Five Lessons Dallas Could Learn From Fort Worth.
For our money, Dallas is one of the greatest cities on the planet.
I mean, sure, you could argue that our city's art, history, music, architecture, culture and other amenities have a long way to go before they can stack up against some of our nation's other, more-progressive cities, such as New York, San Francisco, Portland, or Chicago. And we'd gladly hear you out if you want to make that argument.
But there's no changing our minds that Dallas is at least the No. 1 place in North Texas to live in — and by a mile, at that. Let's face it: Who's ever heard of a TV show simply called Fort Worth? No one, that's who.
Even so, while we'll always be quick to hold things like the Deep Ellum music scene, sports teams like the Dallas Stars and Mavericks, and big events like the State Fair over the heads of our Fort Worth friends, we're also not narcissistic enough to believe our city is perfect, either. In fact, there are a number of valuable lessons we can learn from our neighbors to the west — if we ever took the time to pay them any actual attention, that is.
Still, here are five lessons Dallas can — and maybe should, sooner than later — learn from Fort Worth.
Bike-Sharing. Though Dallas has begun gradually adding some bike infrastructure to its city streets, we've a long way to go yet before shedding our long-held title as one of the worst cities in America for cyclists. At the same time, Fort Worth has joined the growing contingent of bike-friendly burgs that have begun to implement bike-sharing plans. In short, these programs provide docking stations all over town, with bikes that are available for short-term rentals. Six months into the program, Fort Worth's version has already proved hugely popular. According to numbers provided by the city's transportation officials, Fort Worthians have already purchased over 7,000 24-hour memberships and nearly 400 annual memberships to the program — and they've have traveled some 60,000 miles and burned nearly 2.5 million calories between April to October, too.
Free Parking. Yeah, Dallas is currently in the process of making its parking meters easier to feed by adding pay-by-phone capabilities. And while we do appreciate that fact — it's saved us from more than a few parking tickets in the past few weeks alone, not to mention the hassle of harassing bartenders to charge a handful of quarters to our tabs — a simple look to the west tells us that it doesn't have to be this way. The City of Fort Worth currently boasts over 5,400 parking spots in its downtown area, and the best part is that every single one of them is free after 5 p.m. on weekdays, and free all day and night on the weekends. Oh, and during those few hours when the parking garages and meters do charge? Getting one's parking validated by a Downtown merchant is still good for up to four hours of free parking during the week.
Giving a Hoot. As repugnant as the Trinity River's reputation is around these parts, it's a perception that's wholeheartedly deserved. For all the jokes Dallasites make about all the dead bodies that have surely been dumped in the Trinity over the years, the things that have been found in the river aren't much better: In the past year-and-a-half alone, authorities have pulled 20 stolen cars out of the river and cited a slaughterhouse for illegally dumping a mix of pig's blood and toxic chemicals into the river. But nothing makes us scream “THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!” like when we look to the hundreds of folks that regularly float the Trinity out in Funky Town. Turns out, if we actually cared to take care of our natural resources, we too might have a beautiful outdoor location to host music and beer festivals for eight months out of the year.
Animal Care. Back in 2011, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recognized both the Dallas and Fort Worth zoos in its Honors and Awards winners at its annual conference. But that's not to say they're all that comparable. The Fort Worth Zoo took home the big “Top Honors” award that year, while the Dallas Zoo walked away with the slightly less prestigious “Significant Achievement” award. Then there's the fact that the Zagat Survey U.S. Family Travel Guide named the Fort Worth Zoo the No. 1 attraction in the entire region. That much can be credited to the 7,000 animal species the zoo boasts, as well as its realistic habitats and seemingly well-adjusted animals. In other words: You almost never come across national headlines about Fort Worth's police department gunning down an escaped gorilla on a violent rampage; you never read stories about how Fort Worth Zoo officials shipped out a sexist, depressed primate; you never get to stand on the sidelines and watch as the Fort Worth Zoo goes head-to-head with Lily Tomlin over thequestionable treatment of a “special needs” elephant; and your jaw never drops over tales about Fort Worth Zoo lions mauling and killing each other in front of stunned families. No, it's the Dallas Zoo that does all that. Yikes.
Lighting Wars. In the past couple of years, Dallas building owners have been slapping brightly-colored LEDs all over their properties in a seemingly constant game of one-upmanship. Here's the thing, though: Those uncoordinated efforts don't always best serve the individual buildings themselves, and, in some cases, lights are added just for the hell of it — or, worse yet, just because owners are trying to “keep up” with the garishness going on all around them. Fort Worth isn't immune to the allure of LEDs, no. But, in their case, they've figured out a way to use the lighting to present a more unified downtown. While 18 buildings in the city's Sundance Square area have added LED trimming in recent years (with more planned for the near future), every single one of them is programmed and controlled by a single computer at a central location. Meaning? They can all be the same color, a group of complementing colors or part of a coordinated show where lighting patterns move from building to building. Listen: If Dallas is going to stoop to the madness of LED-clad skyscrapers in Dallas, it would cool if there was at least some sort of method behind it.
Cover photo courtesy of Longhorn Dave, via WikiCommons.