Monday, February 22, 2010

Street Cars to Return to Downtown Dallas

The City of Dallas received a $23 million discretionary funding grant from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) group to move forward with plans to re-introduce streetcars to Downtown Dallas.

(right: Looking down Main Street in downtown Dallas; circa 1951)

"This project will improve transportation within downtown Dallas by creating a seamless transit connection and providing a multi-modal link between jobs and residents," said Mayor Tom Leppert. Mayor Leppert. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Dallas himself to see how the city's streetcar plan would improve interurban transportation, help boost local businesses and lower Dallas's carbon emissions.

"This project specifically targets commuters in mixed use districts adjacent to downtown and will help create a transit network linking urban areas by providing multiple transportation alternatives," said Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district includes downtown.

The proposed line originates in Downtown Dallas at Harwood and Main Street. The line includes stops at the Convention Center Hotel, Trinity River Park, and Union Station, and continues into the North Oak Cliff Methodist Medical Center District.

"Clearly, this project will link walkable, mixed use neighborhoods in the urban core with employment centers throughout the region, as well as create hundreds of new jobs in Dallas," said Councilwoman Linda Koop, Chair of the Council's Transportation and Environment Committee.

The Recovery Act application, submitted in coordination with the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) and the City of Fort Worth, included a total budget request of $96 million. The City of Dallas requested $48 million for its portion of the streetcar project, with a total project cost of $58 million.

"To me, this is the next evolution in downtown Dallas," says Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who helped push the idea for Dallas after visiting Seattle and riding The S.L.U.T. The unfortunate yet hilarious acronym for the Seattle Lake Union Trolley. 

The City of Dallas and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) are pleased to receive the grant money to fund the new street car system since the idea is to allow riders to ride the system for free.

"It needs to be free," Hunt says. "You want people to ride it and if it's free they're gonna jump on it. They're gonna leave their car behind."