Dallas Light Rail system proves detractors wrong May 19th, 1997
by Dan Monaghan, Mobility Dallas; Garland, TexasPrinted as a Letter, Arizona Republic, 19 May 1997.
Reprinted by permission of the author.
Having read several articles appearing recently in The Republic both opposing and in support of mass transit I feel prompted to respond, having served on the Board of Directors of Dallas Area Rapid Transit and having had an opportunity to experience the workings of public transporation from both the inside and outside.
The feature that stands out most prominently among the arguments presented by the detracctors is the fact that they choose to ignore the outstanding success the new DART light rail has experienced. We heard the same arguments and lamentations while the rail line was in the planning stages — no one will ride, the trains will run empty, costs will be exorbitant, a full spectrum of society will not be served, et cetera.
Dallas people paid no attention to this litany and, although they at first rejected an extravagant heavy rail system, they subsequently approved an efficient light rail system with strong support even of two major oil companies, the local newspaper and the electronics industries in the Telecom corridor who are looking to DART to deliver workers looking for jobs to their doors more efficiently.
A wide variety of citizenry will be found on the trains. At all hours of the day the park-and-ride lots at Mockingbird Land and Park Lane in north Dallas are full and the trains are at capacity at rush hour and near capacity at others carrying white collar workers to jobs in downtown Dallas, which is experiencing a dramatic revitalization due mainly to the new rail system.
Although much of south Dallas does not enjoy the prestige of north Dallas, the rush hour trains from the south to and from downtown are well filled and dabout the time this subsides in the late afternoon another wave of rides from low income areas fill the trains going to clean and service the large buildings of the central business district.
Critics of rail transit lack the ability to think long term. A rail system is an investment projected over a hundred years or more; even the rolling stock lasts for 50 years, much different from a car or bus. In spite of the costs that have been encountered in building rail systems, it would be a challenge to find a community that would vote to give it up once it has been completed.
Transit Essential to East Valley’s Continuing Growth May 14th, 1997
Published as Guest Commentary,
East Mesa Independent, May 14, 1997, page 4.
Reprinted with permission of the authors.
by William Lindley and Robert Lindley Jr.
Rapidly increasing population; traffic congestion; worsening urban air pollution; and increasing costs of building freeways – these are some of the issues besetting the East Valley. The Arizona Rail Passenger Association (ARPA) believes that integrated rail and bus transit should be part of this region’s transportation system.
Freeways and surface streets alone will not adequately provide for our growing transportation needs. The increasing numbers of those who cannot drive because of age or condition, and those who do not care to sit in increasingly frustrating traffic jams would welcome the opportunity to participate in the economic and social activities of our Valley.
Merely building more freeways and improving our roads is not a solution. New roads are immediately filled with more traffic. In some instances, new roads have been shown to increase traffic congestion. Adding a fourth lane to the Superstition Freeway only intensified the bottlenecks adjacent to the improved segment.
To sustain the East Valley’s growth potential, we should enhance our bus service and implement a rail transit system.
As a start, augmenting the existing express bus routes with trips earlier in the morning, later in the evening, and during the day would expand their ridership base to include those with work schedules other than just “9 to 5,” to shoppers, and to those attending sports or cultural events.
Also, expanded local bus service would not only better serve Mesa but should be better coordinated with the services of surrounding communities, and interchange with the express routes. These changes would give a transportation choice to many who find the current bus services too slow or inflexible.
But buses use the same clogged roadways as cars. A rail system could move large numbers of people while adding capacity to our roadways. In the East Valley, existing Union Pacific tracks pass by the entrance to Williams Gateway Airport, through downtown Mesa, past ASU, and on to downtown Phoenix.
According to Julie Brown of the Union Pacific Railroad, who spoke at the ARPA Open House on April 19, a commuter train system could start using these tracks in as little as 18 months. Across the nation, communities are using commuter rail to add capacity to their transportation systems. In Los Angeles, the Metrolink rail system – opened in 1992 – carries so many workers, students, and tourists every day that more than three and a half lanes of freeway capacity are created in downtown L.A.
Phoenix has proposed a light rail system through its Central corridor. An extension into downtown Mesa would bring tourists and shoppers from Tempe and Phoenix, and greatly enhance efforts to revitalize Mesa’s town center. In Dallas, the new light rail system led to a 30% increase in receipts in downtown restaurants. In Denver and Saint Louis, light rail has been so successful – above projections – that systems there have had to order additional railcars.
Integration of these rail and bus systems with each other and with highways, bicycle access, and pedestrian friendly zones will maximize our Valley’s growth potential. ARPA believes that commuter and light rail should be a component of the transportation mix in the Valley of the Sun.