Arlington, Texas, This is Why You’re Fat.
If you are not yet familiar with the website ThisIsWhyYoureFat.com, it might just be time to check it out. They serve up a never-ending photostream of revoltingly fatty foods, including a donut bun hamburger and deep fried bologna. While for some the site might be secretly mouthwatering (ahem. . .) the urban planning equivalent -unmitigated auto dependence- has few upsides.
Last week, the Dallas Morning News published a great analysis of the transportation options serving the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium in Arlington, Texas (pop. 371,000). Before this stadium, perhaps Arlington’s biggest claim to fame was it’s steadfast refusal to provide any kind of transit service. The city has refused transit referendums on three separate occasions. Some cite racial or class-related tensions; former mayor Elzie Odom paraphrases citizens’ sentiments as “we don’t want those kinds of people.”
Situated halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Arlington seems like a sensible place to put a 111,000 capacity football stadium to serve the region. Or at least it would, if it weren’t the largest city in the United States without a transit system. Dallas or Fort Worth might have been better choices. America is going through a transit renaissance and Dallas is no exception, with a shiny new LRT line completed a week ago.
Undeterred, the Cowboys’ planners are bragging about having accomodated a whopping 30,000 cars at last Sunday’s game. The cost? Every one of the 12,000 motorists who park in official Cowboys lots (closest to the stadium, of course) will pay a whopping $75 each. Assuming you could afford a car to drive to one of these games, would you be able to afford the parking?
Talk about accessibility! The only quasi-transit option to the game is a park and ride shuttle set up by the city of Fort Worth, which offers no connectivity to Dallas’ light rail.
Should this cautionary tale leave Canadians feeling smug? Should we console ourselves, “things may be bad, but at least our regional sports stadiums are accessible by transit?”
Unfortunately, I can think of at least one instance in which a Canadian city badly fumbled the accessibility of its regional athletic facility. Scotiabank Place, the home of the Ottawa Senators, was built in 1996 on sensitive farmland located outside the city’s Greenbelt. This arrangement simultaneously defeats the Greenbelt’s purpose of geographically limiting growth and forces 20,000 hockey fans onto the city’s already strained Queensway. The punchline? At the time of its construction, there was a sufficiently sized site literally minutes from Parliament Hill, adjacent to the bus rapid transit line and the forthcoming light rail line. (If you’re interested, check this insider blog for more on why the stadium ended up in a farmer’s field.)
Sports are supposed to be a celebration of humanity. Even in the most utilitarian terms, stadiums are places that a lot of people need to get to. Perhaps the story of Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium can serve as a warning to policy makers in whichever city eventually gets the Phoenix Coyotes*: a sports stadium is an important part of any city. It can help to shape transportation patterns positively or negatively. Use your sports teams wisely!
*The main contender, Hamilton, Ontario, already has an NHL-grade rink, and thankfully, it’s only a few minutes’ walk from the train and bus terminals. But this location may be temporary.