North Texas Senators Beg TxDOT Not to Screw Up This High-Speed Rail Thing

Categories: Transportation

bullettrainnew.jpg
Texas Central Railway
Texas Central Railway's plan, announced almost a year ago now, to build a high-speed rail line linking Houston and North Texas has hit a not altogether unexpected complication: inter-city squabbling over where the bullet train will stop.

In Mobility 2035, its long-term vision for transportation in the region, the North Central Texas Council of Governments envisioned three stations: one in downtown Dallas; one in Arlington or at DFW Airport; and one in Fort Worth. Under the plan, everybody won, and everyone was happy.

Problem is, when it came to funding the environmental impact study needed to move forward, the Texas Department of Transportation decided only to cover the Dallas stop. This upset the delicate regional balance achieved by giving everyone everything and threatened to stoke a rivalry that could slow the project to a crawl.

North Texas' Republican delegation in the state Senate has inserted itself into the argument. Last month, Senators John Carona (Dallas), Ken Paxton (Plano), Jane Nelson (Flower Mound), Bob Deuell (Greenville), and Kelly Hancock (North Richland Hills) sent a joint letter to TxDOT executive director Phil Wilson urging him to split the baby and run the rail line up the State Highway 360 corridor and straight into DFW Airport. Neither Dallas nor Fort Worth would have a station.

"Every city in the DFW Metroplex cannot have direct high-speed rail service - the cost is too great, and connecting every city directly would not be efficient," they write. "In order to receive the greatest return on an investment, an alignment into the Metroplex ... to the A and B terminal area of the DFW International Airport, must be encouraged."

DFW is already a regional hub, they write, channeling an overcaffeinated airport PR team. It has parking, taxis, bus service rental cars, light rail access (almost), "as well as an award-winning, state of the art people-mover system, the Skylink. "Through high-speed rail service, the airport will become the national and international model for an integrated transportation hub for the 21st century - what some have termed an 'aerotropolis.'"

They wax on about the immense benefit of high-speed rail and Texas' bright future as the most populous state in the country and urge TxDOT not to drop the ball. "This decision is a one hundred year decision, and we must get it right." Really, though, they had us at "aerotropolis."


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91 comments
donclark
donclark

They will build suburb to suburb, from south of LBJ Freeway to north or south of Sam Houston Tollway along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks through Teague and Tomball where the trains will go fast, up to 200 mph. They want to build stations with parking and other developments on the land they will buy. They don't want to lose those revenues to DFW airport or either downtowns. Outside of the two stations they aren't interested in buying a lot of land from a lot of land owners, they will be very pleased to buy land for their corridor from one land owner, the BNSF. This is a private enterprise, therefore politicians won't have much say. 

jomcke49
jomcke49

It would make more sense to have the train go directly into Dallas.  People travelling from Houston to Dallas are going to Dallas for reasons other than for flying out of DFW.  If people in Houston want to go to DFW, they can fly there.  I say have the train go to Dallas with conventional rail service from the city to DFW.  I believe too that TX should look at having conventional passenger train service for a start between Dallas and Houston.  The HSR rail will take years to complete.  Conventional rail service could be started in a few weeks since the tracks are already in place and some stations are already there. 

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

It will be going to DFW. I said that last week. Y'all are dreaming if you think it is just going to stop in Dallas because it is convenient for people on that side of the river. Just like Jerry World and Six Flags and the Rangers it will be central.  Run right through the middle straight up north to Grapevine. If Arlington doesn't want in on transportation then f'em. 

Oh and if it costs more to ride the train than it does for the heirs of Herb to fly me down there, will point it out to the kid as we fly by. 

markzero
markzero

Is Southwest Airlines lobbying against this, yet? Anyone remember the Texas TGV Project?

garlandsucks
garlandsucks

This makes way to much sense to be done right....dallas to austin should be done already

