After Three-Year Delay, DART Resumes Study for Second Downtown Light Rail Line

Categories: Transportation

DARTSecondLineAlternatives.gif
For years, DART's been planning to stick a second rail line downtown, the better to handle the convergence of what is now four separate rail lines. A three-year study was completed back in 2010, and the list of possible routes was whittled down to four alternatives, all traveling through Victory Park and past the Perot Museum en route to the Deep Ellum Station, but each with a different way of making the link.

Since then, there have been a few potential game changers. The downtown-to-Oak Cliff streetcar line was funded and is now being built. The city didn't really like that its preferred option, a line passing by the Omni, was not given greater priority. And, most important, the recession meant that DART had to indefinitely delay plans, pushing back the expected opening to at least 2030.

And so things have stood, more or less motionless, for more than two years. But that's about to change. DART announced today that it will host a public meeting next Wednesday at its Pacific Avenue headquarters to discuss the second light rail line and its potential routes.

The February 13 meeting, which lasts from 6 - 8 p.m., with a 5 o'clock open house, is part of a second study phase paid for by a $700,000 federal grant. The idea this time is the same as it was last time: Come up with a preferred route that can then be built.

Actual construction is still a distant glimmer but, for the first time in three years, there is movement on the second downtown light rail line

One would stay on Commerce, passing by Main Street Garden and the future UNT-Dallas Law School; another would pass down Young Street, providing access to the Farmers Market; a third would run down Marilla, past City Hall and the library; and the fourth, least direct route would do the same, albeit with a stop at the Convention Center Hotel.

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27 comments
MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

Nothing has changed except a bureaucrat decided to give $700k of borrowed money to some consultants to generate one more report that will sit on a stack of similar reports. I like and use Light Rail, but I also understand financial reality. We cannot really afford to send an aircraft carrier on deployment, but we expect to get hundreds of millions to lay more track right next to existing track for a service that only 4 per cent of Dallas uses? What is wrong with this picture?

blowmetone
blowmetone

Do they come up with these schemes by playing Sim City? 

BushwoodSmithie
BushwoodSmithie

"...en route to the Deep Ellum Station."

Actually none of the proposed routes go to the Deep Ellum station -- which isn't even in Deep Ellum.


ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

It makes too much sense to run it down commerce underground so that will be the first one tossed out.  So we will end up with a stupid line over to the convention center that goes as far away as possible from where people actually want to be taken too

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

We'll have carbon dioxide powered flying cars  before the consultants get through with this boondoggle.

elbuenonobueno
elbuenonobueno

Why not just extend the oak cliff street car line down Young instead of this?

downtownworker
downtownworker

I hope the city quits insisting on an Omni hotel stop now that the streetcar extension is a done deal. 

smithjosh
smithjosh

Light rail is a tremendous waste of money.  The passenger-mile cost of rail is insane compared to just buying a bus and striping a highway as HOV+Toll.  Rail is not only subsidized by taxpayers, but also the people who pay fares on buses.  It's expensive to build and maintain and nearly impossible to adapt to changing conditions.  Just because the retards in DC are passing out other people's money to build rail projects doesn't mean it's a good deal.  

MikeDunlap
MikeDunlap

@ScottsMerkin How much would creating a subway system under Commerce cost?  How much would an above ground light rail track a little farther south cost?

Marilla to Commerce is 0.3 miles.  That is half the distance East Village residents walk to their train stations on Lexington Avenue.  

The distance difference between Marilla and Commerce being a big deal is the type thing one would expect in a region near the epicenter of a staggering obesity epidemic.

WylieH
WylieH

@downtownworker Especially since it is very easy to access the existing Convention Center station via an all-weather, enclosed connection from the hotel (to say nothing of the fact that rerouting the line to serve the Omni would cost over $300 million extra and be likely to attract not more than a handful of riders each day).

ahblid
ahblid

@smithjosh,

Actually, No!

According to the data from the National Transit Database, in 2011 it cost DART 77 cents per passenger mile to move people on light rail.  It cost DART $1.49 to move people using buses.  And bus riders only managed to cover 13% of their costs, so they're not helping to subsidize light rail as they're not even covering their own costs.


MattL11
MattL11

@WylieH @downtownworker I was going to say, don't we already have a station that services the Convention Center? Seems absurd to go out of our way to send trains there when we already HAVE two lines that go there.

smithjosh
smithjosh

@downtownworker @smithjosh My solution?  It's buses on roads and HOT lanes on the freeways.  But that wasn't the point of my comment.  It was that light rail is a waste of money.  It's a hole for politicians to pour money into; it is not an economical way to move people around cities.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

@icowrich Come on now. You can't just lay tracks in any old tunnel and expect it to work. That's Aggie engineering at its finest.

WylieH
WylieH

@MattL11 @WylieH @downtownworker Yes.  The best solution is simply to rename the existing DART station from "Convention Center" to "Hotel/Convention Center" since, in fact, a DART rail train already stops there.  Of course, some extra signage needs to be posted to explain to people in the hotel how to access the existing station, but that would be much cheaper than $300+ million in excess costs from moving the line out of the core of downtown.

The real reason may be that people in City Hall want their own station-- only the Omni Hotel routing gives City Hall its own, personal stop.  If the choice comes down to providing a quicker, cheaper more direct route through downtown that serves downtown or re-routing the line on a longer, out-of-the-way journey to stop at City Hall for a handful of  bureaucrats, guess the bureaucrats will win.

One thing Mary Suhm will have to explain however, is why it is okay to route a DART rail tunnel and station directly under City Hall when she has recently finished sealing off the parking garage from outsiders using the excuse of security (and is getting ready to do the same with much of City Hall, itself).  I'm sure she'll come up with a good excuse-- but it will be fun to see what she says if anyone asks her.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

@smithjosh Have you seen our HOV lanes? That's no solution either. They're just passing lanes for impatient assholes.

drtz
drtz

@smithjosh @drtz @downtownworker 

Oops hit submit too soon...

I'm not trying to have a bus vs. rail debate.  Both have their place in transportation.

Buses are wonderfully efficient but without dedicated right-of-way they can't move the quantity of people possible with rail and unfortunately that's pretty much politically impossible.

drtz
drtz

@smithjosh @drtz @downtownworker


Cost per mile is what we intuitively go to, but cost per trip is what actually matters for cost comparisons.  Obviously a 50-mile commute at $1/mile isn't near as economical as a 1-mile commute at $20/mile.

smithjosh
smithjosh

@drtz @smithjosh @downtownworker Rail is constrained by train length and platform size.  It will never bee as economical as buses even "dense populations".  It's public transportation?  Can you even explain how that's "apple and oranges" or are you just saying that because you can't defend the cost-per-passenger mile for rail?

drtz
drtz

@smithjosh @downtownworker 

You're comparing apples to oranges.  Rail can be cheaper as its able to support a much denser population, which would lead to shorter commutes.  This is obviously never going to happen as long the rail is built to parallel the ever-expanding highway infrastructure.

Network expansion at the center of the city (downtown, uptown, east dallas) is the best move DART could make, in my opinion.

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