I-345, Bogeyman of Dallas’s New Urbanists

(This was jointly authored in April 2014 by Ed Woodson and me. It was originally posted at Candy’s Dirt, a Dallas-area blog focusing on real estate issues. It is still relevant.)

Patrick Kennedy wants to rip out downtown Dallas’s Interstate 345, and the D Magazine editorial board agrees with him. When we realized this, courtesy of D Magazine’s Front/Burner blog and its 17 posts on this in 2014, we thought “What is Interstate 345?” Upon answering that, our second thought was “That sounds like a bad idea.”

Nothing we’ve discovered since has changed our conclusion. What we have discovered, however, is that much of the evidence used by Mr. Kennedy, et al, is unhelpful and misleading, and Mr. Kennedy’s agenda is broader than we think.

What is I-345?

Interstate 345 is the elevated freeway on the east side of downtown between US 75 (North Central Expressway) to I-45. Really, it’s just a part of a continuous freeway from Galveston to the Oklahoma border.

There are no I-345 signs; this designation exists only on paper. It runs along Deep Ellum, the Arts District, and the Farmer’s Market. You use I-345 if you travel between US 75 and I-45 or between US 75 and I-30 east of downtown.

I-345 needs about $100 million in repairs, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) intends on starting soon.

Why do some want to tear down I-345?

The short answer, as we understand it, is some think downtown’s highway loop (Woodall Rogers, I-345, I-30, and I-35E) is a “noose”, preventing residential and commercial development in downtown’s immediate vicinity. Under the theory, removing I-345 opens downtown’s east to development and removes a barricase. This type of high-density, mixed-use development would help Dallas become a “world class” city and create new tax revenue.

Also, the theory holds that I-345 is primarly used for through-traffic. Therefore, I-345’s teardown will minimally affect traffic as through traffic will exit affected highways before downtown and re-route to other roads: surface streets, Northwest Highway, I-635, George Bush Tollway, Ledbetter, and others. To the extent traffic elects to flow through city streets between US 75 and the the southern highways (I-30 and I-45), that will simply further economic growth in the area to be developed (i.e., busy streets = more customers).

While we have tried to honestly represent Mr. Kennedy’s arguments, please refer to his own site at www.anewdallas.com for his arguments in his own words.

The longer answer, which we think is more enlightening to what is actually going on, is that Mr. Kennedy and his fellow new urbanists don’t approve of how North Texans live their lives, and they see the I-345 teardown as a means for forcing people closer to a utopian urban-ideal lifestyle. While Kennedy pays lip service to the concept that we can have our cake and eat it too (i.e., we can have a new urban downtown Dallas without material impacts on everyone else), that is wrong. We also doubt Mr. Kennedy believes this himself; for new urbanists, inflicting traffic misery on everyone else is a feature, not a bug.

Dissecting the short answer

Looking at our version of the short answer, a few questions jump out. Will traffic impacts be minimal? Does Dallas need the teardown to be a “world class” city? Is there a “noose” around downtown preventing development? We’d answer those questions with, in order,  “no“, “that begs the question”, and “we don’t know”.

Traffic Impacts

The “A New Dallas” website cites five examples of freeway teardowns in the United States in support of the demolition of I-345, described below. The site claims that these demolitions occurred with minimal traffic impacts while triggering valuable development. Even if one assumes that the development benefits as described by Mr. Kennedy are accurate, none of the examples are remotely similar to the situation in Dallas.

The Embarcadero Freeway (San Francisco)

The figure below illustrates the status of the Embarcadero Freeway (highlighted in red) prior to the Loma Prieto earquake of 1989. The Embarcadero Freeway was intended as an extension of I-480 from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge (both highlighted in green). It was divisive from its inception and aborted mid-construction: the red dots represent the portion of the freeway that was never built.  Cars traveling on the freeway were diverted onto surface streets for about a mile, between the two segments of completed freeway.

At its peak, the Embarcadero only had a half of I-345’s daily vehicle count.

Mr. Kennedy is wrong to compare I-345 to an incomplete freeway with only a shadow of I-345’s traffic.

