Off Track, or: Some Notes from the City Council's Downtown Streetcar Briefing

Grudgingly, I have to say that the two Dallas City Council members who asked the best questions at today's council briefing on downtown trolleys were Ron Natinsky and Dave Neumann. Both of them wanted to know why the proposed governing body for a downtown trolley system would put the City of Dallas in a minority role, since the system will be in downtown Dallas and Dallas will be paying for it.

In particular, Neumann wanted to know why Dallas Area Rapid Transit should get almost as many seats on the board of the proposed trolley authority as the city, since DART isn't putting any moolah into it.

No shit, Sherlock.

Putting DART and the suburbs in charge of a downtown Dallas trolley system paid for by Dallas taxpayers is the brainchild of transportation chair Linda Koop, who has never seen a suburb she didn't want to smooch. Must be running for Congress.

City council member Carolyn Davis asked whether the trolleys will be on tracks "or on rubber" in downtown. The answer from a consultant: "Tracks."

Then Davis asked if the trolleys will be on tracks or on rubber when the trolleys leave downtown and go out into the neighborhoods. The answer: "Tracks."

I see her point. Otherwise we're going to be in a hell of a mess.

A-ha! Her aim in all this? She says DART should be in charge of the whole thing because "they know a lot about tracks."

Council member Vonciel Hill wants a trolley line out to Paul Quinn College. Good idea. I want a trolley line to the Lakewood Country Club. I'm not a member, but I think it would be a good idea in terms of balance.

Sheffie Kadane is very excited: "From day one I have been screaming, 'We gotta have streetcars.'" Pity Mrs. Kadane.

He asked a good question about a proposal that streetcars be financed through a downtown public improvement district.

"I need to ask you one quick question," Kadane said. "You are referring to the PID as a way of financing. Would we maintain the same PID we have now. Would it be a new PID? How would that work?"

The consultant was answer is a bit tangled but boiled down to: Maybe same PID, maybe new. Sheffie's got the right idea: Trolleys sound cool, but show me the money.

A.C. Gonzalez, the assistant city manager who shotgunned the downtown convention hotel deal, then stepped to the microphone to answer a complicated question from Koop about governance and bonding capacity. Too smart for me.

Koop's last two points: Continental Street Bridge. "It would be a shame if that deck was re-poured and did not have a streetcar in it."

Assistant city manager Jill Jordan told her they can't put a trolley on it without double-tracking, which would take up half of the bridge. That will leave scant space for bikers and walkers.

I say let the damn bicyclists go between the trolley rails. They're got helmets. I hate bikers. They're all Nazis.

Koop said maybe the trolley over the bridge could do a loop. Mmmm. Me no get it. Like through Irving?

That's it. These people need to talk to me about this.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze