Dallas Area Rapid Transit was awful happy with the outcome of April's test run of the "reconfigured" Green Line, intended to alleviate the f-bomb that was last year's Texas-OU train ride to nowhere. For the first time since its opening, DART had the Green Line going in one direction -- clockwise, one big ol' "express" circle through the West End, Akard, St. Paul, Pearl, Deep Ellum, Baylor University Medical Center and Fair Park stations -- during which it inserted into cars from the Red and Blue Lines while even making a trip through the normally off-limits DART rail yard.
"It worked," says DART spokesman Morgan Lyons. The only bad news, we learn today: Union Pacific has denied DART's request, made twice, to use its tracks to run the Trinity Railway Express more or less directly to Fair Park during the Red River Shootout. "This is a pretty big hub for them," Lyons says, "and they felt that kind of disruption would affect their business."
So if the test run was so successful, why do it again this weekend? You've been warned, trains won't stop at the Victory Park and MLK Jr. stations from 7 a.m. to noon on Sunday as DART runs the second of what we learn are now three planned Texs-OU "simulations" in advance of the October 2 game.
"The need to do it this time is because it's so different from the way operators are used to operating on the corridor, and we need to familiarize them with the route," Lyons says. "We determined this will work in terms of moving the trains -- and the right number of trains -- in the right direction. This is about getting the operators and controllers familiar with it. Everyone has to hear and say different things -- they're making different requests for access, moving the trains in different ways. So we have to train them in a different way." As it were.
I asked Lyons if maybe DART shouldn't wait to do a second or third dry run when there's an event at Fair Park -- maybe, I dunno, Taste of Dallas in two weeks -- so they could see if it works with actual people.
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"In the spring we needed to make sure it would work technically and identify some issues," he says. "We have identified those issues, and now we want to give ourselves every opportunity not to affect the daily customer. That's the reason for picking Sunday -- if we need to stop, we want to do something and not inconvenience customers. But I expect I'll see in the comments: 'This isn't much of a test because you need to add 50,000 people.' That's part of it, but we need to see if it works and get the staff trained."
Funny thing is: These dry runs actually give DART a bit of a bump in ridership on Sunday mornings. They're a real novelty -- especially for what Lyons calls "the rail fan."
"I was at Baylor Stadion last time and saw one of the rail fans with his kids," Lyons says. "Saw them hop on one of the first trains. This is what they call 'rare miles.' They keep track of where they've ridden, how many miles, even the number of the train. The appeal is, this goes through our rail yard, which gives them the chance to see something they wouldn't usually see because it's closed to the public. My recommendation: Go to the Baylor Station, get some coffee at It's a Grind -- and, remember, no beverages on DART trains, please -- and take the tour."