Perhaps of interest to local politicians, a public referendum to remove the Embarcadero Freeway was defeated prior to the earthquake, and after the Mayor championed its removal post-equathquake (without a referendum), he was promptly voted out of office.

Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco

Central Freeway (San Francisco)

The map below indicates the location of the Central Freeway (circled in red) in San Francisco. In case it’s not clear from the map, the portion of CA 101 extending north from the Central Freeway spur is not a traditional highway and is, instead, a surface road. When originally planned, the Central Freeway, like the Embarcadero Freeway, would have extended north and connected with the Embarcadero.

It was also controversial from its inception, aborted mid-construction, and removed following significant earthquake damage. Prior to demolition, the spur was a highway to nowhere, and its removal simply meant that cars entered surface streets less than a mile farther south than prior to demolition. Yet again, Mr. Kennedy is attempting to argue that the destruction of an incomplete, dead-end freeway somehow relates to his I-345 removal fantasy.

Central Freeway in San Francisco

Park East Freeway (Milwaukee)

We may have identified a trend. The map below shows the location of the Park East Freeway in Milwaukee. The part of the freeway that was demolished is in red. The part of the freeway in green however, was never built. For the third time, Mr. Kennedy is comparing the I-345 to an incomplete, “dangling” freeway that ended in surface streets.

Park East Freeway in Milwaukee

 

Harbor Drive (Portland)

Harbor Drive was actually completed prior to its demolition. Portland is not, however, a strong argument in favor of destroying highway “nooses” around downtown necks. The figure below is a map of Portland freeways. As the arrow points out, like downtown Dallas, downtown Portland is encircled by freeways

Downtown Portland, OR

The former position of Harbor Drive within Portland is illustrated below (highlighted in red).

Portland’s Harbor Drive

Harbor Drive bisected the downtown Portland loop and occupied prime river-front real estate. Furthermore, Harbor Drive was removed only after traffic levels declined thanks to the opening of the Fremont Bridge. Therefore, the removal of Harbor Drive followed a change that reduced its need, and its removal did not impact the major flow of traffic in the city by breaking up a direct connector between two heavily-used freeways. Yet again, this freeway is not remotely similar to I-345.

West Side Highway (New York City)

Though cited by Mr. Kennedy as the West Side Highway, it might be more accurate to describe the demolished highway as the “West Side Elevated Highway” since a new “West Side Highway” replaced the earlier, elevated version. The elevated highway, which was old and too poorly-designed to handle commercial traffic, was closed in 1973 following a partial collapse. It was replaced by a modern, urban highway that was completed in 2001. We do not know what this case study is intended to illustrate, as even the comparative traffic flow figures (before and after demolition) seem to have no value given the 28 year period between the “before” and “after” statistics.

Interstate 345 (Dallas)

The function and use of I-345 in Dallas are dramatically different from the case studies cited by Mr. Kennedy. The map below shows the major highways within the I-635 loop in Dallas (we apologize profusely for the limitations of our MS Paint skills):

Traffic Flows into Dallas’s I-345

In central Dallas, five “Northern” freeways feed into the downtown loop:I-35E, US 75, Texas 114, Texas 183, and the Dallas North Tollway (the blue arrows). In addition, six “Southern” freeways feed into the downtown loop: I-30 from the east, I-30 from the west, I-45, US 67, US 77, and US 175 (the red arrows).

Those two groups of freeways are connected by the two sides of the downtown loop (highlighted in green), I-345 on the east and I-35E on the west. Those two routes are choke points between Dallas’s northern and southern freeways, and the overall capacity of the highway system is limited by the capacity of these choke points. The fact that they are serving a vital function is supported by the large volume of traffic which flows throgh them. If I-345 were removed, any traffic which didn’t “disappear” or reroute to the outer loops (Loop 12, I-635, Bush Turnpike) or to surface streets would be forced through the Mixmaster (the intersection of I-30 and I-35E and nearby freeway segments).

For anyone who drives in Dallas, that is terrifying. The Mixmaster is already highly congested, causing peak hour backups on all of the freeways leading to downtown. Shifting even a portion of the traffic from I-345 to the Mixmaster will make things far worse. Note that this will impact not only through traffic, but also commuter traffic into and out of downtown. Even worse, part of the Mixmaster is about to undergo a three year reconstruction ( “Horseshoe” project), during which conditions will further deteriorate. Common sense says that even if you wanted to tear down I-345, Dallas should stage its construction projects so that the teardown occured after completion of the Mixmaster upgrades.

This situation, and the 200,000 cars travelling on I-345 each day per TxDOT’s 2012 traffic counts (or 160,000 per Mr. Kennedy’s optimistic but inaccurate figure), is vastly dissimilar to that found in Mr. Kennedy’s case studies. Quantitatively, even the Embarcadero Freeway, the largest cited by Mr. Kennedy, only experienced 100,000 cars per day of traffic. The qualitative differences are even more stark, and make us seriously question how anyone could honestly attempt to rely on such case studies in the first place. Mr. Kennedy seems like a smart man. Based on that, we can only assume he realizes this and just doesn’t care.

Dallas as a “world class” city

With regard to what constitutes a “world class city”, Mr. Kennedy sees densely urban cities like New York, Boston, or European cities. We see a “world class city” as one with a large population, healthy job market, and typical “big city” amenities like good restaurants, arts and culture, sports teams, good airports, and major universities. Dallas is already a world class city! The fact that we can drive from place to place does not change this.

Dallas also offers something that many other “world class” cities can’t: affordable single family housing. Key to the American Dream is home ownership, and all levels of government have supported that through tax breaks and other means, including the construction of highways connecting citizens to major employment areas. The result is, in many of the high-growth areas of the United States over the last fifty years (e.g., Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta), we see lots of suburbs and smaller urban cores (sometimes called “sprawl” for those who don’t like it). There are downsides to any type of growth, but in the absence of fifty years of suburban expansion the greater Dallas area would be a pale shadow of its current self. It might be denser and more walkable, but it would be a lot smaller and wouldn’t be “world class”. It also would not be what, by all appearances, Dallas’s citizens want.

Mr. Kennedy also invokes the flip side of this argument, namely that in the absence of embracing his concept of a new urban Dallas we will slowly devolve in to Detroit. We applaud his ingenuity in using a modern boogey man to try to bamoozle us. The argument is also scare-mongering that ignores the historical differences between Detroit and Dallas. Dallas has a stable population, better city government, and a lack of race riots and rampant crime, and has not experienced the near wholesale departure of entire industries, for example.

Mr. Kennedy’s argument regarding “world class” cities also begs the question, “What about Uptown, the Dallas area of fastest growth in the last decade?” Does one high growth area adjacent to downtown equate to a provincial city, but two high growth areas adjacent to downtown equal to a “world class” city?

The “noose” around downtown

As for the “noose” around downtown, or “wall” as Mr. Kennedy also refers to it, we don’t have a strong opinion. Based on the fact that many surface roads flow under I-345, the wall at the very least seems quite porous. In addition, there has been eastward renewal over the last 20 years in downtown. However, Peter Simek at D Magazine strongly disagrees with that line of argument and we do not understand real estate development enough to push harder on this issue, particularly since there are low hanging fruit elsewhere.

However, we do have one observation. For pedestrians, cyclists, and cars, getting from one side of I-345 to the other is a dream compared to the closest corollary we can think of: Northwest Highway near Preston Road. That’s exactly what we’ll get if we replace a freeway with a series of congested surface streets. I-345 helps us avoid this mess by getting traffic away from the surface, leaving the resulting area safer and more tranquil for everyone.

Considering the longer answer, and “New Urbanism”

Mr. Kennedy is a new urbanist. “New Urbanism” is an urban design movement promoting walkable neighborhoods and the balanced development of jobs and housing in urban environments. A central tenet of New Urbanism is that “high density” cities (more people per square mile) are good, and “low density” cities are bad. Corollaries of New Urbanism would be that the features of high density cities are good, such as multi-family dwellings (apartments and condos), and less reliance on cars. Traditional single-family houses are, if not bad, at least undesirable. Cars are bad. SUVs, we can only image, must be very, very bad. Living in Dallas must inflict physically pain on Mr. Kennedy. He would like for us, for our own good, to leave our single family houses, ditch our cars, move into the urban core, and heavily use public transportation.

