A strange thing went down at Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting. With little fanfare and no discussion, the council appointed Walkable DFW founder Patrick Kennedy to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board. This move came despite the council transportation committee's previous recommendation of environmental lawyer Howard Gilberg for the post.
Frustrations over the DART board have boiled over in recent months after the majority of the DART board's eight Dallas-appointed members voted in October to recommend building the northern suburb-connecting Cotton Belt rail line over the objections of the Dallas City Council. Kennedy, who was nominated for the board by Council members Scott Griggs and Mark Clayton, and his other supporters on the council want DART to focus on two major projects, the D2 subway in downtown and reforming DART's bus system rather than suburb-friendly projects like the Cotton Belt.
During their public interviews for the job last month, the two candidates stood in stark contrast. Kennedy, who's been deeply involved in the push to make sure that D2 is routed under, rather than above ground, gave the transportation committee a concrete vision increasing DART ridership, highlighting the need for DART buses to follow routes that make sense and to travel them at a higher frequency.
"If we have a high frequency, that's how waiting times are minimized," Kennedy said. "That's how we increase ridership, by making sure to get riders where they're going safely and efficiently."
Gilberg, on the other hand, professed to know little about the agency and suggested any lack of ridership might be a marketing problem. DART, he said, should be better advertised to environmentally conscious millennials.
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"Honestly, I'm not an expert on DART," he said. "I'm not an expert on where the routes go."
The transportation committee voted 3-2 to recommend Gilberg to the full council, which likely had more than a little to do with the fact that he'd been nominated for the post by Lee Kleinman, the committee's chairman and a supporter of the Cotton Belt.
After the committee vote, City Council member Sandy Greyson, who supported Kennedy, made it clear that Gilberg would not be rubber-stamped by the full council. Greyson, along with her fellow council members Griggs, Clayton, Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston, have all been strong advocates of the reforms for DART that people like Kennedy have long advocated.
Wednesday, even two members of the transportation committee that supported Gilberg in November, Monica Alonzo and Casey Thomas, voted for Kennedy. Kleinman, Erik Wilson and Rickey Callahan were the only council members on the wrong side of 12-3 vote.