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I'm back.  Miss me?  Anyway, I had a thought.  I can't think of one bullet train in Europe that stops at an airport.  They've been doing this high-speed thing for decades and we should pay attention to what works so well for them.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Why would DFW airport want a HSR station there.  That would be directly competing with the airlines for passengers to and from the HSR stops, and you can be sure as shit that AA wont play nice with someone infringing on their revenue. Im not saying everyone that currently flies would now take the train, in fact, if you had to go out to DFW to catch the train, why wouldnt you just fly anyhow, youve already made the trip to the airport.  Let the thing stop at Union and if Ft worth wants to play nice and pay, then send it over there too

anon
anon

I'm pretty torn on this. I prefer train travel over air travel such that given a similar cost and time requirement  I'd take a train every day of the week (I'm talking all in time - the time to get to the airport, check the car into a space, get to the terminal, check my bag, wait in security, board the plane, wait on the tarmac, etc). However, I'd need to be arriving somewhere that I'd want to visit without a car, and that doesn't really exist in Texas or adjacent states, for the most part right now. So fine, drop me off in downtown Austin, but I'm probably going to want a car there, even though it's a pain in the ass to drive in Austin. So unless there is a reasonably priced car rental option wherever you drop me in Austin, who cares.

Unless both your destination and beginning point don't require a car, or are at least easier without one, then the location of the train station doesn't matter in my mind. I know that Texas cities are attempting at developing transportation networks within their sprawl, but we need to figure out where we are going with that. If Dallas is serious about a close-in trolley network that is a viable transportation network in conjunction with DART, TRE, etc, then downtown Dallas could make sense. If we don't really think we're ever going to do much more than DART, then let's just go ahead and put it near DFW and people who want to take trains and planes can just all go park in the same place and then choose their preferred method of transportation. Same thing goes in Austin. As much as there is a love affair with that city, its transportation planning is abysmal. The reason train stations in city centers in other cities make sense is because that's where most people want to go, it's possible though highly inconvenient to drive and park in those places, and they have decent public transit systems within the cities themselves. 

I'm not a defeatist who is saying "it will never work in Texas because we're Texas". I simply want a plan other than "let's build a high speed rail because it seems like it should work". Now clearly, as a Dallas resident who lives 5 minutes from downtown, I'd certainly advocate that we lobby hard for that location because it's closer to me and much more convenient. I just hope we've got a localized transit plan beyond getting high speed rail now now now.

theslowpath
theslowpath

Can we start calling ourselves The Aerotroplex yet?

imagepimp
imagepimp

Why put the damned thing at DFW? Then you have to take 30(+)min to go out to DFW to catch the HSR to Houston. That is kind of self-defeating. Slap a stop at Union Station in Downtown Dallas where all of the regional rail lines have access (TRE, DART, DCTA via DART). Arlington could shut up and join the rest of the region by doing their part and building a freakin' commuter line to connect into Dallas.


WylieH
WylieH

So the compromise entails running the train to Tarrant County? Chalk up another win for Tarrant County political leaders.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

The Acela, which runs from Boston to DC, is what I would call, "High Speed Lite" because of the limitations on speed that the Megalopolis presents with its almost continuous urban tract along the northeast corridor.  But, here in open country that train could really reach its potential. 

donclark
donclark

@jomcke49 They said it will take three years to build once construction starts. They intend to be done by 2020. At the moment they are raising the capital of $10 billion to build HSR using 700N Hitachi bullet trains. The rail line will be mostly electrified single track with a few sidings. 

donclark
donclark

@cactusflinthead BNSF tracks don't go through Arlington or DFW Airport. The idea is to build a Galleria style development around their rail stations and maintenance yard in the suburbs without having to build high speed tracks through a large city which would most likely increase their costs 50 percent. If both cities desire rail links to their stations, they can either build light rail or most likely commuter rail. DART and the T could extend the Trinity River Express down the BNSF tracks to the HSR station in the Southport area in SE Dallas. Otherwise LBJ Freeway and I-45 will suffice. 

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz It is not the airport itself that would drive the location. The drivers are the connections to RR lines to Dallas, Ft. Worth, and shortest route to Plano et al in north PLUS at the population center for the region. Union Station has similar but longer connections and it is at the fringe of the region's population distribution. Somehow DFW became the region's hub. In other places airports are out in the boondocks.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

You know, in the 70s it was a day trip to get from London to Paris, what with getting to Dover on the train, waiting for the hovercraft, crossing the Channel, then waiting for another train to Paris.  Today, the bullet gets you from London to Paris in a little over two hours.

Anon
Anon

@ScottsMerkin, you misunderestimate the airlines. Putting the station at the airport makes the HSR a collector for the airlines, who make little to no profit on short haul flights. How long has AA been trying to sell American Eagle? No one will buy it because it simply is not profitable until you get up to around a 700 mile flight. Connect the airports and suddenly DFW and Houston are the international airports for everyone who lives along the routes. Now San Antonio is quickly and easily connected to the rest of the world via DFW, since San Antonio's airport is not international.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@anon Read LakeWWWooder's post: buses, streetcars, light rail, TRE and Amtrak all lead to... you guessed it, Union Station. You don't need a rent car to get from there. 

