City life in many places is synonymous with using public transportation- especially rail systems. However, when it comes to measuring the stretch of light rail miles, Dallas, Texas takes the top spot. The city has the longest light rail system in the country, spanning eighty-five miles and utilizing sixty-one stations.
While the expanse of the light rail system may seem an anomaly for a city known for its car-dependency and strong relationship with the oil industry, the light rail has been very successful – recently celebrating thirty years since the majority vote passed to create the system. Continuing to expand across the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has played a valuable role in beginning to mitigate congestion issues and gradually provide transportation options for a rapidly growing metro.
Beginning with a single light rail route, DART has expanded with three new lines in the last three decades. Initially planned as a simple means of getting downtown, the first route runs parallel to a major highway, and can often be seen speeding by when rush hour creates frustrating gridlock. Some have criticized DART’s usefulness as it expands, citing the continuance of congestion and questioning passenger data. DART Executive Director, Gary Thomas, responded in an interview: “Do we solve the problem?” he says , “No. Are we part of the solution? Absolutely.” Thomas continues to cite the unstable variable of rapid growth of the Dallas metroplex as the reason for a lack of monumental change in traffic dilemmas.
As the system moves forward with plans to expand with stops reaching local colleges and the airport, collaboration continues with each municipality. The one cent tax which originally funded the proposal in Dallas, is not enough to fund its development into outlying suburbs, and the city has begun requesting involved governments to begin allocating the tax themselves – an effort to perpetuate ongoing, gradual growth of the rail system. “Large capital projects can’t happen tomorrow,” Thomas says, as he identifies the cities which have not freed up the tax funds to contribute to their line.
How does public transportation work in your city? How have you seen it succeed or fail?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.