In a city where money, size, and standing are king, Dallas is almost obsessively preoccupied with its ranking in order to tout itself as "world class." Yet just at the national level of best American cities, it's generally accepted that Dallas falls somewhere in the top 10 and usually jostles with in-state rival Houston for the fifth or sixth spot, depending on what metrics those ranking are based upon (cost of living, school system, number of NFL crowns in the 1990s). For an area so large and so wealthy, Dallas still never cracks the Top Four in the US -- let alone the world -- here’s why and what it can do to climb the list.
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We must embrace public transportation
New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The big three. And the one common denominator is public transportation. Sure, you’ll argue that a life in Los Angeles without a car is, at the very least, difficult and probably better defined as “a nightmare.” But the vast bus system in LA, along with metro lines now running to Santa Monica, make public transportation to far flung destinations such as Orange County an actual possibility. Dallasites love their cars so much that even the idea of taking public transportation to Arlington to see the Cowboys or Rangers and not paying hundreds of dollars to park is a bridge too far.
We need urban neighborhoods that aren't self-contained
One of the great secrets of the “world class” cities is that, while you do have access to all the bright and shiny marquee events and concerts in the heart of Downtown, most residents find their village -- particularly in niche neighborhoods inside the heart of the city. Instead of having to load up the car and drive and park and fight traffic, they instead make their own neighborhoods the destination. The freedom of being able to ride a bicycle a short distance to a pop up movie screening or small food festival gives the feeling of camaraderie and community even when living amongst a few million people. Neighborhoods such as Deep Ellum and Oak Cliff seem to have embraced that spirit and hopefully many more will follow suit.
We need to bridge the ideological gap between the suburbs and the city
The joke in Dallas is “I’ll never go north of 635” or, if you really want to double down, “I’ll never go north of Mockingbird.” However, these imaginary boundary lines mean that you’re probably missing out on the best pho in the city or this one crazy karaoke bar with the tastiest homemade empanadas you’ll ever eat. The culture war between the hip urban core residents and those who live what is in reality just a very short distance away has divided the city and also makes it really hard to convince your friends to hang out once one of you has crossed Dallas’s version of the Mason-Dixon line.
There must be more food trucks
I know what you’re thinking, MORE food trucks? However, Dallas has always been a city built on eating, for better or worse. And the more that new and interesting cuisine can be easily accessed by the large number of people in the DFW area, the more that the city’s palette will grow beyond, “Did you hear that a new Boston Market opened up at the strip mall down the street?”
There ought to be more respect for the Dallas Music Legends
Dallas sometimes forgets that we are responsible, in whole or in large part, for giving the world acts like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Erykah Badu, Norah Jones, Steve Miller, Don Henley (we are only partially to blame and we are kind of sorry about The Eagles), The D.O.C., the Old 97’s, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and countless others who have contributed heavily to the road map of modern music. So maybe it’s time that Dallas both fully celebrates the talent that was grown here and funds the art programs which will encourage a whole new crop of groundbreaking musical acts.
Seriously, UberPOOL, where is it?
While Uber has taken the metroplex by storm just as it has in other major cities, Dallas has yet to join the ranks of the world-class cities which enjoy the UberPOOL service. An even cheaper, if a bit more time-consuming, way to get from Point A to Point B, UberPOOL is more than just another way to make it home late night from the bar. By carpooling with strangers, the service shatters the isolation of ride sharing and offers revelers and commuters alike an affordable way to meet new people in the city or at least offer them a courtesy smile as they crank up their podcast and avoid further eye contact for the duration of the ride.
The city needs to preserve architecture and stop turning everything into weird boxy apartment complexes
A common lament amongst visitors to the area is how many oppressive and box-like apartment complexes dot the landscape of the metroplex. Dallas struggles with toeing the line between preserving historical buildings and building lots of shiny, new things. Unfortunately, time doesn’t treat those shiny new things kindly. Establishing an identity for Dallas will have to involve reimagining and repurposing historic buildings instead of taking a wrecking ball to anything with a little dust on it.
We must embrace and encourage the diversity of the city
Everyone knows the Dallas stereotypes: big hair, oil money, a diehard love of the Cowboys despite not sniffing a championship in two decades. But the city is full of diversity and it need to do more to embrace and nurture that diversity. Events like Pride in Oak Lawn, Hispanic Heritage Month, Oak Cliff Film Festival, and the Asian Film Festival all help Dallas become known for more on a national level than just “Who Shot JR?”
Maybe cool it with the Calatrava bridges for a bit?
The Trinity River has, for decades, been a wasteland of little to no use to anyone unless they were looking to dispose of a body or needing to get a real quick case of West Nile. Thankfully, all that is changing and the city has started seeing the river as an actual attraction and a gateway between downtown/Uptown and Oak Cliff. In order to celebrate this new embrace of the gateway between downtown and South Dallas, the city went a little crazy with new bridges, all designed by Santiago Calatrava. Now it’s not that the Margaret Hunt Hill (Large Marge) and Margaret McDermott (nickname TBD) bridges aren’t lovely. But we don’t have to collect ‘em all like Happy Meal toys.
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Amanda Cobra is sometimes referred to as the Bobby Carpenter of local writers. Tease her about her hair on Twitter @amandacobra.