Dallas Rapid Transit – New Green Line

Those of you who live in Dallas or visit frequently should be aware of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail system that was inaugurated in 1996. It has not really changed our automobile culture here, but it is a convenient alternative for urban transportation for some. On 12/6/2010, a new line – the longest – opened.

Here are news briefs (from the Dallas Morning News 12/6-7/2010.

The first day of service on DART’s new Green Line has begun amid much excitement, as transit officials welcome riders to the 28-mile route.

The $1.8 billion light-rail addition runs from southeastern Dallas, northwest through downtown and up to Carrollton.

Some riders reported via Twitter this morning that big crowds were boarding the southbound trains, though the northbound trains are largely empty.

Passengers on the Blue and Red lines, however, reported longer than typical waits at stations north of downtown, reflecting DART’s decision to reduce frequency on all trains during rush hour to save money and reduce the transit jam through the busy downtown transit mall.

Only a handful of folks exited at Parkland Station.

Several observations

(1) My experience in London and continental European cities as well as in Washington, Chicago, and Boston informs me that frequency of service is the determinative factor to widespread usage of metro rail transportation. DART needs to bite the bullet and INCREASE instead of decrease the frequency to “save money” because it won’t. I understand that congestion on the downtown traffic mall is a factor, but is one that should be rectified by another line through the central city without delay.

(2) It is no surprise that commuters from the more affluent northern suburbs are more apt to use rail than those from the lower income/poor areas south. Driving an automobile of almost any kind provides a modicum of status, which lower-middle class and poor persons crave. Using public transportation is seen by the lower classes as confirming their lack thereof, while upper middle class persons see it as a practical alternative (they have other status hang-ups). Few exit at Parkland Hospital for this reason. I’ll bet those who do are not patients, but rather work there. Might even include one or more docs.

(3) My libertarianism does not preclude support for public facilities such as transit. I think Henry Clay had it right 200 years ago with his American System (Clay also founded the Whig Party, who were the proto-Republicans.) For 60+ years, however, our government has subsidized the auto and ancillary industries by providing free (at the point of use) roads highways, while burdening mas transit – which means rail – beyond all hope of making it an attractive investment for private enterprise.

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