Never Try to Take Public Transit to DFW Transportation King Michael Morris' House

Categories: Transportation

MichaelMorrisHouse.jpg
Michael Morris' Arlington home.
Michael Morris, as Schutze mentioned this morning, is arguably the most important man in local transportation. As transportation director for the obscure but powerful North Central Texas Council of Governments, he has an outsize say in how transportation dollars get divvied up across 16 counties and, by extension, which ideas get built (e.g. the Trinity River Toll Road) and which ideas languish (e.g. tearing down I-345). He's often criticized, by urban types who worry that downtown Dallas is being choked by a noose of highways, for prioritizing car travel at the expense of quality of life, of getting vehicles from here to Cleburne as efficiently as possible, pedestrians and bicyclists be damned. Yesterday, as an experiment, we decided to visit Morris' home using only a 2003ish Gary Fisher Tassajara mountain bike and public transportation.

11:03 a.m.: Morris' official NCTCOG bio says he lives in Arlington, a.k.a. the largest city in America without a public transit system (no, its lone bus route doesn't count). Bad sign. Worse sign: when I plug in his address, identified through voter registration records and confirmed by a search of licensed Texas engineers, which tells me his middle name is Richard, all Google's recommended public transit routes end with a six-mile drive.

11:20 a.m.: I down a couple of cups of water, hydrating against the August heat, and leave our Oak Lawn office, taking the Katy Trail to Victory Station to pick up the Trinity Railway Express.

11:29 a.m.: A man tells me I've just missed the train to Fort Worth. His wife, or maybe girlfriend, is doubled over on one of the benches, sleeping? Ill? Hard to say.

11:50 a.m.: A woman, a bus driver for the Denton County Transit Authority en route to visit her grandson, asks when the next train's coming. She has to shout over the deafening rumble of a slow-moving freight train passing five feet in front of us. I check my phone. 12:25. "MAYBE MORE PEOPLE WOULD RIDE IT IF IT CAME MORE OFTEN." Clearly unfamiliar with Victory Park, she sets off in search of food. She says she'll be back in time for the train, but I wonder.

12:07 p.m.: It's been 37 minutes, e.g. the exact amount of time Google tells me it would take to drive to Michael Morris' house. Shut up Google.

VictorySTation.jpg

12:13 p.m.: Pretty sure that guy on the right was clean-shaven and freshly bathed when he got here.

12:24 p.m.: Train's here. My bus-driver friend returns in the nick of time. She seems happier. She gave up on finding food, she explains, and just had a beer. Solid choice.

12:56 p.m.: Somewhere in the Mid-Cities. If I were taking the Arlington Max, I would get off at Centreport Station, but Morris lives in the far southwestern corner of Arlington, not even close the Max, which is why I'm headed for downtown Fort Worth. Google tells me I'd be halfway to Abilene by now. God, I'm glad I'm not going to Abilene.

1:17 p.m.: The Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center is a maze of buses, but route 9 is nowhere to be found. I finally find a timetable, which tells me that route 9 is in Bay M, which I spot on the opposite end of the parking lot. A security guard in a golf cart catches up to me as I'm putting my bike on the bus to yell at me for riding in the bus depot. I signal OK but am secretly glad to have broken the rules since the bus pulls away as soon as I'm on board. On foot, I would've missed it, and the next bus wasn't scheduled to come for another hour.

1:34 p.m.: Dwaine Caraway's anti-sagging crusade is in a lull, but the Fort Worth Transportation Authority has caught on. It has an ad on either side of the bus: "Grandma says: Pull 'em up." Another ad, for a used car dealership, shows a close-up of a perky college-age girl beaming from behind the wheel of her new ride. The make and model of the car are unimportant and aren't shown. What's important is that riding the bus is terrible.

1:37 p.m.: There's a teenage boy in the median holding the disembodied head of a parrot pinata. A passerby tosses a handful of change into the hollow skull.

1:46 p.m.: This is worrisome. Three times now the bus engine has cut out as we've pulled to a stop sign. The driver turns the engine once, twice, then it catches. I wonder, and not for the first time, whether this journey wasn't a terrible idea, but it's too late to turn back.

