate Highway 30, already declared a testing ground for autonomous vehicles.

 

We can build a line to test the viability of magnetic levitation that can also serve as this region’s connection to high-speed rail. Good progress is being made to connect Dallas and Houston by high-speed rail. A Hyperloop test track could be the answer to linking our entire bustling region to Texas Central Partners’ project. Picture a technology nucleus of autonomous vehicles along IH 30 parallel to next-generation mag lev, through a city with driverless transit vehicles. The result is a gateway to the Dallas and Fort Worth central business districts, just like Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field are to the nation. It’s a region of choice using planes, trains and automobiles.  

 

Is this too much?

 

Too bold?

 

Are we not really ready?

 

We live in a region of leaders. And as our approach to traditional transportation has shown, the courage to put forth big ideas can pay off for the entire region. Let’s find out together.

 

After all … mobility matters

 

Regional Transportation Council

Tarrant County's Fickes: Persistence Pays in Transportation Planning
Member Profile- Gary Fickes, Commissioner, Tarrant County

Sitting on an easel in Gary Fickes’ office is an old map of Dallas-Fort Worth.It’s so old, in fact, that there are cities on it that don’t even exist anymore. But Dallas and Fort Worth appear prominently, and connecting them is a long road.

 

“A Great Artery … linking TWO GREAT CITIES,” screams the headline below a 1936 rendering of “Airline Boulevard.” This is a copy of the original plan for what would eventually become the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, known today as Interstate Highway 30. Fickes and his staff found the map at the Tarrant County Archives and asked for several copies, two of which are displayed in his office suite inside the Northeast Courthouse. Another was given to NCTCOG and is hanging in its Transportation Council Room.

 

“What amazed me was the location and … how somebody in 1936 thought about this,” Fickes said. "... Somebody was looking to the future and saying, ‘This is what we need,’ and it was 20 years later before it was built, before the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike.”

 

Fickes sees parallels between that foresight and the decisions made by the Regional Transportation Council, the 44-member transportation planning body for North Texas.

 

"Nothing we do is for today,” said Fickes, a primary member of the RTC since 2010. “Everything we do is for 20 years from now, 10 years from now. And if you start talking about building transportation systems – and I mean highways – 20 years is, if everything kind of goes right, that’s kind of the life cycle that it takes a project to get done.”

“Currently serving as vice chair of the RTC, Fickes said he became involved with transportation in the 1980s with the widening of Southlake Boulevard. He and a group of active residents went before State transportation officials to lobby for the project, which was needed as the community grew and the road’s capacity increased.

 

“It was a problem road that needed fixing, via widening,” he said. “Couldn’t carry the capacity that was on it.”

 

He later was elected mayor of Southlake, a position he held from 1989-96. By 1994, His interest in transportation continued, even after the project was complete. He was elected Tarrant County Commissioner in 2006 representing northeast Tarrant County.

 

“Everybody [on the RTC] understands the big-picture needs. What goes on on 380 up in Collin County has meaning to what happens in Tarrant County, in Dallas County."                                                                                  - Gary Fickes, Tarrant County Commissioner
 

 

One of the major transportation projects in his Precinct 3 is the DFW Connector, a series of roadways converging in Grapevine. For years, the community and transportation partners worked to get the project off the ground. Finally, in February 2010, aided by $260 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the project began. Ground was broken the same day the inaugural Northeast Tarrant Transportation Summit kicked off.

 

The summit began as a means to help businesses and residents understand the implications of major transportation projects.

 

“We started to really give our citizens that live here and our business leaders some idea of the magnitude of these projects and the effects … it might have on your business while it’s under construction,” he said. “You know, ‘How are you going to do business? They’re building a freeway right in front of you.’”

 

The contractors held regular updates to keep businesses informed of progress on the major projects. NTE remains a major sponsor of the summit and provides annual updates of North Tarrant Express.

 

Through the process of getting these and other projects completed, Fickes learned just how involved transportation was and the importance of involving as many people as possible.

 

“The squeaky wheel will get things done,” he said. “And don’t ever, ever give up if you want to get a project done because you can get them done, but you really have to stay with it.”

 

The Metroport Cities Partnership is an example of a group that has been beneficial to transportation in northeast Tarrant and southwest Denton counties, helping organize support for SH 114 and the DFW Connector, he said.   

 

Fickes said he is proud of the work the RTC has done to improve transportation, which has made it one of the top policy committees in the nation.

 

“I think it’s because, first of all, we work together.”

 

People also balance their responsibility to their constituents with the importance of a regional view.

 

“Having 635 in Dallas upgraded is just as important to me in northeast Tarrant County as having Airport Freeway in northeast Tarrant County done,” he said. “Every area that has congestion, we need to figure out what it’s going to take to solve it because what’s good economically for one area is good for our region”

 

Fickes' background is in real estate, which helped him form a regional view.

