Thursday, June 05, 2008

To toll a Mockingbird

The well-to-do Dallas area enclave of Highland Park has had it with dirty commuters cutting through their municipality on Mockingbird Lane.

About 18,000 drivers roll through Highland Park on Mockingbird every day. Most are non-residents. To address the issue, Highland Park is considering the possibility of tolling non-residents who drive the stretch of Mockingbird between Hillcrest and the Dallas North Tollway during peak congestion periods. This would make Mockingbird the first tolled surface street in the country.

In the early 70s, my family lived just inside Highland Park in a rented duplex on Mockingbird across the street from SMU. It was a busy street even then. I don’t have much sympathy for property owners along Mockingbird because virtually all of them knew it was a busy street when they bought their houses.

I’m not against tolling surface streets on principle, but this particular case is all about a wealthy suburb trying to opt out of the regional transportation network as it suits them while continuing to leech off the Dallas city infrastructure that gives Highland Park reason to exist in the first place. You can bet other Texas enclave cities like West Lake Hills, Bellaire and Alamo Heights will consider tolling their own through-arterials if Highland Park's scheme succeeds.

If Mockingbird becomes a tollway, maybe Dallas should start tolling Highland Park’s attorneys driving to their downtown offices and its society matrons on their way to Northpark.

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