2:08 p.m.: For 10 minutes, the bus has been navigating a junked-out industrial area just off Loop 820. Finally it pulls to my designated stop, a bus shelter in front of the Fort Worth District Parole Office. Three passengers get off the bus. I'm the only one not on parole.

2:09 p.m.: Shit. I notice for the first time that Google's bicycling directions from here are in beta, and say to proceed with caution. Good idea that a solid chunk of my route is on the 820 service road.

2:13 p.m.:

Dear Megan,

I know I haven't always been the best husband, but I hope that you'll forgive me and remember me fondly for the boys.

This mountain bike, should it somehow escape this journey in one piece, should go to Connor. Wesley can have the Kona in the garage when he's of age.

I'm sorry I ever embarked upon this godforsaken journey.

Yours forever,
Eric

KennedaleRoundabout.jpg

2:35 p.m.: So this is where Kennedale is. It's nice, in an exurban, Sunnyvale kind of way. The roundabouts are a nice touch.

2:41 p.m.: Just 3 hours, 21 minutes into my journey, and I'm already in Arlington!

2:43 p.m.: Hey Michael Morris, isn't your agency talking up how much better DFW air quality is this year? Then why are my lungs burning?

MichaelMorrisLicensePlate.jpg

3:03 p.m.: Here we are at Burning Springs Court. I was worried, when I realized that my phone had turned off, that I wouldn't remember Morris' address. Luckily, the custom "IH35" plates on the Volvo are a dead giveaway. Success! Good feelings are mitigated, however, once I realize that my prediction that I'd be back in downtown Dallas with plenty of time to pick the kids up from preschool by the 6 p.m. cutoff was wildly optimistic. No time to lose.

3:20 p.m.: The good thing about riding on the I-20 service road is that the shoulder's wide. The downside, or one of them anyways, is that it's strewn with debris, including jagged little nuggets of glass. Six months I've been riding Dallas streets without a flat, but I still know the telltale pffffffft of a deflating tire. I thrust out my thumb to a half dozen pickups before giving up. It's two miles and change to the bus stop. I'll just have to hoof it.

4:09 p.m.: Good news: I made it back to the parole office just in time to catch the bus. Bad news: It's the same bus, and it's still having trouble keeping its engine on.

4:10 p.m.:

Dear Megan,

I'm alive but am afraid I won't be able to pick up the kids. Please don't kill me.

Love,
Eric

THeTUsedCarAd.jpg

4:45 p.m.: This bus is too crappy to make it downtown. We abandon it in front of a Fiesta and hop on another bus, which is plastered with the same perky used-car girl smiling down, as if to mock us.

5:16 p.m.: Back on the TRE. Over the weekend I finished reading The Power Broker, Robert Caro's masterful account of how Robert Moses, an unelected bureaucrat, kept a four-decade stranglehold on public works in New York City. This morning, I plucked Dickens' Bleak House from the shelf. That should cheer me up.

6:02 p.m.: Victory Station. I would get off and make the round trip back to the office, but no. I'll just add 10 minutes and do the math in my head: 6 hours and 42 minutes. Damn you, Michael Morris.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

My Voice Nation Help
83 comments
Jeanette
Jeanette

This is why Michael Morris just drives to his house. 


jhnnyblze
jhnnyblze

This is why we need Lyft and the soon to come Lyft Line!  Google it.  I'll even give you a free ride on me. ;)  Use code JOHN6766

andypandy
andypandy

Pretty much living at T&P station in Fort Worth I sometimes enjoy a 2.5 hour bicycle TRE and Dart commute to where I work in the god forsaken suburbs of Carrollton.  One thing I've never understood when I hop off the Green Line to make the final 8.5-9 mile ride to my final destination is why the Dart has so many stops as far from major business areas and built up residential areas as possible?  The station I typically start my ride from is located near a water treatment plant next to nothing--its as though they built it so people would have to commute (by car) to use the commuter service which is ass backwards from how it should be.  By the way if I were to take the bus from the stop to finish my commute I would add an additional hour to the 2.5 hours each way and still have to walk a mile and a half to reach my destination.

trublutopaz
trublutopaz

You have just illustrated why Texans are loathe to gravitate to mass transit. It is one thing to have an urban center complete with grocery, drug and mid range clothing stores where you can hop a bus and have all your errands done in minutes. The spread out nature of western cities makes mass transit only livable as long as you stay in the one city where you live. God help you if you should work far away from where you live. But that is a topic for another article. Try finding affordable rental properties that are not in some of the most dangerous real estate around. I hope you made it back okay. Riding bikes along highways is a dangerous way to spend your time.