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@imagepimp Who is the "you" that has to take 30 minutes.  Someone living in Plano or the Colony?  Addison?  Ideally you would put the the connection at the weighted by population center of potential users.  The computer adds up all the potential legs and finds the shortest total.  I do not know if that point is DFW, but given distribution of typical passenger in the entire Metroplex DFW is closer than Union Station, particularly after Cotton Belt is in place.

I realize how much Downtown Dallas fans would love it to be the connection.  They are looking at what might be, driven by the station.  It is highly unlikely it would undo the distribution of decades of residential and business location decisions.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@imagepimp i have not read up on the most recent news, but I have no idea why the city council decided against doing a 2 year deal with dart to begin the relationship by providing bus service to the TRE form UTA.  Seems stupid that they didnt do this

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@WylieH Tarrant County has never shown much interest in train service or public transportation.  Fort Worth's T is horrible.  Arlington refuses to consider public trans since it will let the "riff-raff" in.  So, in my humble opinion, screw Tarrant.

ruddski
ruddski

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

"But, here in open country that train could really reach its potential."

In what, gov't subsidies?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@AnonMisunderestimate?  what the fuck does that even mean.  They wanted to sell Eagle bc the labor costs for them was the highest in the regional airline industry.  Also it was AMR who chose 50 seater jets which cant be profitable at less than 700 miles.  By bringing 70 seaters to the game now they can fly those routes with fewer jets burning less fuel while transporting the same amount if not more passengers than before.  

Anon
Anon

@casiepierce @anon. Ok. Why spend billions on DART light rail, finally get the Orange Line to DFW, if Ft. Worth can figure out the T connection along the Cotton Belt, and go through all the effort to connect DFW to the region? You are playing with private sector dollars here, not government subsidized transit. The HSR proposed in Texas is privately financed and funded. The fastest way to kill the project is through the plan proposed by the RTC. You will easily spend as much, or more, building the piss-ant run from DTD to Ft. Worth with the stop(s) in between, as from DTD to DTH.

Here is the question: Who benefits the most from a HSR stop in Arlington?

Here is the posted RTC agenda item:

Presenter: Michael Morris, NCTCOG

Item Summary: Recently, a letter was authored and signed by five State Senators stating their preference for high-speed rail service directly to Terminal Areas A and B of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport as the only route serving the North Texas region via the SH 360 corridor. A copy of this letter is provided in Reference Item 7. A joint response letter from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the North Central Texas Council of Governments is anticipated.

Background: Mobility 2035: The Metropolitan Transportation Plan for North Central Texas, as approved by the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) in March 2011, defines high-speed rail service for the North Texas region using the “3 station concept” serving downtown Dallas, Arlington-D/FW Airport, and downtown Fort Worth. TxDOT, working in partnership with North Central Texas Council of Governments staff, has recently initiated two high-speed rail corridor studies that will evaluate all appropriate high-speed rail corridors considering technology options, alignment options, ridership, and capital costs. This includes an evaluation of high-speed rail on the SH 360 corridor.

anon
anon

@casiepierce @anon here we simply disagree about what constitutes an acceptable amount of public transit access, and in this regard Dallas, Austin, Houston are laughable. so you drop me at Union Station but then how do I get around downtown? how do I get to the business corridor that begins at the Galleria and heads north up the tollway? you might say that rail would encourage people to move their businesses back to the core, but more businesses are migrating to Uptown too and despite being fairly close to Union station, it's not the easiest trip. given how little distance it covers, there really isn't a the two bus terminals are not within reasonable walking distance of Union station either. are people afraid to admit that Dallas has a really horrible public transit system and limited plans that will bring it the status of mediocre at best? 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@casiepierce you missed the point of his post, you have to have that on both ends of the trip

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

There is no density at DFW Airport. In fact, nobody lives there. Downtown and Uptown have the density and going forward, that will only increase with high rises going up near the Trinity and Design District along with Ross/Fitzhugh/Henderson/Live Oak/Gaston/Deep Ellum redevelopments. All DART rail, trolly and streetcar lines lead to Union Station - already built BTW. 

