• December 10, 2023

North Texas’ growth is creating a traffic nightmare


Every day it seems new clusters of homes pop up near farm-to-market roads somewhere in North Texas.

Collin County communities that barely had a stoplight two decades ago have doubled or tripled in population as growth edges closer to the Red River. And cities like Dallas face slow growth, worn-out roads and congestion.

Long trips, far-flung destinations and automobile dependency are part of life here in North Texas. But it is also true that North Texas’ mobility challenges and inefficiencies are not going to be solved one new road at a time or city by city. The reason is that much of the region’s population growth is occurring in areas that are becoming increasingly dependent on cars and generating new levels of congestion.

Planners estimate that roughly 60% of the estimated 11.5 million people who will live in North Texas in 2045 will reside in areas that currently lack access to the existing public transportation services of the region’s three regional authorities — Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Trinity Metro and the Denton County Transportation Authority. And according to the benchmark Mobility 2045 Update adopted by the Regional Transportation Council, the annual cost of congestion will soar from roughly $13 billion now to nearly $60 billion by 2045 if significant changes aren’t made.

As a result, mobility in the region is barreling toward an inflection point, warns Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Last month, Morris told Regional Transportation Council officials that North Texas must “restart our philosophy on transit” and “start a whole new partnership with new information and new collaboration on what is the best path forward to prepare our region for 11.5 million people.”

This region has to be smarter about how people get around. Congestion can no longer be addressed solely by building more roads, which can temporarily relieve pressure but also lead to unmanaged growth that will again clog roads. As travel times increase, residents will continue to face reduced productivity, higher insurance rates, rush hours that start earlier and last longer, worse air quality and many other social and economic costs.

Ultimately, the region needs new energy and a coordinated strategic vision that includes smarter land use, incentives to maximize development around existing transit infrastructure and increase ridership. Transit agencies also have to work together to save money, improve service and present a more aggressive and unified pitch for North Texas transit priorities to the Texas Legislature. The status quo is not an option, warns Morris. “I can’t point to a successful region with 11.5 million people that does not have a more aggressive transit system than we do right now,” he said.

North Texas is one of the most successful regions in the United States. However, the region must take steps now to stay ahead of growth or risk becoming a victim of past successes.

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