MikeDunlap
MikeDunlap

This is awesome. Bravo.

Michael Morris DGAF about Dallas.

dingo
dingo

Clay Jenkins has protesters out in front of his house and the press respectfully refrains from publishing specifics on the location other than somewhere in the Park Cities.


Urbane hipster gets twisted up over a disagreeable regional planner's sentiments and we get specific address, house pictures, and vehicle including license plate closeup as part of some perverse irony piece in retribution.


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

That 240 is (by my estimation) about an 1982 model. While I certainly won't criticize a person for being frugal, I had one of those Volvos back in the day. Sturdy, solid vehicles...

But hell, those cars had one of the worst air conditioning units ever put in a modern car. They could barely cool the air in the fall and spring, forgetabout getting any cool (much less cold) air in the Texas summer.

Anyone who is that daft to keep one of those cars and suffer thru the heat of our summers for 30 years, every single summer day!, is not sharp enough to manage an important agency such as Transportation at NTCoG IMHO.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

"But the city has tried and failed for decades to get any sort of regular transit funding approved. In 1980, voters rejected the idea of joining a regional transit authority with its neighboring cities. Five years later, residents defeated a half-cent transit sales tax despite support from a variety of local officials and institutions. In 2002, the city finally thought it had enough momentum to pass a transit plan — pre-polling suggested 80 percent in favor — only to lose that badly, too.

The message from voters was clear, even as their reasoning remained suspect. Arlington's transit opponents have argued that the city is too small for a full system, that any service would merely subsidize low-income residents, and that an unwanted demographic would move into town. One leading adversary has made no bones about his fear that transit will attract the "welfare class." ---The Atlantic, citylab.com

WylieH
WylieH

Imagine the incredible hurdles that a lower income person faces in Dallas, trying to just live day-to-day?  How do you ever find time to care for a family, improve yourself through education, etc. when you have to spend so much time per day relying on inadequate public transit and streets not designed to accommodate people?

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

You should do a story on the extra revenue that NorthPark has gained with the opening of the Park train station.

don.abbott
don.abbott

Can't we all just get along? Umm, in a car, of course.  This hyper-critical approach to our region's wildly-efficient mass transit is lemon juice in a paper cut.  After all, it only took 40 years to get mass transit to the wildly-inconvenient international airport.

EricCeleste
EricCeleste

This is wonderful. Thank you for your service. 

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I have to agree with the statement of bring a bike repair kit. My mountain bike has one in a pouch under the seat.

KatieD
KatieD

I've tried public transport in Dallas, around Dallas and between cities.  It's abysmal.  I don't understand why these types keep making 6-figure salaries.  I'm sticking with my car until I move to a real city.

andypandy
andypandy

@Jeanette  I don't know, his cars at home by 3--gotta feeling he's the type of lucky bastard who gets to e-commute/work from home instead of actually dealing with the mess he helped to create and is supposed to alleviate.

Benjam
Benjam

Maybe because they're trying to be good stewards of the public's money and that is where the existing railroad right of way was?

jhnnyblze
jhnnyblze

@andypandy The reason some of those stations are in the middle of nowhere is because most of the North Dallas neighborhoods and cities fought as hard to keep the stations away from their houses as if they were strip clubs.  


wilme2
wilme2

@dingo I think you have an outdated sense of privacy that is not realistic in the 21st Century.  Just knowing his name and that he lives in Arlington, I can go to the Tarrant County tax-assessor's website and pull his full address and the value of his home - assuming he owns his house, which he does.  Granted there are two other people with similar names, but easy to google details about a public figure to confirm spouse or middle name...

WylieH
WylieH

@dingo The people getting "twisted up" over billions of dollars in urban infrastructure dollars that have been wasted and misspent represent a cross-section of some of the City's most educated and forward thinking elected officials, business people and urban planners. 

