April 13, 2009
2009 APTA - TRB Light Rail Conference Issue
|APTA-TRB LIGHT RAIL CONFERENCE
DART Rail: Transforming North Texas by the Numbers
By GARY THOMAS, President/Executive Director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and APTA Vice Chair-Rail Transit
The numbers are daunting. For the second year in a row, the region that is home to Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has added more people–147,000–than any other metro area of the United States.
When combined with the new residents who have arrived here since 2000, we’ve added the population of Buffalo, or Salt Lake City, or Raleigh to our region. We are the fourth largest metro area in the country.
Impressive as it is, that growth is not helping North Texas commuters who already spend 61 hours a year stuck in traffic. It’s a big problem requiring a big solution—and we’re building it today.
By 2013, DART will double the size of its light rail system to more than 90 miles as it expands to the southeast, northwest, east, and west simultaneously. DART has 42 miles of light rail now under construction. We’re scheduled to add a second rail alignment through downtown Dallas between 2014 and 2016 and a southern extension by 2018. We’ll complete another round of east-west rail expansion by 2030.
Additional rail projects by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, our partners on the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) commuter line, and the Denton County Transportation Authority are in development as well.
Record Ridership on Current System
DART celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008, posting record ridership of more than 116.8 million passenger trips on its growing network of buses, trains, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, paratransit services, and vanpools. Record gasoline prices without a doubt played a significant role in the increase, but a safe, reliable, and affordable travel option has kept people on board.
This past February, for example, reported average weekday light rail ridership up 5 percent over February 2008. That’s in spite of regional gasoline prices that are nearly 40 percent lower than last year.
Discretionary riders have discovered that our existing 45-mile light rail system meshes seamlessly with our bus system and the TRE. Bus, light rail, and paratransit cover a 13-city, 700-square-mile area. The TRE connects us with the T and the cities it serves. We also operate a growing 75-mile network of HOV lanes. All in all, we deliver about 400,000 passenger trips daily.
New converts to transit are also discovering that DART makes great destinations accessible. We’ve become home to model transit-oriented development (TOD) projects like Mockingbird Station. Private investments in existing, planned, and projected TOD total more than $7 billion, providing locations along the light rail corridors as people seek new ways and new places to live, work, and play.
DART Rail Doubling
The Green Line will crisscross Dallas from southeast to northwest and connect the cities of Farmers Branch and Carrollton along a 28-mile, 20-station corridor. The first three-mile, five-station section of the line, opening this Sept. 14, will extend from the east side of downtown. It will restore rail service to a neighborhood that, 50 years ago, was home to up to four rail lines.
Major destinations include Fair Park, home to the nation’s largest state fair, which hosts millions of people from around the world each fall, and Baylor University Medical Center, internationally recognized for clinical services and a major regional employment and education destination.
The remaining 25 miles and 15 stations of the Green Line, scheduled to open in December 2010, will extend southeast and northwest from that initial section, connecting major entertainment destinations, the Dallas Market Center, the Southwestern Medical District, and Love Field Airport.
Economic impact is again a major benefit. Farmers Branch and Carrollton have substantial TOD projects underway. The Southwestern Medical District northwest of downtown Dallas is also the focal point of massive TOD projects and will be the site of rail service to 20,000 employees, 4,000 students, and more than 1.5 million patient visits each year.
Green Line construction began in the summer of 2006, following the award of a $700 million Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration.
Construction is also underway on the first nine miles of a new Orange Line that will branch from the Green Line in northwest Dallas to serve the city of Irving in 2011. The line will extend to DFW International Airport by 2013. We’re also building an extension of our Blue Line from Garland to the city of Rowlett, scheduled to open in 2012.
These lines are earning national attention as well. The Orange Line is among the first projects slated to receive funds—more than $61 million—under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
We’re confident these projects will deliver a big ridership impact as well. Altogether, the extensions are expected to add 60,000 weekday passenger trips, essentially doubling ridership on the DART Rail System.