Trails to the Future: Making Car-Free Possible in Dallas

Imagine for a moment there were no roads. At least not roads for automobiles. We’d get a lot more exercise. Things would be a lot quieter. We’d meet a lot more people.

We may not see an end to automobile-oriented roadways for some time, but residents of a number of new apartment complexes lining the Katy Trail in Dallas are getting to know a little about what a car-free life is like.

The 3.5 mile Katy Trail was converted to a pedestrian and bicycle pathway from abandoned railroad tracks that once divided the downtown core. The trail connects many urban destinations, including American Airlines Center in Victory Park to a DART transit connection at Mockingbird Station not far from near Southern Methodist University, the Knox Henderson retail area known for restaurants and shopping, the Cedar Springs area which boasts a number of nightclubs, and McKinney Avenue, also known for its restaurants and sports bars. The trail is also being extended to connect White Rock Lake.

If you live near the Katy Trail, you can get around pretty well car-free.

Furthermore, since its construction in the early 2000s, a number of developers have realized the advantage of proximity to the trail.

Taylor Stone, Managing Director of Prescott Realty Group spoke to his company’s building known as the BLVD saying that being near the Katy Trail was an advantage for residents. “If the choice is between a unit near Katy Trail and one without access, the Katy Trail unit wins,” he said. “People are more active than ever and our residents are using it for recreation.”

More units are in progress. A local apartment developer recently purchased a large lot adjacent to the Katy Trail zoned for a mixture of residential, hotel and retail space. At Cedar Springs and Turtle Creek Boulevard, a vacant block is scheduled to become apartments and office space. Six acres at Turtle Creek and Bowen could also see residential use in the coming years.

Restaurants have also taken note and have opened with access oriented to the trail. The most recent is the Company Cafe, which features outdoor seating. Expect more to follow suit.

The trail will also connect to the 70-acre, two million square foot mixed-use Lake Highlands Town Center. From there the trail will provide a seamless pathway, all the way into downtown Dallas. The Center is also connected via DART’s Blue Line.

Smaller buildings are also taking advantage of the trail. Units at 4143 Buena Vista Street are priced at around $1 million. Recently constructed, they are advertised as not just adjoining but facing Katy Trail. The description also notes that “4143 Buena Vista is unique in that it is the first modernist development along the trail designed to take advantage of its Katy Trail proximity.”

Stone wasn’t sure if residents would use the trail for transportation as well as recreation, or if proximity to the trail could command higher rents. But according to the National Trails Training Partnership, trails can have a real increase in property value. A greenbelt in Boulder, Colorado increased aggregate property values for one neighborhood by $5.4 million, resulting in $500,000 of additional annual property tax revenues. The tax alone could recover the initial cost of the $1.5 million greenbelt in three years. Likewise in the vicinity of Philadelphia’s 1,300 acre Pennypack Park, property values correlate significantly with proximity to the park. In 1974, the park accounted for 33 percent of the value of land 40 feet away from the park, nine percent when located 1,000 feet away, and 4.2 percent at a distance of 2,500 feet.

A study of homeowners and real estate agents in Seattle revealed that property near but not immediately adjacent to a trail sells for an average of 6 percent more. The survey of homeowners indicated that approximately 60 percent of those interviewed believed that being adjacent to the trail would either make their home sell for more or have no effect on the selling price.

Back here in Dallas, it would seem all the apartment development near and adjacent to the Katy Trail is confirmation of an interest in the trail not only as an outlet for recreation, but for transportation. As time goes on, I expect the premium will only increase and become more apparent. Living near Katy Trail means a restaurant is only a stroll away. Commuting to work in downtown Dallas without the use of a car is a breeze. With connections via the Trinity Railway Express and DART, trips to the airport and even downtown Fort Worth can also be part of a car-lite, if not entirely car-free, lifestyle.


About Eric Miller

Rick and I started this web magazine as The New Colonist back in 1999. I was in San Francisco, and he was in Los Angeles. We had a common interest in sustainability and city life. We're still at it. Today I am happy to have lived in both New York, San Francisco and Pittsburgh and to now reside in Dallas. Find more at