Although the City of Dallas Department of Aviation has spent the last year talking about the traffic studies they are doing with NTCoG, they have not released any of this data to the public. So we had to dig around the Love Field website to find a document that could shed some light and we came upon the 2017 Sensitivity Analysis (section 3.2.4).
The base data used for the traffic projections in this analysis are from 2014. The analysis takes the peak traffic hours and then applies growth factors for passenger enplanements, regional traffic growth and the impact of a car rental facility on Mockingbird. Each intersection was then scored based on an LOS (Level of Service) standard to determine if it passed or failed. An LOS standard favors car movement, not what is good for the community (Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT) as mentioned in a previous blog post. In recent presentations, Love Field has touted that their narrowed-down options for an alternate entrance are focused on VMT, however without the data it is hard to understand how they arrived at this conclusion.
We are not experts in traffic analysis, so we hope there are community experts out there that can review the 2017 Sensitivity Analysis and provide their observations. What we see is that:
In the morning, half of the traffic heading out of Love Field, goes East and the other half goes West. During this hour, most traffic westbound on Mockingbird is commuting to/from Park Cities with only 19% going in to the airport. Of the eastbound traffic coming from I-35, 29% goes in to the airport.
In the afternoon there is a marked uptick in outbound traffic from the airport (about 60%). As in the morning, the traffic pretty much divides evenly, going east or West. Interestingly, there is a reduction in inbound airport traffic from both eastbound as well as westbound Mockingbird.
It is strange that there is a substantial increase in traffic at the Denton Drive intersection with Mockingbird in the afternoon, which does not align with the morning volume. Maybe the study did not pick up the morning peak, as shift work at Southwest Airlines could be earlier than 7:30am or management staff peak hours could be after 8:30am.
Total on-airport employee parking is 437 spaces, this does not include parking by airport tenants. It would be interesting to know how much of the inbound/outbound traffic from the airport is generated by employees or tenants. Can Love Field not provide free, covered offsite parking with a shuttle service as a way to reduce the traffic volume?
Denton Drive, and in recent years Shorecrest, are congested due to the increased number of Southwest Airlines employees. A northern entrance to the airport does not solve this, but it seems to be where the Aviation Department is leaning – hard. However, turning Shorecrest into a major 4-lane thoroughfare could be beneficial (if done in a way that makes it safe for park goers to leave and enter Bachman Lake Park). Widening Shorecrest is what is being proposed in 4 of the 5 down-select recommendations by Aviation to the city's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
It's clear that many of the base assumptions on which the projections were based are no longer valid, which calls into question the urgency for an alternate to the airport. Consider that: (1) There is no consolidated car rental facility on Mockingbird; (2) Airline travel will not be growing as quickly, especially at an airport whose gate capacity is capped. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) now expects passenger numbers to be depressed for 5 years; and (3) Ride share impacts were not foreseen in 2017.
Our conclusion is that most of the traffic on Mockingbird is due to commuting traffic to/from the Park Cities, not to/from Love Field Airport. Thus, investing in creating better flow on Mockingbird with protected entrance/exit flows for Love Field is something that should be explored further. The time and expense of a north entrance is not necessary to address this problem and would allow the City of Dallas to be more agile in their investments.
Given that the Bachman Area is one of the worst when it comes to pedestrian/cycling accidents and deaths, we don't believe that the Department of Aviation should make a major traffic design change in our area without there being a holistic mobility plan that incorporates pedestrian, cycling, light rail and vehicular traffic. The community is working with Representative Rafael Anchia's office to set forth such a plan which we mentioned in our March Newsletter.