Tag Archives: DART Rail

Dallas: DART Orange Line Rolls Into DFW Airport

August 18th is a truly historic day for Texas public transit advocates, as Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) begins light rail service to Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. After dreaming of such a connection for decades, Dallas has made it happen. Here’s more from the official DART press release

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are celebrating the opening of the last Orange Line segment to the new DFW Airport Station. The Aug. 18 opening means the country’s longest light rail system links to the world’s third-busiest airport.

“Connecting DFW Airport by light rail makes Dallas a more competitive, more attractive destination for business and travelers,” said Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan. “It’s part of a sustained partnership over decades that’s bringing billions in investment, more jobs, and a better quality of life to North Texas.


The 5-mile segment links newly renovated Terminal A and Belt Line Station, with continuing service to major regional destinations including Irving-Las Colinas, Dallas Market Center and downtown Dallas. With this opening, DFW Airport becomes the third-largest American airport with a direct rail connection to the city center.

The Orange Line extension was completed four months ahead of schedule and under budget.

Passengers can now travel from DFW airport to Downtown Dallas in approximately 50 minutes, for a cost of $2.50 per trip.  Compared to cab fare between the two destinations, that’s a savings of over $40 dollars!!

For all of the negative press Texas Governor Rick Perry has gotten as of late, he’s still the Governor, and rightly deserves to be applauded for his comments in support DART’s monumental achievement.  On this subject I agree wholeheartedly with Governor Perry… it’s a great day for the state of Texas.

The DART rail system isn’t done expanding either.  More exciting projects are forthcoming, including an extension of the Blue Line set to open next year.  Dallas Area Rapid Transit now operates the largest light rail system in the United States with over 90 miles of track and 62 stations.  As Therese McMillan, Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration writes, North Texas didn’t get to this milestone alone either.  Here’s an excerpt from her opinion column in the Dallas Morning News

There’s no question that communities across America can learn a great deal from North Texas about building a dynamic public transportation network. Among the most important of those lessons is that it takes vision, commitment and partnership at all levels of government.

In 1984, local voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to launch DART. Back then, it must have been difficult to foresee how that initial support would lead to the substantial economic development over the last two decades and widespread access to jobs and opportunities that followed.

Those things exist today not only because of North Texans’ vision, but also because you sought the partnership of a federal government that was willing and able to provide its support. The Federal Transit Administration was at the table in 1993, helping fund the south Oak Cliff light-rail project. And we’ve been at the table, as your partner, ever since.

We’d like to see that partnership continue. That’s why we’ll continue calling on Congress to pass a multiyear transportation bill to fund the transportation infrastructure that the economies of Texas and the nation depend on.

Texas politicians, especially Rick Perry, Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott, have forged their political careers bashing the federal government. But as North Texas is proving today, we need all levels of government at the table to truly bring progress to the Lone Star State.  As the region celebrates today, let’s hope they don’t forget how they got there, and that other Texas metros follow DART’s lead.

(photo credit:  DART

DARTing Around Dallas: A Transit Trip

Over the weekend, I took a trip to investigate Dallas’ DART rail system, spending two days in the city without a car. I didn’t even drive up there. Thanks to the new Megabus service (and $60 cab fare to and from Grand Prairie), I was able to make the nearly 500-mile trip through mass-transit services.

I know what you’re thinking… two days in a strange city with Texas triple-digit heat while my car and it’s life-saving A/C sit idle in Houston? Insane, right?? It actually turned out to be quite the educational experience, and was a great examination of DART and how it’s important service impacts the North Texas region. Here’s what I learned…

At 72 miles and counting, the DART Rail system is the longest light-rail system in the United States. To be clear, by “light rail”, it is mainly referring to the type of vehicles used, as they are not capable of operating at faster speeds than heavy rail modes (such as the NYC subway). But DART is something of a hybrid system. Most of the rail miles are either at-grade (street level) or elevated, but one station is actually a subway which we’ll get to in just a bit. The primary function is as commuter rail between the city and it’s vast suburbs. The system is also expanding rapidly, with a connection to Irving opening this month, an extension into the suburb of Rowlett this December, and a full connection planned to D/FW Airport set for 2014. Either way, for an American city, 72 miles of rail transit is quite the accomplishment.

