Thursday, February 1, 2007

Dallas and the Space Race

As the first city in Texas to build light rail Dallas is planning a large expansion that has been approved by the FTA. The road to light rail wasn't so easy though. Similar to Austin in their approach, Dallas formed a Transit Authority with the sole purpose of building rail. While it was a bus company also, the point was to build a regional rail system with a 1983 map showing 160 miles worth of rail planned. After waiting a while to start Dallas finally completed its first line in 1996. Now after a few extensions DART is gearing up for two more to bring the total to 93 miles by 2014. Half of this will be paid for by the second largest Full Funding Grant Agreement by the FTA ever for a new start project, the east side access project in NYC being the first.

One light rail extension is planned to go to the airport. This will put Dallas among the few mutltimodal transit/airport hubs in the United States. Operation on the Orange Line is planned to start in 2011 and connect Dallas with Los Colinas also. The other extension is the Green Line. It will go from Pleasant Grove in the southeast through the hip neighborhoods of Deep Ellum, through downtown and north to Carrolton. At some point it will probably be extended to Denton.

In addition the Mckinney avenue trolley is being expanded. Bonds for an expansion were passed in November of 2006 and this key part of the Dallas rail system will finally form a real connection between Cityplace station and the downtown transit mall via the rapidly developing uptown district. Finally is the move by the region to petition the state to allow them to raise another half cent for commuter rail operations. This push has been bubbling all last year but it remains to be seen whether the state house in Austin who has often been hostile.

These expansions will keep Dallas at the top of the Texas transit food chain and hopefully someone in Austin will take notice of the way it could have been while Houston and Dallas kick their butts.

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