The city, North Central Texas Council of Governments and Dallas Area Rapid Transit held that streetcar town hall last night. Among those in attendance was Jason Roberts -- who, in addition to his myriad other titles and endeavors, is an Oak Cliff Transit Authority board member and the former head of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce's Alternate Transportation Committee.
Rather than recap, I asked Roberts for his thoughts on the meeting -- especially since it was the OCTA that got the project rolling initially. And, as city transpo chief Keith Manoy told us earlier this week, there was bound to be some blow-back given that the initial route, federally funded to the tune of $23 million, stretches from Union Station to almost-but-not-quite-there Methodist Hospital.
It's a mixed bag overall because we ended up getting half of the funds we requested in the grant, so DART, NCTCOG and the city are having to truncate the line to get everything started. That means it's only going to get a little ways into Oak Cliff until other funds become available. That brings up a lot of questions related to ridership, effects on future attempts for build-out, etc., but overall I'm optimistic that it's going to continue further sooner than later. When we were putting together our research and talking to officials who developed streetcar lines in other cities, we kept hearing that it's best to get a stake in the ground so you at least have somewhere to build from.
There were roughly 100 people in the audience, including state Rep. Rafael Anchía, council members Delia Jasso and Dave Neumann, Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzales, among others. The speakers were Keith Manoy (City Transpo), Jay Kline (DART streetcar), and Tom Shelton from the COG.
The environmental studies are underway currently, and the city is trying to be aggressive in order to hit the truncated time line. They had originally laid out a build-out that would complete by 2015, but the Federal Transit Administration requires an operational/revenue-generating line by 2013.
Most everyone in the audience was favorable. One person questioned the need to build rail over bus line. Shelton discussed the economic development potential that rail creates.