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The TRE and Late-Night Light Rail: Let's Cover Some Ground With DART's Morgan Lyons

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Dallas Area Rapid Transit spokesman Morgan Lyons sent word this afternoon: The transit agency and the Trinity Railway Express are getting $7.2 million in federal funds to double-track the rail line between the West Irving and CentrePort/DFW Airport stations. This isn't from the high-speed rail pot, but from the Federal Railroad Administration's 2009 appropriation for passenger rail service.

So, then, simple question: Why the need for the expansion from one track to two? Well, says Lyons, "Amtrak's on the Union Pacific corridor, and that's a real busy corridor. They'd like to move to our corridor, and a lot of the freight lines would like them to move to our corridor. We really can't have them do that now -- we don't have the room. But by adding that second track, there's room for them to bring their trains onto the track. Also, it could make it possible for us to expand TRE service. One reason we can't run Sunday service on a regular basis is, when a lot of the track is single track, you need to be able to work on it. This gives you flexibility."

And capacity. Awesome. Everyone loves the TRE. Everyone loves trains. Well ...

Anyway. While I had Lyons on the phone, I thought I'd ask him something I've been asked a lot lately, by which I mean "thrice": Why in the why isn't DART running trails till the wee small hours during the NBA All-Star Weekend -- or, for that matter, till 2 a.m. during any weekend? Don't big cities run their trails till the bars and clubs close?

"We found, in talking to Denver and Phoenix, most of the parties, the folks coming and going, they were private parties, and they were going the limo route," Lyons says. "They saw very little transit use for those events. The main thing is to serve the public events, and we've added capacity and frequency for both stuff at the Jam Session at the convention center beginning Thursday and things on Saturday at Victory Park. And on Sunday, the HOV lane toward Arlington will be opened early for private buses and limos."

But most of the parties will be downtown. And many of them will be open to the public, or at least draw folks downtown who might just wanna hang around and see if they can spot 'em a Snoop Dogg or Tyra Banks or T.O. Which goes to the larger question: Shouldn't there be at least a few trains running late nights through downtown?

"It's a matter of demand," Lyons says. "There's a lot of interest in it, but not a lot of demand for it. Most of the events we serve -- more than a couple hundred a year -- if those things end past midnight, that's rare. It's not set up to serve a lot of the clubs and smaller concert venues. There's been interest in it. We ran service until 2 or something like that on New Year's, and we heard from folks who really liked it. But when would you do that? You might be able to do that occasionally, but you need some indication there's a lot of demand for it."

But maybe there'd be demand if people knew it was available ...

"Yes, it's chicken or the egg," says Lyons. "There's a lot of interest. I don't know the demand's there."

I guess I could have people call you and demand it?

"They have," he says. "It's one of those things that could happen, but it won't happen any time soon."

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