So if the impact on traffic of tearing down I-345 is more intense than he admits, and causes a substantial reshuffling of Dallas living habits, that is probably a good thing in his view, as long as it is realized by Dallasites after the fact. After all, according to Mr. Kennedy, tearing down I-345 is just the first step in reimagining Dallas. How does the teardown start the process beyond obvious new development immediately adjacent to the current I-345? By changing our driving habits.

Induced Demand

Many teardown advocates love the concepts of “induced demand”, and “disappearing traffic”. What these theories boil down to is if you build more roads, more total traffic will be created, and if you remove roads, the total traffic will eventually be reduced. This seems true. We built highways in Dallas to aid suburb development. The suburbs developed, and now more people use the highways. If we tear down some highways, and capacity is diminished, over time the total traffic will go down as people avoid the traffic issues by driving less or elsewhere.

Where would the traffic go?

How do people adjust to (more) horrible traffic? By reducing commute length, by using alternate freeways or surface streets, or by using public transportation.

People can reduce commute length by either working near where they live or moving where they work. This effect would seem to be a clear positive to a new urbanist. Some people would move closer to downtown to be closer to their jobs (greater density in Dallas), and other people would move to jobs closer to their suburban homes (less driving in the ‘burbs). Mr. Kennedy specifically states that some of the traffic which dissapears following I-345’s destruction will be attributable to people moving to his new urban oasis east of downtown. Hypothetically, the worse the post-teardown traffic, the more rapidly the density of central Dallas would increase as people would be highly motivated to be closer to their jobs. Of course, the opposite could also occur. Jobs are already moving out of downtown, especially to Uptown, Plano, and parts farther north; reverse-commuting is already on the rise, and worse downtown traffic will accelerate that movement.

There is also the key issue of most people not wanting to change where they live or where they work. Mr. Kennedy’s proposed disruption is for the benefit of well-positioned property owners and hypothetical people who would move to the urban core at the expense of everyone else. There may also be very real limits on Mr. Kennedy’s perceived “pent up demand” for urban housing. While downtown, Uptown, and newly developed areas may be very appealing to single people or childless couples, relatively few suburban parents will be abandoning houses and school districts for apartments adjacent to downtown.

Through traffic, hypothetically, would find different freeway routes through Dallas in lieu of I-345. Mr. Kennedy estimates that 75% of traffic on I-345 does not exit into or out of downtown, and argues that following demolition such traffic would divert to other freeways, such as I-635, or surface roads such as Northwest Highway. Unfortunately, the details regarding traffic origins and destinations are very important, and this is why we and others argue that we should defer any demolition until after a definitive traffic study identifies such origins and destinations. To the extent the traffic in question is true “through traffic”, and both originates and terminates outside I-635, then alternate routes may be less problematic, if we are happy to subject current users of I-635 to more time stuck in traffic. That portion of the traffic, however, which either originates or terminates within I-635 will probably not have alternate freeway options, and will instead have to move to surface streets or, more likely, traverse the Mixmaster. The true breakdown of traffic types on I-345 is poorly understood, and rational people would want to know the answer prior to the irrevocable destruction of the only direct connector between two freeways.

But let’s suppose Mr. Kennedy is right, and the 150,000 daily vehicles (75%) of I-345 through traffic diverts. Where’s this traffic going to go? Loop 12, I-635, Bush Turnpike, and other roads. In essence, the rest of the Dallas area are victims who must endure far worse traffic misery so that Mr. Kennedy and his allies can play utopian games while enriching some property owners.

Some of Mr. Kennedy’s allies have very explicity cast this issue as a conflict between the city of Dallas and its suburbs, and we have little doubt that additional traffic on such routes is immaterial to them at best. But even if Dallas wanted to turn its back on its suburbs, everyone should recognize that the city of Dallas is more than its urban core. Many of the negatively affected suburbs, and the alternate routes which would aborb through traffic, are either wholely or partially within the city of Dallas!

As for public transportation, we’re all for it if someone wants to use it and pay their way. But it strikes us as totalitarian and cynical to intentionally damage existing driving conditions to force people to use public transportation. As one Twitter follower of Wick Allison noted, while bemoaning the width of I-35E, “we wonder why mass transit doesn’t get utilized by the masses. They don’t have to.” Indeed, so we guess Mr. Kennedy should make them.

