DUNCANVILLE—The culture in North Texas is that every person owns a car. For years that might have been a good idea. That is, until the Dallas sprawl kept growing and growing. It now easily reaches 30 miles in each direction from one end of the metroplex to the other.
This growth also means traffic gridlock most days of the week.
Unless you come from a city up north like, New York, Chicago or even San Francisco, public transportation may not be foremost on your mind. Even so, it has been an evolving issue in the North Texas region for at least the past 30 years.
The DART Era
While it is an issue that many people in the area might not have been paying attention to because they own a car, Dallas County officials have planned for future growth. In 1983, 14 cities, including Dallas, approved a one cent sales tax with 58 percent of the vote spurring the creation of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART).
The original founding member cities are all mostly still intact save for Coppell and Flower Mound, which both left DART in the late 1980s by voter choice. Current cites that are a part of DART include Addison, Carrollton, Cockrell Hill, Dallas, Farmers Branch, Garland, Glenn Heights, Highland Park, Irving, Plano, Richardson, Rowlett and University Park. The cities that declined DART in 1983 included Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Grand Prairie, Lancaster, Mesquite, The Colony and Wilmer. These cities remain eligible to join DART if they so choose.
Daily commuters traveling north from southern suburbs know all to well the woes of a local DART light rail system that is noticeably missing. This also means the limited availability of DART services available in the Best Southwest area are just not enough anymore.
Duncanville To Host Public Transportation Forum
Dallas County Commissioner District 3, John Wiley Price, has long been an advocate of transportation solutions in the Southern part of Dallas County. On October 27, 2016 he and DART President, Gary Thomas; Star Transit Deputy Executive Director Mike Sims and North Texas Council Of Governments Program Manager Kevin Feldt, will take part in a Southern Dallas County Transit Development Forum in the City of Duncanville.
Topics will include the future of DART in Southern Dallas, a STAR Transit Partnership program, Mobility 2040 and passenger rail plans for Southern Dallas County. The idea is to keep the conversation going while looking for real world solutions in regards to the southern sector’s need for future infrastructure and development.
City of Duncanville Mayor David Green said the city is thrilled to host the forum and ‘welcomes the opportunity to work with our neighboring cities to help shape a comprehensive transportation plan that will address the needs of the Best Southwest community and contribute to our City’s growth for decades to come.’
Newly minted North Texas Tollway Authority board member, Carl Sherman, also a two-term Mayor in DeSoto and currently Hutchins City Manager said “Certainly transportation issues are extremely important as the North Texas region continues to grow.”
Sherman confirmed the southern part of Dallas growth is quickly outpacing the current transportation infrastructure. So, the logical next step is moving more DART south and starting conversations with the cities that declined DART back in the early 80s.
DART is the largest light rail operator in the United States with 90 miles of track and 62 light rail stations with 29.9 million passengers in 2015 according to DART.org. The DART umbrella also includes 34 miles of commuter rail with 10 stations and 652 buses with 11,973 bus stops according to the web site.
“In order to meet the demand we can’t pour enough concrete when we have Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant County growing last year by 20,000 plus in each of the counties,” Sherman said. “The growth has been incredible and we have got to somehow collaborate transportation solutions of rail and highway to address the growth and it has got to be seamless.”
Other Public Transportation Options
DART isn’t the only game in town.
Currently, STAR Transit has a service area that includes Kaufman and Rockwall counties as well as the city of Seagoville, Balch Springs and Mesquite (also in Prices’ County jurisdiction). The Star Transit system also makes connections to the DART Rail Green Line [one of four DART lines] through the use of additional bus routes.
Sherman said this upcoming forum with DART, STAR Transit, NTCOG and Dallas County is important in order to figure out how to accommodate ongoing future growth.
“If you can’t address the mobility issue, you will reach a ceiling at capacity,” Sherman concluded. “This is a time that North Texas can really demonstrate that we are serious about this issue.”