imagepimp
imagepimp

@MikeWestEast @imagepimp I live in Oak Cliff, Mike. That's a little closer in to the central core than Addison, Plano, "the Colony,"etc., last time I checked. From my house, driving to a DFW HSR station would take at least 20min: generally that drive is lot longer for me because of traffic (35+ min?) which is why I typically fly Southwest. The "all transit" option for me would be taking the Red Line to Downtown (about 20min), connect to the Orange Line and take that to DFW (will be greater than 45min when the line is complete) and then jump on the HSR to Houston. I am not against doing this, but again, from a time standpoint, you're starting to lose the advantage over flights of HSR for medium-distance trips. I think the smartest option is to have stations in Fort Worth (T&P) and Downtown Dallas. If Arlington wants in, they should put some freakin' skins in the game and build a transit system that connects them to the rest of the region. Again, all of the existing train lines converge directly on Union Station or have access to it by way of connection to DART. Currently, only the Orange Line will be hitting DFW directly, and assuming Fort Worth doesn't play ball (http://tinyurl.com/b4lc44f) , the Cotton Belt may be even farther off than HSR. In reality, I won't hold my breath for too long on either one. And now, back to work.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin @imagepimp I'm under the impression it's all about taxes.  Jerry World got the sales tax hike, and DART took a hike.  Further, all those parking spots and the land they sit on would be worth less with mass transit.  As one who makes a couple of Cowboy games a year, and with access to prime tailgating parking tickets, I'd rather ride the train.  Though, I gotta credit Arlington, traffic works better there than it did at Texas Stadjium.  TX Stadjium had the what you'd think was ideal access (if cars are your sole transport option)

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@casiepierce very true Im not against this it all, but the way this state works, we would build a HSR, then have it stop not by a major transit center but somewhere on the outskirts of the city and then promise that the HSR would spur economic development of said under utilized area.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@ScottsMerkin @casiepierce Sorry, I didn't see anywhere in this article where it stated where, in Houston, the terminal would be. But the Megabus drops you right at one of their transit centers.

anon
anon

@scottindallas yes, I am aware of the current plans. but he said "already built" in reference to things which are planned but not built

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@anon @LakeWWWooder there will be, and another DART line through Downtown.  There IS no bullet train either.  DART and streetcars are much easier and cheaper to build.

anon
anon

@LakeWWWooder there is no streetcar built connecting to Union station. I agree with your point about density and downtown Dallas making the most sense in general (and very much more convenient to me). My point was simply that I'd rather have high speed rail that goes to DFW over no HSR at all in Dallas area and Texas. 

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@imagepimp @MikeWestEast I live in core also. My point was the right answer depends on where you live. If you have one station for 10 million people, you have to find the best spot for most efficient and shortest paths for the 10 million. Someone recently did a study that compared the commutes of everyone in DFW by looking at paystubs, names removed, to determine residence and work location plus something with cell phone records. They found some very interesting info on traffic patterns. Do the same thing with residences and nodes on DART lines using long distance traveling public, probably air travel records. Maybe Union Station is the best spot when you try to minimize the time spent for the 10 million. The application would give a definitive answer. The needs of the many outweigh the few.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@imagepimp @scottindallas yes the problem is pre Jerry, but this latest option didnt involve sales tax, it involved large payments from Arlington to Dart for the 2 year pilot program

imagepimp
imagepimp

@scottindallas @ScottsMerkin @imagepimp Arlington was shooting down transit long before Jerr-rah came sniffing, although you are right in that they are completely tied up with the Death Star in sales taxes (I think they have a half-cent sales tax available for throwin' around money).

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Montemalone @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz rhetorical question I know, its fun to pick on arlington, but actually 76016 down by the lake and Interlochen are both nicer and also just north of green oaks  in the northeast corner of a town is nice too., a hidden paradise of sorts, with lambos ferrari's a bentley or 2 and various other nice rides and LARGE homes and yes, very little crime as well.  Also the New Veridian development is sweet

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @ScottsMerkin thats funny, I live over there and anyone who has been to arlington knows that riff raff ran over that town long ago.  Yeah they cleaned them out of the "Fun" District when Jerry World was built, but all that did was send them farther north and west into the nicer parts of arlington

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@casiepierce @scottindallas @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @WylieH In the 70's they annexed the entire Trinity River valley all the way to Downtown for Irving.  The Courts had to throw that out, just cause it was too clever a move, he had to invent a new justification.  That's sharp.  Getting the benefits of DFW from Dallas was clever too.

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