Lets all take a deep breath.

We like urban living. Both of us live inside I-635 and enjoy the city’s amenities. Ed lived downtown for a few years and thoroughly enjoyed it. More high-density development in the DFW area, if supported by adequate demand, sounds like a great idea. But urban planning on a blank slate is categorically different from urban re-planning in the midst of a metropolitan area of 5 million people, where billions of dollars have already been invested in infrastructure supporting the city as it exists today. So we do have an issue with tearing down I-345 when a cursory review of Dallas traffic patterns suggests catastrophic effects of a teardown. Perhaps our concerns would be ameliorated by a traffic study, but we won’t know if the teardown occurs before a traffic study is completed. We have a major issue arguing that we should tear down I-345 and, in the words of Mr. Simek, follow “the example set by cities around the country”, on the basis of Mr.Kennedy’s wildly optimistic, deceptive case studies. The proposed removal of I-345 is unprecedented, both in terms of raw traffic flow and I-345’s critical function.

So let’s take a deep breath before we do something stupid that we will regret later. Let’s determine what the traffic flow actually is comprised of. Let’s see if other alternatives exist. Perhaps we could also determine what the citizens of Dallas actually want, which is probably not more traffic misery.

Dallas’s slashed DUI enforcement = safer roads?

Even though Dallas slashed its DUI enforcement, key DUI-related stats are level or improving. Here’s the numbers:

The fatal DUI crashes uses the right axis. The DUI arrests dotted line is a linear approximation using actual stats from 2009 and 2015.
Fatal DUI crashes uses the right axis. The DUI arrests dotted line is a linear approximation using actual numbers from 2009 and 2015.

Despite a two thirds drop in DUI arrests:

  • Fatal DUI crashes didn’t meaningfully change.
  • All DUI-related crashes have dropped by 23%.

In a sloppy hit piece on Dallas police chief David Brown, WFAA journalist Tanya Eiserer misses this. Instead, she stokes a moral panic.

Is ineffective enforcement an anomaly? Probably not. My doctoral dissertation was over a closely-related topic. In short, I found that differences in traffic ticketing levels have no effect on crash counts. This echoes related research with similar findings.

Tanya ends her hit piece with:

Last year, 15 men and women died in Dallas in drunken driving accidents. Tell it to them and their families that drunk driving enforcement isn’t a priority.

Tanya, that’s terrible! Dredging up the deceased in an appeal to emotion fallacy, all to promote something that may be ineffective, why? Shouldn’t we expect better from WFAA? (By the way, if only 15 died, then we’d have record-smashing safe year!)

In cutting DUI enforcement, Chief Brown reduced spending on something that doesn’t work. But that doesn’t play into MADD’s neo-prohibitionist agenda, so it has to change, I guess?

(All numbers in this article come either from Tanya’s shoddy journalism or TxDOT’s Texas Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics.)

US Youth Soccer screws over 1/3 of its kids

US Youth Soccer is changing. Soon, all youth soccer leagues will use calendar-based teams.

This is a mistake. In most states, the new system gives around a third of its youth new reasons to quit. It also makes determining age levels more confusing.

First, some background. I am in Texas. We use Sept. 1 for the cutoff for kindergarten. Children start kindergarten if they turn six between September 1 and August 31 of the following year. More than half the states use the same or a close date. (source)

The soccer year starts a month earlier: August 1 through July 31. This creates a small “twilight zone” for August birthdays: they get grouped with prior-grade kids. The fix is easy: August kids can “play up” with same-grade friends.

Here’s an example: I coach a U7 soccer team. U7 means the kids turn 7 this soccer year.

One of my boys has an August birthdate. He’s U6 in soccer despite being in the same grade as most U7 boys. Again, the fix is easy: he plays up into U7 to be with his same-grade friends.

The new, calendar-based system expands this “twilight zone”. It is 300% larger now, affecting 1/3 of my team instead of 1/12. It is also less forgiving. Here’s why.

Starting fall 2016, 1/3 of my team becomes U9, and 2/3 will be U8. This will happen to all existing teams with evenly distributed birthdates.

