Dallas charges ahead

This update on progress for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) plan to expand light rail certainly makes this Austinite green with envy, to a certain extent; after all, we have no rail here except for the two Amtrak trains a day and all the freight cars.  So, it’s frustrating for a sprawling megaplex like Dallas to have light rail expansion discussions while we’re struggling, as a relatively compact city, to open a single line.

Nevertheless, I think it’s laudable that Dallas is moving as quickly as they are with light rail, particularly to connect DFW to downtown Dallas–given the distance between them and the significance of DFW to travelers around the world.  What’s also interesting to me is the debate over alignment–how the City Council adamantly wants the line to go to the convention center hotel, even if it means spending over $250 million more than other alignments would cost (not including the political capital other lines might require).

Obviously, it makes good planning sense to have transit, particularly rail transit, connect key points of assembly, but I think it’s important that such considerations not lead to dramatic increases in cost.  I haven’t seen the exact map of the alignments under consideration in Dallas, but I would submit that transit riders can absorb a slight walk (a handful of blocks) to key destinations.  Before Dallas spends hundreds of millions of dollars extra (particularly stimulus dollars) to ensure the line goes right up to the convention center hotel’s front door, it should consider the possibility of asking its riders to walk a few blocks rather than cough up a lot more in tax dollars.

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