All Aboard For Your Latest Downtown-to-Oak Cliff Streetcar Update

DowntownStreetcar_Kinkisharyo3.jpg
Photo by Patrick Michels
The council will take one more look at the Kinkisharyo ameriTRAM streetcar on Monday.
On Monday the city council's Transportation and Environment Committee will devote its entire meeting to the subject of streetcars. In fact, there's a field trip involved, as council members will bus out to Dallas Area Rapid Transit's Northwest Rail Operating Facility to once again get a good look at that Kinkisharyo ameriTRAM streetcar that toured downtown last month. And after that they'll head from Union Station to near Methodist Hospital, getting a sneak peek at the planned alignment.

But first, council will preview an item about to be added to the council's Wednesday meeting agenda: an inter-local agreement with the North Central Texas Council of Governments and DART, which will spell out who's in control of what on this $35-million project. Long story short: The NCTCOG will "own" the streetcar project (since it filed the application for that federal TIGER grant ultimately worth $23 million), which will ultimately be handed back to the city. DART's acting as the project's technical adviser.

Council's also going to set up a fund that will allow the city's transpo staff to take care of operations and maintenance issues. The TIGER grant, which is loaded with must-do's, specifies that there needs to be a 30-year guarantee that the city can handle O&M. As you may recall, a few weeks back the city asked DART to move $17 million from the Green Line-to-Love Field connector project and put it toward the streetcar project. That money, says Keith Manoy, the city's chief transportation planner, will go into that trust, along with other funds that come available.

"DART's $17 million is a backstop for O&M," he tells Unfair Park this morning, adding that other money may come from the NCTCOG or even private investment. "We don't have specific sources, but the fund is something we need to set up now."

As of this very moment, construction on the project is scheduled to begin "around" August 2012, and it has to be up and running by December 2013 per TIGER grant stipulations about revenue service. To expedite construction, everyone's hoping to go with a battery-operated car like the one the council will tour again on Monday -- one that doesn't need an overhead contact system.

"On the historic Houston bridge, the plan is not to have an OCS, an this will allow us to do it -- this or a car like it," Manoy says, insisting the city and DART and the COG haven't yet decided which streetcar to go with. "That's the kind of technology we'll be seeking, since, because it's a historic bridge, to do any more would require" dealing with the Texas Historical Commission.
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34 comments
Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

this is so needed for the city i was over at my friends last night in the baylor district and we walked to downtown and i was thinking to myself the whole time if dallas goes with that streetcar thing this walk would be so much less sweaty.

Monorider
Monorider

Well sir there's nothing on earth like a genuine bonafide electrified monorail!

zobzerto
zobzerto

Here's what I don't understand... any time there is a post about streetcars on this blog, there is a fair amount of folks who come write angry screeds about how "streetcars are just a novelty," or "this is fucking useless, what's the point?" I don't get it. For once, the city is at least trying to expand its public transportation network. This is a good thing. Yes, this is only a starter line, but we have to start somewhere. Streetcars are a good, viable form of transportation, and hopefully this network will be expanded. Doing so improves the effectiveness of our existing light rail system.

I guess that, ultimately, my question is: shouldn't we have the option to take multiple modes of transportation (i.e. not be forced to drive when we need to go somewhere)? Isn't that part of making a city more livable?

MattL1
MattL1

Wow, this is one of those things that might actually be a good idea. I'm surprised it's gotten this far...

Hannibal_Lecter
Hannibal_Lecter

Damn, I wish I had one of those money trees in my back yard so I could throw away dollars like this....

nocoolhandle
nocoolhandle

I know this sounds far out, but a street car going from the existing McKinney avenue line directly down Cedar Springs all the way into Love field seems like it would be a great way to connect downtown to Love field. And, since they are already diverting funds from the green line connector to the streetcar program.....

Dandantheradioman
Dandantheradioman

Let's see: DART Rail ridership is ever-dwindling, and the same can be said in regard to DART bus ridership... The city is barely (fiscally) afloat and we're trying to force out many of our best educators... and yet, we're doing this. Makes perfect sense. Perfect sense for yuppie/hipster/can't we be a "world class city" types. "I simply MUST be able to trolley over to City Tavern after work!"

"DART's $17 million is a backstop for O&M," he tells Unfair Park this morning, adding that other money may come from the NCTCOG or even private investment. "We don't have specific sources, but the fund is something we need to set up now."

Yeah, we all know where the source will eventually be found, one way or another: our tax dollars. DART as the backstop. What a joke. DART is us; it is our money.