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@mavdog Strangely enough, I spent about 15 years of my life driving vehicles without AC here in Dallas. You just learn to do things like make sure to bring lots of water with you.

Besides, who says that is his only vehicle.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz I lived in Arlington for 5 years. I have bad news for those people. Arlington already has that element. They just drive junk cars and carry no liability insurance. Those people afraid of that "element" just never go into the areas of Arlington that the poor people live in.

Benjam
Benjam

DART's 85 mile light rail system is actually the largest IN THE COUNTRY, so for you to say it is "inadequate" is laughable!

trublutopaz
trublutopaz

@WylieH My son and daughter in law moved back into Dallas, although it's costing them a pretty penny given rental rates now, because even the Express Bus from Plano to downtown Dallas took over an hour. And that doesn't even begin to express how the bus driver on my daughter in law's route would sometimes leave precipitously even when she was two steps away from the door. The absolutely rudeness of the DART bus drivers is legendary. I will never forget getting a call at eleven at night after a DART driver dropped off my 15 year old son and his friend in East Dallas without any sort of directions or offer of assistance. And by the way, it's almost impossible to find a phone number to lodge a complaint against a driver of a DART bus.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@KatieD I'm sticking to my car and not moving to a "real city"   Tried the North East "real city" thing for a year and did not care for it.


andypandy
andypandy

@Benjam  That kind of makes them bad stewards since they ended up still spending millions but created something not usable for its intended purpose.

inarchetype
inarchetype

@jhnnyblze @andypandy  True.  And not just North Dallas. That's why there is a dug out station under Knox/Henderson and 75 that was never built out, and an unusually long stretch between Citiplace and Mockingbird stations.

andypandy
andypandy

@jhnnyblze @andypandy  I believe you--Atlanta had a similar problem when they expanded MARTA into Alpharetta (people called it the nanny line)-- however few poor people have the time or 5 dollars to waste to ride light rail for an hour in order to walk a mile or more to some rich folks house and then slowly make their way back home aboard a train that may have a cop on it. 

dingo
dingo

@WylieH 

Are they all agreeable with exposing the personal details of a political foe as a tactic towards their own ends?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Tim.Covington 

15 years? my sympathy.

You can bring all the water you care to muster, but it

  • won't be cold for very long, it too will become quite hot,
  • won't cool you off when it does become quite hot,
  • will not prevent you from ending up being quite hot yourself, and
  • even with bringing water you and your clothes will end up with a certain "air" about them, if you know what I mean.

If you are willing to accept the foregoing more power to you. Just hope I don't end up behind you in a line somewhere after you spent a day in one of those hot boxes. hot, bothered and smelly...quite the trifecta.

kduble
kduble

@Benjam  The reason it's the largest in the country is because other big cities, like Atlanta and DC, made the investment in 79 mph heavy rail with dedicated ROW the entire route, rather than our 65 mph LRT. The shortcomings of LRT become clear when there are mega events, like TX-OU, or anytime there's an ice storm, for that matter.

kduble
kduble

@trublutopaz Some of them are mean. Then again, some of them are really nice. That's the problem, I suppose. It's a crap shoot.

Benjam
Benjam

@andypandy @Benjam  Says you! I know kids that are able to go to Arts Magnet & potentially change their entire future on this earth BECAUSE OF DART.

Benjam
Benjam

@kduble @Benjam  No Ken, it's because DART had the foresight to make a package deal w. SP (now UP) when they had the chance to buy up all the excess right of way. This investment in the future has proven to be beneficial to Denton County as well as Dallas & maybe McKinney, but who really cares about what you think! Your complaint about one bad TX/OU game experience sounds like the people who expect there to be no traffic jam on 4th of July after the fireworks end & everyone wants to leave at the same time!

andypandy
andypandy

@Benjam @andypandy  You're right, and when I ride the TRE and Dart sometimes I see Veterans and people in wheel chairs getting off or on at the Medical Center Station--if it wasn't for the train they would have substantially more accessibility problems however if the DART was designed to be a reasonable option for a wide cross section of commuters implemented to relieve congestion and provide an convenient alternative to driving then they missed their mark.  I ride the TRE and DART but it is not my only means of transportation and it could never replace my car even when I lived in Down Town Dallas a few blocks from a DART rail station.

kduble
kduble

@Benjam We're talking about two different things. You're talking about ROW acquisition, and I'm talking about the decision in 1998 to abandon a more ambitious commuter rail network in favor of a slower, less ambitious but also less costly commuter rail for LRT. The same ROW would have been used either way.


