Dallas is subway happy. Property owners and their renters want the downtown train, known as D2, to be a subway. Local politicians want a subway. Even the Observer's Jim Schutze wants a subway. The suburbs who have paid into DART don't want their Cotton Belt line to be forgotten amid this subway funding push, but let's not focus on that right now. The billion dollar subway is a thing of Dallas' possible future, but just because the sandhogs have not started tunneling doesn't mean we can't throw in some suggestions.
1. Design to Awe: Budapest
If your goal is to get people to actually use the metro, you can lure them in by showing off something stunning. Making the terminals a visual experience would help attract new commuters and tourists. More riders means more money, so investing in getting people through the turnstile should be an easy motivation. Dallas shouldn't spring for the opulent chandeliers as found in some of Moscow’s terminals, but designing striking visual appeal into stations, like the planners did in Budapest, should be part of the design instead of an afterthought.
2. Share the Local Culture: New York
Dallas is a melting pot of cultures from around the world and the area is steeped in history, so why not share it? Metro systems like those in Greece, Sao Paulo and Stockholm are known for their art displays that feature historical and modern art. We're keen on the Big Apple's Music Under New York program where local artists play for commuters and tourists. The city says that more than 350 soloists and groups provide more than 7,500 performances at 30 locations throughout the transit system each year.
3. Wire it for Technology: Seoul
It’s the 21st century and our subway should be ready for the modern age. DART’s metro should have all the technological conveniences of a hotel. That means Wi-Fi, TVs and cell phone service. Seoul built its metro with all of this built from the start, whereas other cities find themselves retrofitting their tunnels and trains. Instead of making an expensive upgrade a few years down the road, let's have it from the get-go — and that means planning ahead for greater bandwidth demands and adopting "smart" machinery that alerts people when maintenance is needed before something breaks.
4. Adopt Environmentally Friendly Techniques: Singapore
A part of living in the future is recognizing the impact of transportation on the environment. But forget that for a minute and realize that being energy efficient also means lower yearly expenditures to keep the system moving quickly. Places like Singapore have lessons that can be learned when designing one in Dallas. For example, the most efficient way to run trains — rapid acceleration, a period the trains coast and then a quick deceleration — also gets people around most quickly. And engineers see opportunity in getting trains to slow down fast. By installing regenerative brakes, extra energy can be recaptured and routed back into the system instead of wasting it as heat.
5. Give Good Signage: Taipei
Wouldn’t it be nice if the train was always on time or if you knew when the next one would arrive? Taipei has screens and signs in the terminal that display when arrivals will appear, as well as connections down the line. Clear signage, digital or no, is critical for any transportation system. It makes it easier during commutes, but also comes in handy for out-of-towners. Electronic signs have the added bonus of including extra information during outages or special events. Taipei's subway is so accessible and reliable that it's been credited with bringing more tourist traffic to outlying attractions and towns.
6. Keep It Safe: Hong Kong
You shouldn’t have to worry about falling onto the tracks and meeting your doom while you wait to travel to your 9-to-5. Modern metros like Hong Kong feature glass barriers that open when the train arrives and close when they leave. Arrows on the ground near tracks establish lines to limit shoving or pushing while boarding.
7. Don't Build a Cattle Car: Seoul and Montreal
Riding the metro shouldn’t be like riding the Texas Giant at Six Flags. Modern urban butts require cushioning and room to relax or work during a commute. Seoul is known for seats that are heated and ergonomically engineered for pregnant women or old people. And let's not forget that the whole train can be designed for comfort of riders. Cities like Montreal use rubber wheels to increase speed while decreasing noise inside and outside of the car. Those rubber wheels also mean a smoother ride, even if they need to be replaced more often.
8. Be Friendly to Biz on the Train Line: Hong Kong
Dallas is nothing if not business-friendly and there’s little use in trying to fight that, so why not include spaces for local takeout and shopping? The Octopus card in Hong Kong is refillable and can be used for transit fare and certain stores and restaurants. DART could start a similar program to work in harmony with local businesses and even produce income with rent.
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9. Light Etiquette Training: Tokyo
Nobody wants to sit on the train next to an asshole, and signs like Tokyo’s Manners poster campaign can teach riders how to properly behave on the subway in a not-so-preachy way. The iconic posters also let you know what to do in an emergency, and in such a way that crosses all language barriers.
10. Be Prepared for Growth: New York
All of these ideas could help make the metro a success in a way that the rest of DART’s rail line has yet to see. Success means money and some of the ideas on this list could keep operational costs low or even provide new income. That money could go toward expanding the small proposed line into the urban metro that Dallas has always deserved. The Big D won’t ever need the 468 stations that the Big Apple has, but a proper metro could go a long way toward revitalizing downtown.