WalkableDFW
WalkableDFW

I admittedly skimmed this, but might want to clarify that OCS means Overhead Contact System, meaning there wouldn't be overhead cables distributing power to the cars.

dallasmay
dallasmay

Remember, Dallas already has a large and diverse transportation system. It's called Dart. I've been a lot of places, and have ridden on public trans systems around the world, and DART is really as good as almost any. IMO DART is at least as good as Athens, Rome, San Francisco, Chicago, and most others. (New York is really the only city that I have been to that is significantly better. But then, come on, it's freaking NYC).

No one has a perfect system. But don't say this would be the first time for Dallas to try to have a good public transportation system.

Hannibal_Lecter
Hannibal_Lecter

If they're so good and viable, as you say, why aren't the users willing to pay for it? Let's see....with DART you've got a system where the fares pay for about 15% of the operating costs, not one cent towards the construction costs, and still has only a 2% market share. How much more pathetic does it have to get before you consider it non-viable?

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

its happening dude people in oak cliff have been fighting for it

scottindallas
scottindallas

Would you support diverting one of the 5.25% of sales tax toward streetcars? Your taxes wouldn't go up, only one percent of sales taxes are diverted. That's how a TIF works, it can be voted on, and the affected people in the specific neighborhoods served could vote on that.

Streetcars aren't funded by TIFs currently, though some 15 TIFs apply to downtown. Those funds are given to private businesses upon council approval, if I'm not mistaken. I'd rather see those funds diverted not to some private player, but rather to a public good.

Anyway, when you say "throw away dollars" it's really too vague to mean a damned thing. You comment on here a lot, I'd think that some of the details would sink in after a while. I guess being snarky beats really thinking about what you write, and say. I guess the kind of douchy idealism you subscribe too is fun for you. Though frankly, it's destroying this country, it's what is in fact driving our deficits.

I'm fairly libertarian at heart, I want gov't to be lean, efficient and effective. That requires us to consider various policies, which literally or nearly pay for themselves and which are both a drain on the public and the general economy. Social programs for the poor may prove to pay for themselves. Geo. Bush the serious pushed for and passed a law GIVING pre-natal care to all infants--not the mothers. Guess what, that literally paid for itself. As a few food stamps and iron tablets cost nothing and prevents thousands of birth defects. But, Paul Ryan would cut that in order to cut taxes on our most affluent, a program that only returns 40% back to the economy, if that. Since high tax rates are literally the discount rate for hiring and investment, it may miss many other revenues that are trickled down due to the very behavior high taxes drive--that's increased hiring and investment.

Oh, to anticipate your next point, the corporations will leave in droves. Well, China and Japan and Europe have for 60 years demanded that if you want to sell to our people, you need to manufacture here. We haven't done that nearly enough. Considering that we have, hands down the greatest consumer base in the world, you'd think corporations would chomp down and do whatever is necessary. And, small businesses wouldn't be directly affected, in fact, they'd be on more equal footing with the multinationals.

Truly, the GOP (and many Dems) have bought into a total lie about how the economy really works. 30 years of Trickle down, 40 years of "think tanks" driving and manipulating the debate, all funded by the uber rich has bankrupted this country, destroyed manufacturing and jobs. High tax rates don't actually tax corporations and the wealthy much more, but they limit the excesses, keep money circulating, and punish financialism which drives the commodities speculation that is the creating stagflation that goes unmeasured, but certainly felt.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Let's address the factual errors in the first paragraph of your comment. First off, DART ridership is not ever dwindling, but in fact growing in a nice, steady manner. The DISD and the City of Dallas and DART each are different independent entities. Finally, the return on investment in public transit, particularly streetcars is tremendous. I['m not a big fan of city gov't nor do I want to suggest that we should question programs and politicos. However, the investment by the City into streetcars is far less controversial, and a classic role of gov't compared to the give-aways we offer to developers. Streetcars are for the public good without question, the latter is a giveaway to someone who likely petitioned gov't for favors. If we care about corruption, one program should bother us little--though we should oversee the doing of the transit and other governmental agencies, while the other is a scenario primed for corruption.

The problem with the libertarians are that they sit mired in their ideals and never engage in the difficult process of making gov't smarter and better.

Monorider
Monorider

Get off my lawn you hipsters!

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

you dont have to participate but this happens to be something i love and it makes me really sad when i see people like you attacking it why dont you kind find a passion. mines mass transit!

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

then go to a non dart city like mesquite !

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

"DART Rail ridership is ever-dwindling," Really Care to verify that with actual statistics?