You can’t “play down” in soccer. That means my team’s older 1/3, who will be U9, cannot stay with their same-grade friends in a U8 team.

The younger 2/3, the U8s, could “play up” into U9. That’s unlikely: I doubt they will be ready.

If that’s not enough, you also have the relative age effect. This effect is where kids who would be the youngest on a team–birthdates towards the end of the selection period–are less likely to participate.

This makes sense: at younger ages, a many-month spread can mean a great deal in readiness for sport, both physical and psychological. This is not a new problem.

In a FAQ, US Youth Soccer downplays the relative age effect. They say calendar-based teams weren’t designed to address it. They omit that the change will make it worse.

Why? Remember the third in the “twilight zone”? They have a double whammy! They are the youngest on their teams. In addition from being separated from 2/3 of their friends, they are also hit with the relative age effect!

Calendar-based teams makes things more confusing for parents. The year used in the calendar-based system is the second year of a season. That is, for the 2016-17 season, 2017 is the year used for age eligibility.

At least in Texas, recreational soccer follows the academic year. Fall ’15 and spring ’16 are one soccer year. The current system, with the August 1 cutoff, complements the academic year. Same-grade kids are generally put in the same soccer age division. I can’t imagine anything easier.

Currently, the x in Ux stands for the age your kid turns during the soccer year. In the calendar-based  system, Ux is arbitrary and hard to figure out. Suppose a child has a November birthdate. When he enters soccer in the fall, his age division is based on the age he turns in two Novembers!

Suppose Little Sammy was born in November 2008. When you sign Sammy up for soccer in August 2016, Sammy will be seven years old. However, the age chart shows that Little Sammy will end up in U9 soccer! In other words, when Sammy signs up in August 2016, his age division is based on the age he turns in November 2017!

Why is US Youth Soccer doing this? Two reasons.

First, the “new calendar year system makes soccer easier”. (source) Except it doesn’t!

Second, it “makes it much easier for us to scout for the National Teams and find players ready to compete internationally.” (source) Wait, we’re increasing confusion, creating a new disincentive for a third of youth players, butchering teams, and making life hard for coaches, all for something that is a concern for vanishingly few players?

I’m not clear who’s best interest is in mind here. It’s not the families, the players, the teams, or the coaches!

(A note: US Youth Soccer is also switching to small-sided games. I support that change.)

Moto X Pure Edition (2015) + Sprint = no roam?

I have the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2105). It’s a great value, it’s unlocked, and it works on all major cell networks.

The phone worked great until this weekend. I went to Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, TX for a campout with my Cub Scout pack. (I am Cubmaster.)

Glen Rose is in the middle of a large Sprint coverage gap, but at least there’s voice roaming:
Sprint in Glen Rose, TX
(from Sprint’s Coverage Check page)

And here’s the data coverage, which is “off-network roaming”:
Sprint data in Glen Rose, TX(from Sprint’s Coverage Check page)

The data roaming is only in theory. When I crossed into the roaming zone (westbound US 67 east of Glen Rose), I only had voice, no data.

Later that night, perplexed at the lack of data, I reviewed my phone’s roam settings. In the settings, I hit More under Wireless & networks, then Cellular networks. Here’s the dialog (notice the empty signal indicator to the left of the battery indicator):
Moto X cellular network settings

Below is what you see when tapping on System select:
Moto X system select

I changed this from the default Automatic to Home only. Predictably, the roam network disappeared. Changing back to Automatic, the roam network was still gone! Power cycling the phone had no effect.

What?

The Preferred network type dialog had no effect. Here’s its default setting:
Moto X preferred network type

None of the other settings had any effect. I also tried toggling the Data roaming slider, but it had no effect. That makes sense because the phone detected no network anyway.

Somehow I got this alternate settings screen. I do not remember how I got that. Regardless, it had no effect. Here it is:
Moto X available networks

Sometimes I got a version of this that had two Extended Network selections:
Moto X available networks (two Extended Network selections)

Clicking on any Extended Network selection on either version of this settings screen had the same effect. You first see this for a while:
Moto X registering on extended network

Then you see this:
Moto X cannot connect

I also explored the Search networks and Choose automatically settings, but neither had any effect. The presence of Extended Network at the bottom makes it look like the phone in fact saw a network.

