DART, East Texas Transit Officials Sign Letter They Hope Leads to Light-Rail Love Affair

Categories: Transportation
netrmasigningmap.jpg
DART chair Bill Velasco, left, and North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority's Jeff Austin III look at the line that could one day connect their parts of the great state.
Ever wished you could take Dallas Area Rapid Transit to ... oh ... let's say Tyler? Or Canton? Or Shreveport, even? Because, see, that's the one-day-fingers-crossed dream shared by DART and North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority officials. Which is why DART president Gary Thomas, board chair Bill Velasco and NETRMA chair Jeff Austin III met today in Dallas -- to sign an interlocal cooperation agreement that officially begins what they hope will be a long and fruitful relationship joining North Texas and East Texas and even points beyond.

Austin tells Unfair Park today he asked Thomas to come out to Tyler a few years back and lay out what DART had on the drawing board. At which point Austin took a look at the so-called Texas Triangle and wondered how "we can be a spoke in the hub, because in East Texas, we refer to the Texas Triangle as a rectangle."

DART spokesman Morgan Lyons and Austin acknowledge: They're years, more than likely decades, away from anything tangible coming from today's signing. But it's an important first step, they say, toward bringing in other cities and counties (and states, even), not to mention private investors and federal dollars, that might one day want to hook up with DART.

"It's important for them to have easy access to education and jobs and health care here, and they want to expand their market there as well," Lyons says. "They have a UT system school, an A&M system school, so how can you make it easier for folks from Dallas to get there? A letter like this is important in getting federal funding, which is DART's legacy, because you can bring a lot of different people with you and show a broad spectrum of support."

Says Austin, who points to U.S. 80 as the most likely existing route to follow,  "We want to provide long-term ridership with an alternative to I-20. The question is: How can we plan that. We have the authority and ability to do that, and there's not one right answer. We want to engage communities, economic development folks, cities, counties. How can it work, and if it did, what would it look like? The real question is: Who's gonna pay for it and how? Tha'll come when we determine the need, purpose and buy-in, but it's a ground-up initiative, not top-down. We've talked about it openly. We've had a lot of people encourage it, and if we can come up with innovative ways of funding it, we'll do it, and we may need outside financial partners."

Lyons says, sure, parts of East Texas may seem a million miles away to those who never leave the loop, but it's really no different than DART's more immediate hopes of hooking in suburbs not presently part of DART.

"Allen and Frisco have plans -- and Allen even has some funding to tap into our system," Lyons says. He also points to a deal with a transit company in Sherman buses locals down to the Parker Road Station for a light-rail ride into Dallas. This, he says, wouldn't be so different from that.

"What you've seen the board do over the last year or so is say, 'We need to start looking beyond the boundaries of our service area,'" Lyons says. "Let's acknowledge there's a lot of interest outside in connecting to our system, and this is part of that."

"You have to start somewhere," Austin says. "We gotta start planning it, and how do we shorten that gap of 20, 25 years. You gotta start planning. That's what Texans do best."

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23 comments
md
md

I don't see the point, but I bet some in the federal government are willing to give them billions to make it happen.

Jason
Jason

How about DART builds an east-west line that parallels LBJ first and then we can build a line out towards Tyler, etc. 

TRISHSLUDER
TRISHSLUDER

HOPE IT HAPPENS SOON---I LIVE IN KAUFMAN/TERRELL---NOT MUCH HAPPENING THERE---WOULD BE GREAT TO RIDE THE DART WHERE THERE IS SOMETHING HAPPENING...

Awvanek
Awvanek

Hey East Texas, let Dallas build a water reservoir and maybe we'll let you in on the light rail.

DARTscrewsDallas
DARTscrewsDallas

I can hear the trains a'comin' as they suck life out of the Dallas economy and redistribute it to exurbia.