 

“I didn’t ask somebody where they lived when I sold them something,” he said.

 

Today, he looks beyond northeast Tarrant County, as he and his colleagues consider the ramifications of decisions for more than just their constituents.

 

“Everybody also understands the needs, the big-picture needs. What goes on on 380 up in Collin County has meaning to what happened in Tarrant County, in Dallas County.”

 

Few people in 1936 could have imagined the mostly rural area being transformed in to a fast-paced region of more than 7 million people. But someone knew transportation would connect them, and that a single “Airline Boulevard” could open a world of possibilities.

 

Study Fosters Community, Military Relationships

The military, a major employer across Texas, has long been a significant contributor to individual communities while carrying out its mission of protecting the nation. Texas’ 15 military installations have an annual economic impact of more than $136 billion. Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Joint Reserve Base alone employs more than 47,000 people directly and indirectly. Lockheed Martin, one of the employers sharing the base, employs almost 14,000 people, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
 
Planning strategies recognizing the importance of the military while ensuring the surrounding cities flourish are important to the future of North Texas. NCTCOG, elected officials and community leaders have concluded Joining Forces, a study to help North Texas military installations and their neighbors collaborate on compatibility issues.
This Regional Joint Land Use Study recommends strategies to support continued military capabilities. Incompatible land uses can include urban growth, energy development, or the presence of wildlife or water. Additionally, it is important that land uses not restrict air space or threaten security.
 
Funded by the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment, the project involves the communities and military operations of NAS Fort Worth, JRB, Redmond Taylor Army Heliport in Dallas, Fort Wolters training center Mineral Wells and Camp Maxey training center near Paris. NCTCOG collaborated with cities and counties surrounding the military installations to plan and carry out specific actions to promote compatible community and economic growth. The Regional Coordination Committee, a voluntary group made up of representatives of local governments surrounding NAS Fort Worth, JRB, will help with the implementation of recommendations around the Fort Worth installation.
 
Throughout the project’s duration, the planning team interviewed key stakeholders, facilitated public meetings and coordinated several rounds of policy committee meetings to establish priorities for the study, gather data, and identify challenges and opportunities. Land use and economic development were key areas of concentration. The study also took a comprehensive approach, analyzing compatibility in many more than 15 areas, also including air quality, aviation and airspace safety, communication, storm water management, water and transportation.
 
The collaborative process resulted in over 150 recommendations covering regional as well as individual installations and community-specific actions. Many recommendations focus on enhancing and formalizing communication. Others look at enhanced economic development, planning and land-use techniques, and improved physical security.
 
Next steps include briefing local governments on recommended compatibility strategies and applying for grant funds to assist with strategy implementation. More information about Joining Forces can be found at www.joiningforcesntx.org. Ultimately, this project should enable communities to reach their potential while the military continues its mission of protecting the homeland.

 

Cedar Hill ISD Students Illustrate Healthy Communities

The NCTCOG Transportation Department is partnering with Cedar Hill Independent School District on an art contest to determine the cover design of Progress North Texas 2018, the annual state of the region report.

Ten middle school students submitted artwork illustrating this year’s theme of Healthy Communities: Transportation and the Natural Environment. The theme will be carried through the document, which uses data to illustrate the performance of the region’s transportation system and the state of its air quality.

This is the seventh year of the art contest, which seeks to involve younger North Texans, those who will be making decisions in 20-25 years, in the transportation discussion.

The art contest is one of several NCTCOG efforts connected with schools. Past school districts that participated were Fort Worth, Denton, Arlington, Garland, Weatherford and Grand Prairie.

A combination of NCTCOG staff, art teachers and Regional Transportation Council officers will be asked to help determine the winner of the competition. While the winner’s creation will appear on the cover, other top pieces will be featured inside.

The report will be published this spring and available at www.nctcog.org/ourregion.

$28 Million Available Immidiately for Repairs, Replacements

Approximately $28 million is immediately available to help qualifying motorists repair or replace vehicles with emissions issues or older vehicles through the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program.

Applicants who meet income and vehicle guidelines may qualify for up to $3,500 for a vehicle replacement or up to $600 for vehicle repairs. Repair assistance may be available when a vehicle has failed an emissions inspection.

Replacement assistance may be available either following a failed emissions inspection or for a vehicle that is at least 10 years old. Plenty of funding is still available, but is set to run out if there is no further legislative action. Carryover funds of approximately $28 million will allow the program to continue, but only until the end of August 2019.

 

The AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program is designed to help vehicle owners comply with vehicle emissions standards by offering financial incentives to repair or replace vehicles, and allows local residents to contribute to the regional air quality solution. More information on the program is available at www.airchecktexas.org.