Coleman
Coleman

there's that "hipster" word that people don't actually understand again...

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

yes thats right these cars can go like 5 miles without a charge and when they stop they recharge they are like cutting edge in this sort of tech you should go to the kinkisharyo website!

WalkableDFW
WalkableDFW

oops, nevermind. there is the mention.

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

dart isn't good enough for getting downtown they want to get this thing to 40 miles of track eventually so you can get around all of dallas without a car. dar as it is is not good enough for this... you know nyc might be amazing but your not even giving dallas a chance to try. please dont destroy this for me.

zobzerto
zobzerto

That's fair. I should have been clearer and said they're expanding the fixed rail network. I wasn't bagging on DART.

But a streetcar network connected to existing light rail would really be wonderful.

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

your not even giving dart a chance to start up i think your really selfish for thinking people with out cars should have to walk eery where.

zobzerto
zobzerto

Don't start with the argument about how "it doesn't pay for itself." How the hell do you think roads are paid for? Massive, massive public subsidy. What about gas prices that are held to artificial lows, far, far below their actual cost?

No one is trying to take your car away. But it is better for everyone if we have multiple modes of transportation, especially as the costs of car travel increase.

MattL1
MattL1

I know they have been, and I'm thankful for it. Just have to make sure we keep vigilant until those slick little trains are running 'cross the Trinity...

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

if you'd really read into this thing you'd know that dart wont have any sales tax money until the 2020s because of the greenline... AT THIS POINT IN TIME THEY ARE LOOKING FOR OTHERWAYS TO FUND THat might be true most of the time but its not true for this right now. they are planning on having the cotton belt be the first 100% privately funded rail project you should love that since your a libertarian. so dont assume this stuff has spending engraved built in it with the building of the new tollroads a new way of funding development was ushered in to texas!

Gabe
Gabe

TIFs borrow money from the future (hoped for) increase in property tax revenue when the infrastructure (or whatever) starts encouraging development within the TIF. I don't think it has anything to do with sales tax...and I'm not sure what the 5.25 figure is. State sales tax rate is 6.25%, and other governments (like transit authorities) can tack on up to 2% extra (which is why we have the max 8.25% in Dallas).

Davismarks
Davismarks

Care to challenge it with statistics. Two can play at that game.

Dandantheradioman
Dandantheradioman

Another Observer commenter who is psychic. I'll ask as I always do... Because you have the ability to know what others think and intend, would you mind giving me some advice? I'm thinking about buying a car from an individual who claims the car has never had any serious issues. However, when I checked it out via Car Fax, I see that the car has had some major repairs. The owner swears this is not the case. Should I take this person's word? Thank you in advance.

Perhaps next time you might want to address the substantive part of a comment. Yikes, that would take critical thinking. But then again, when you're psychically as gifted, as you obviously are, who needs analysis!

Jim Bob Guthrie
Jim Bob Guthrie

The same people who complain about public transportation not paying for itself are usually the same ones who complain about toll roads. Our roads and highways have been so heavily subsidized that a small user fee like a toll is considered shocking. None of our modes of transportation make a profit or come close to paying for themselves.

Alex Roderer
Alex Roderer

2010 was a weird year for dart funny how ridership goes down right when fares go up for 4 dollars i think alot of people dont pay for fairs i say that because out of 20 of my close friends about 5 actually pay for riding that train. people will ride these things if they get built. maybe not every one can afford a nice car and walking around in the beating sun kinda sucks. dont ruin this for me i need it.

Gabe
Gabe

http://transportationblog.dall...

You're right, sort of. It has decreased in the last year, but, as the chart attempts to show, there seems to be some correlation between gas prices and ridership. Anecdotally, I've heard of increased ridership in the last month as gas has climbed back to the 2008 levels.

Willabel1967
Willabel1967

Coleman... Exactly who are these people that are in need of streetcars in order to get around? I think you miss the entirety of dandan's gist. Ditto goes with the (funny) car fax scenario.

Bigjon... Since I'm not dandan, I don't feel the need to do his work for him. But I'm fairly certain that's a true assertion. Now, as to how much ridership has fallen off, I've no idea.

Coleman
Coleman

Here's some advice: when you use terms like "hipsters" to complain about the behavior and spending habits of "world-class city" douchebags, you start to sound like a pants-shitting fuddy duddy old fart. There's a huge difference between blowing money on a designer bridge and convention center, and a public transportation system that can help people who would otherwise be without the ability to get around this huge sprawl of a city.

But I did enjoy your random rant about car fax, that added a special tang of crazy to this otherwise vanilla comment thread.

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