In 1988, the voters said no to bonds and opted for the pay-as-you go system we now have. That's why the stations are several blocks away from major stops like NorthPark and Love Field. Once they opted for an at-grade system, there were real limitations to what they could afford, and the system gets paralyzed by icing in a way that third-rail systems aren't.

Benjam
Benjam

@andypandy  What is your definition for a "wide cross section of commuters"?

Benjam
Benjam

@kduble @Benjam  Wrong again Ken! The stations are where they are because that's where the rail lines were! Of course if they ran directly to NorthPark or Love Field they would cost more but that was never in the plans & had nothing to do w. "pay as you go". The pay as you go election forced DART to build a 20 mile starter system:

"DART's last attempt to finance projects through a 1988 election was defeated. The $1 billion proposal was voted down by 58 percent of overall voters and 70 percent of suburban voters.The agency used short-term borrowing and federal money to build a 20-mile, light-rail starter system and 10 miles of commuter rail to Irving. An additional 23.5 miles of light rail to Richardson, Garland and Plano are scheduled to open in 2002-3, and commuter trains will reach Fort Worth by mid-2001."

A 3rd Rail system is actually cheaper & slower than an overhead catenary system :

"Because of mechanical limitations on the contact to the third rail, trains that use this method of power supply achieve lower speeds than those using overhead electric wires and a pantograph"


"Third-rail systems are cheaper to install than overhead wire contact systems, as no structures for carrying the overhead contact wires are required, and there is no need to reconstruct overbridges or tunnels to provide clearances."

DOESN'T THAT MAKE SENSE?



andypandy
andypandy

@Benjam @andypandy  a representative sample of the people who commute in Dallas--if it were to in some way be graphed upon a bell curve the center 80% disregarding the outliers in the two tails.  Basically average folks and not just people who have to make it work, idiots like myself who enjoy the adventure, and intrepid do-gooders.

kduble
kduble

@Benjam  Cityplace and the Lancaster Avenue stations aren't located where they are because of freight ROW. When DART opted for the less costly above-ground system, cost constraints dictated stops along the freight ROW. But, under the original plan, the downtown line would have been underground, so there would have been no such constraints.


I don't know what you've been smoking, but there's no way heavy rail is cheaper than light rail. The coaches are heavier, the trains are longer -- the carry hundreds of people -- and they operate up to 79 mph in the U.S. The TRE is heavy rail, but it's diesel. Such trains need to be electric to operate underground.


The switch to LRT after the 1988 defeat was done to save money because the voters didn't authorize DART to borrow long-term. They wouldn't have switched to a more expensive system when forced to cut!


In summary, the heavy-rail systems in Chicago, Atlanta, D.C. and the cities of the northeast carry more people, and they're faster and more reliable than the LRT system DART settled on when its ambitions were scaled back. This is why we're more challenged by icing and big events.

Benjam
Benjam

@andypandy  I would guess that DART goes within 1 mile of every single job in the DART service area, how's that?

Benjam
Benjam

I would guess that DART reaches 80% of most employment centers, but 80% of every home in the metroplex is unrealistic!

Benjam
Benjam

How about rather than having me refute every point you just made you prove your point that A SUBWAY was ever really an option to anyone at DART besides as a "2nd Line" . I admit I was somewhat confused because you used ambiguous terms like commuter LRT & commuter rail but I think most of the people on this blog realize I was QUOTING because of my use of QUOTATION MARKS to indicate I COPIED IT FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE. Just because DART splits their Railroad Department into Commuter rail housed in Union Station & Light Rail housed @ 1401 Pacific you should!

andypandy
andypandy

@Benjam  What is your definition of "employment centers" and is the 80% in regards to the percentage of people who work there out of the metroplex or in regards to "employment centers" as a whole? 

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