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In Dallas, You Don’t Get What You Don’t Pay For

On Monday, we featured a post from The Transit Pass that called out Dallas as one of the U.S. cities in which the proportion of transit users to population is sadly anemic.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at transit in the Dallas area, from a couple of angles.

299451235_a0b9918346.jpgThe DART light rail system in Dallas is experiencing growing pains. Photo by K_Gradinger via Flickr.

First, courtesy of the Dallas Transportation Blog
at the Dallas Morning News, a report on passenger frustration with
delays on the city’s newest light rail route, the DART Green Line.
Those delays are causing ripple effects throughout the city’s transit
system, and it’s not clear when they will be resolved. Stories
in the paper about the delays have gotten a lot of comments from
readers angry that the problems were not better anticipated and planned
for.

But reporter Michael Lindenberger says the city’s voters need to take some responsibility for the way the system is developing:

The general tone of many of the comments has been dismissive, along
the lines of, Idiots! How could DART not build a system that could
avoid the kinds of problems we’ve encountered this week.…

Some have recalled former City Council member Max Goldblatt’s campaign
to build an elevated monorail, rather than at-grade light rail lines.…

But … voters
here rejected a plan by DART to borrow $1 billion to fast-track the
development of DART.

Maybe
an elevated monorail would have made sense — or maybe not. But it
would have been a lot more expensive. And who was going to pay for
these underground or elevated systems? If you wanna sing the blues, you know it don’t come easy — and transit systems (or highways for that matter) don’t come free.…

You could argue that…DART should have moved
faster, and should have built a more innovative system to avoid pesky
things like downtown crossings. But you can’t argue that, unless you’re
willing to also argue that it should have spent more money.

And that money, friends, is our money. I think that’s worth thinking
about. DART is trying to build the best system we can afford.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog Network member blog Trains for America highlights another story
from the Dallas Morning News (also written by Lindenberger), this one
about the utter lack of public transportation options to reach the new
Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas — "America’s largest city without a single bus line or passenger rail line."

That
might be a problem, considering that the Cowboys only control about
12,000 parking spots at the stadium, with 12,000 more around the
not-so-nearby Texas Rangers ballpark — and 100,000 fans are expected
to attend a typical game. Once they get there, parking will be mighty
expensive, up to $75 per game for the choice stadium lots that are
reserved for season ticket holders. Check out the reams of instructions on the Cowboys site. 

But the situation is, once again, the local voters’ choice, writes Lindenberger:

The lack of
transit options in Arlington, population 365,000, is deliberate — and
comes despite the best efforts of city leaders and regional planners.

Voters in the past three decades have rejected three initiatives that
would have dedicated sales taxes to transit, including twice since
2002.

"They don’t want it," said former Arlington Mayor
Elzie Odom, who retired as mayor in 2003. "It doesn’t do any good to
argue. We have done that three times. The residents who bother to go to
the polls just won’t have it."

Voters did approve the new
stadium, which cost $1.1 billion and was paid for in part by a
half-cent sales tax increase. Even the new stadium, and the traffic
troubles that come with it, haven’t persuaded voters to think again
about transit, he said.

"In the last two elections, I
have heard over and over, "We don’t want those kinds of people.’ People
say they just want to be let alone."

"Let
alone" — with the crush of traffic that Cowboys games are sure to
bring. Trains for America calls it "a mirror into the soul" of the
community. What that mirror shows looks like a lot of tailpipe fumes.