Ultimately, I got no cell access for the weekend. When we went home, I got an avalanche of text messages between Glen Rose and Cleburne. (They were alerts from an unprecedented IT outage at my employer.)

Did I need to update my phone’s preferred roaming list (PRL). I think no. First, if my PRL was bad, I wouldn’t have gotten any roaming as I traveled to Glen Rose. With the current PRL, I should have at least had voice the entire weekend. Second, I activated this phone just 13 days prior to the trip. Since the phone is unlocked and carrier agnostic, it would have to update its PRL upon activation. Even if an old PRL was buried in the phone, the lack of Sprint access at Glen Rose is not new, so a very old PRL ought to work fine.

What do I do? Is the Moto X unable to reliably roam if Sprint is my network? Have Motorola or Sprint acknowledged a bug?

OneDrive and 0x80270113 error

Error 0x80270113 is yet another mysterious Windows error that Microsoft doesn’t explain well. First, some background:

OneDrive for Windows 8.1 supports online-only files. It’s a great idea: these files look normal, but they take up almost no space. That’s because they actually only exist in Microsoft’s cloud and are not on your hard drive.

If you right-click on an online-only file and select Properties, you’ll see that the Size on disk field is just a few bytes. It’s only a stub file. If you open the stub file, OneDrive transparently downloads the full copy.

In theory, online-only files are a great way to share files across multiple devices that may not have enough drive space to copy all of them locally. Strangely, Microsoft is ditching online-only files for Windows 10.

Error 0x80270113 happens when Windows doesn’t know how to open a OneDrive stub file. Here’s how it happened to me:

I am quitting OneDrive because it’s slow. I have several gigabytes of files in OneDrive. I need to move them out of OneDrive.

Normally, moving files is a fast cut and paste operation. Normally, the file itself isn’t moved. Rather, a few bytes of filesystem data is tweaked to tell Windows that the file is in a new folder.

This is like adjusting highway signs to tell people a new route to a city. The city is still in the same place; all that changed was the route you take to get to the city.

Moving files out of OneDrive is like moving the whole city! Even if you aren’t using online-only files, moving files in or out of your computer’s OneDrive folder is a pokey copy-and-delete operation. With this, a copy of the file is made in the destination location, then the file is deleted from its source location. This is exponentially slower than a move.

As I have many gigabytes of files to move, I got impatient on the long wait. I stopped the move, shut down OneDrive, and used PowerShell’s Move-Item command to do a classic file move operation.

Oops! Move-Item isn’t aware of OneDrive, so it happily moved the file stubs without downloading them first. Only when I tried to open the OneDrive stub files when they were outside of the OneDrive directory did I get the 0x80270113 error! The error probably means is that you have a stub file outside of its OneDrive directory, and Windows doesn’t know how to deal with it.

To make things worse, after I moved all these files out of OneDrive, the OneDrive agent synchronized my now empty OneDrive folder, which caused all the online copies of the files to be deleted. (That is actually correct behavior: if you get rid of a file locally, it should also be removed from the online drive.) This means I was left with only stub files on my hard drive and an empty OneDrive. Is my data gone?

Luckily, OneDrive has an online Recycle Bin. I restored everything from the online Recycle Bin back into OneDrive. My local OneDrive agent then set up online-only stubs of all these files. Now I can use the Windows Explorer’s cut and paste feature to move these files out of OneDrive. I’m pasting them in the same location where I moved the files using Move-Item. With this operation, I am telling Windows Explorer to overwrite the stub files in the destination. This overwrites the tiny stubs with actual data.

At this point, you may ask, “Why did you move your files using Move-Item if you had set them to be online-only?” Answer: I never set any files to be online-only on this PC! I don’t know why that happened. All I can guess is one of:

  • OneDrive does this intentionally for some files.
  • OneDrive bug.
  • I had the OneDrive client running on two other PCs, and on both those other PCs, I set them to use online-only file copies. Perhaps OneDrive somehow carried that setting over to my main computer?

Regardless of why, this is a pain to deal with. I’m very fortunate that OneDrive’s Recycle Bin actually works!