The trains themselves are pretty damn neat. Slick, good looking and capable of operating without overhead wires, the city of Dallas' new Union Station to Oak Cliff streetcar looks the way one might wish the transit authority's light rail vehicles looked. The thing is, and this should change later this year, the new baubles follow a route that doesn't go anywhere.
After a train-led ribbon cutting ceremony this morning, the new streetcar finally made its first public trip, connecting Union Station to the intersection of Beckley Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Oak Cliff. Eventually, the train, built in part with $23 million in federal grant funds and at a total cost of about $50 million, will connect the Omni Convention Center hotel to the Bishop Arts District and may link-up to the McKinney Avenue Trolley at some point. That's good, because as it stands, the thing connects Cindi's Deli downtown to the Oak Cliff El Fenix and not much else.
Final approval on the Bishop Arts extension is scheduled for a vote later this month, according to The Dallas Morning News, continuing a tough battle to get the various stages of the project approved and built. In September, City Council member Scott Griggs, one of the driving forces behind the streetcar, blasted the city manager's office for failing to act quickly to get the first phase of the project, the one opened today, underway.
"Phase one will not have the ridership [of the completed project]," Griggs said. "That's why we don't want delays, because we don't want anyone to say, 'Why isn't anyone on it?' The first phase was critical to get across the river, the mile across the river is a huge step, now we have to get it to a destination on each side."
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DART President Gary Thomas praised his organization's role in getting the streetcars rolling.
"Our track record with DART Light Rail and the Trinity Railway Express gave the city of Dallas confidence that we also could successfully design, build, operate and maintain the Dallas Streetcar," he said in a statement.
The new project -- officially a partnership between DART, the city, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, TxDOT and the Federal Transit Administration, but operated by DART -- is free to ride and runs from 5 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. weekdays.