The light rail is definitely expansive, but still manages to be quite disconnected from some parts of the city. While it does connect downtown to key suburbs of Plano, Garland and Carrollton, the line misses many of the city’s major employment centers. For the ones that are served by the rail line, the stations are often planned in an inconvenient pattern. A good example of this is on the new Green Line. The Inwood station also services Dallas/ Love Field airport, but rather than build a direct terminal connection, DART rail had to settle for an approximate location and run a shuttle between the rail stop and the airport. However, one stop that works extremely well on the Red Line is the Downtown Plano station. It’s built right into the fabric of the city’s historic downtown, and puts you right in the middle of lively shops and scenery. The living area, employment center, and transit connection all converge in harmony at this stop. In other suburbs like Garland and Carrollton, the potential is definitely there for a similar situation. But these areas are mainly connecting a small group of people where they live. Connecting major employment centers would serve a larger number of the D/FW population.

Ah, Cityplace station. The only operating subway station between St. Louis and the West Coast. It is quite a feat of ingenuity and sheer determination on behalf of the people of Dallas, and something they “should” be proud of. As an avid transit enthusiast, It’s really a spectacular thing to behold.

The only problem?? Cityplace, 12 years after its opening, sits virtually empty. The handful of passengers I saw at the station barely justify a project worth hundreds of millions in taxpayer money. It is hurt greatly by the fact that there is very little encouragement to be used as a transit hub except for the bus stops and historic streetcar. But it’s just “far enough away” that it discourages Uptown residents from use, and only serves as a midway between more popular points on the Red and Blue lines, such as Mockingbird Staion or Downtown. The sad truth is, Dallas spent lots of time building a random Subway station, when those millions of hub investment should have been poured into downtown. Yet the downtown stations are at street-level, but easily have 3 times the number of people as Cityplace staion at any point of the day. Given the wary economic climate, it will definitely be an uphill battle if Dallas, and anywhere else in Texas, ever wants to have subway in the future. That fate rested on the rousing success of Cityplace and sadly it has not delivered.

Cityplace Station (friday evening)

Cityplace Station (Saturday)

Another serious issue with DART rail? Fare collection. Yet again another light rail that works on the “honor system” assuming that people will pay their fare to ride. This is true for most people, but a VERY significant number of citizens are riding the rail for free. Even when fare inspectors were present on the train, I didn’t see them write a single citation to fare dodgers. That sends a terrible message to observers by encouraging others to follow suit.

Why is fare collection so important? Because in states like Texas, where any notion public transit is an uphill battle, we need to know the truth about our ridership numbers so that people will understand that these systems are needed and utilized. Of course the obvious? DART is losing money! In my brief trip, I observed at least 40 dodgers in my section of the rail car. Those were just on the select trips that I took. On a daily basis, a conservative estimate on all lines would easily reach the hundreds. So a couple hundred people not paying fares every day?? You do the math.

Though DART Rail is far from perfect, it has given the citizens of D/FW one very important and special gift… true mobility. This is much farther than in the sense of just transit. Because the system covers such a wide area, many citizens who may not have a car are able to travel to places they may not have thought to by bus. Take all of those quaint shops in Downtown Plano for example. Unlike your high-skill employment sectors, jobs in the suburbs may be more easily adaptable to workers that don’t have specialty training. The Red Line and other DART Rail lines make it possible for someone who can’t afford a vehicle to have a safe and reliable way to work, even if they find a job that isn’t so close to their home. By connecting these key suburbs to the city population, Dallas also connects its citizens to more job opportunities. So in the truest sense of the word, DART is able to achieve mobility both from the transit perspective, but also improve quality of life for citizens of all economic classes.

So there’s still some definite work to be done with DART, but I applaud the efforts of the people of D/FW for working hard on transit. They are building the path to a better Dallas, and a better Texas for all.