LookingBackward
LookingBackward

On Thinking some more about this - The existing AmTrack  Heartland Flyer really is a daily Interurban. It is geared for folks from OKC to be able to spend  half a day in Fort Worth. Leaves OKC around 8:30 and gets to FTW at 12:30. Leaves FTW at 5:30 and gets to OKC at 9:00 PM.  I could not believe how many people got off and on the trains at all the stops:  Gainesville, Ardmore, Paul's Valley, Purcell, Norman - and quick stops of less than  2 mins each - except for one smoke stop!  The UP line already exists - it is just a matter of capacity and traffic control. I could see it: Dallas, Mesquite, Forney, Terrell, Wills Point / Edgewood, Grand Saline, Mineola,   Big Sandy, Longview, Marshall, Shreveport/ Bossier CIty

Admonkey
Admonkey

The trains would probably be a boon (by boon, read: six more people a day we didn't account for, previously) in travel from Tyler into Dallas for shopping, but Shreveport? Casino charter bus companies begin bitching and lobbying against the notion in three... two...

LookingBackward
LookingBackward

Looking Backward-

From the Handbook of Texas:

"ELECTRIC INTERURBAN RAILWAYS. The electric interurban industry in Texas totaled nearly 500 miles, the second largest interurban mileage among the states west of the Mississippi River. Most of this mileage was in place by 1913, as the industry grew rapidly during the early 1900s to fill the need for frequent passenger service between urban centers that could not be met by existing steam-railroad service. About 70 percent of the mileage was in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where electric lines connected Fort Worth and Cleburne, Fort Worth and Dallas, and Denison, Dallas, Corsicana, and Waco..."

How much harder is it to do things today...  90% Planning 10% doing.

sheik yerbouti
sheik yerbouti

Texans may plan things the best, but do we follow through with em?

Guest
Guest

Sounds like another excuse to throw up some maps for transit routes that will never exist.

BTS
BTS

That is what the Cotton belt route is suppose to do. Anyone knows where that stands now?

Stick it
Stick it

When Dallas stops wasting mass quantities of water, and starts conserving it, we might listen when you cry for help.

Urbane Planner
Urbane Planner

So who's sucking the life out of Detroit or Buffalo downtowns given the relatively negligible amount of exurbian development in those locales? (hint: exurbia and central business developments are not 'zero sum' existences).

Oldtimer
Oldtimer

"I could see it: Dallas, Mesquite, Forney, Terrell, Wills Point / Edgewood, Grand Saline, Mineola,   Big Sandy, Longview, Marshall, Shreveport/ Bossier CIty "

They had passenger rail along that line from 1873-1967 on into Fort Worth.

pak152
pak152

actually if I were a casino bus line I would increase the number of buses and their frequency 

pak152
pak152

dang lookingbackward beat me to it. I'll just add the 90% planning is a result of government regulation especially environmental regulations. Just look at the recent posting made by Wilonsky concerning the houston st viaduct trolley. it was  environmental studies that  took the most time. in the old days transit companies especially rail were most concerned with finding a route that was easily constructed. for rail that means flat and with few crossings of streams, rivers, valleys etc. they want a fairly flat grade. now those considerations take a back seat to "will it harm the environment?"

Admonkey
Admonkey

When rural counties stop bleeding population and start gaining greater numbers of representatives in the Legislature who could fight us, we might listen when you cry for help.

md
md

And it went away.

dallasmay
dallasmay

So, you don't think that companies should take their impact on the environment as part of their decision making process? Seems kind of like a bad idea to me.

dallasmay
dallasmay

pak,

I didn't mean to like your comment. I have been a part of a similar environmental study and can tell you that there is a lot more to one of those studies than you probably realize. The point of the study is no to put up needless roadblocks, but to find the route that would cause the least impact. Further, these studies aren't just about rabbits and bird patterns, they also take into account how the proposed routes would effect the human environment, like businesses and residential areas. For example, you wouldn't want a large diesel  train barrolling past someones bedroom if you can help it. That's what this is about, finding the least impact for the stakeholders, not to put up a road block. 

pak152
pak152

no some study needs to be done but not to the extent that is currently being done. I used to commute from Fredericksburg Va to DC via the commuter train just north of Quantico there was a single line bridge over a river. they have been trying for over 25 years to make it a double track bridge, but the environmentalist have been blocking the construction for that same amount of time. There will always be an impact on the environment. every time we take a walk, ride a bike or breath we impact the environment. there just needs to be a balance. You can't push for rail travel and then put roadblocks in place to delay or stop it. this is much like the folks who push for wind farms but when it comes time to build one its gets blocked because it will spoil the view, potentially kill migratory birds etc. We want to minimize the impact while not impeding progress or greatly increasing the costdoes that help? 

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