Archive for the ‘DART’ Category

Realities and Misconceptions about Downtown

October 13, 2009
There is always a lot of talk about what needs to happen to keep the momentum going in Downtown Dallas. But what you inevitably hear and read are an undercurrent of naysayers bemoaning the same factors for why downtown will never return to its past glory. The homeless. The tunnels. The (fill in the blank).
In my opinion, these are not reasons to ignore downtown.  I don’t see them as barriers to the recovery of downtown Dallas.

Yes, there are homeless people in Downtown Dallas. Unfortunately, there are going to be homeless people in every downtown in every major city. A good friend of mine in real estate made an interesting statement about the homeless, which was “if you had more people downtown, you wouldn’t notice the homeless because they would blend in with everyone else.”  When you compare Dallas to other cities, there are not a lot of homeless people.  I have seen cities with a much higher population of homeless revitalize their downtown. What city lets 10-15 people walking around during the day asking for change affect what is going to happen in a given part of town? See how much sense that makes? The people that don’t travel downtown because of the homeless folks probably will never come downtown anyway.
There is a need for improved lighting, but that will come with time. Also, applications are starting to arrive for video boards, which will provide a little flash to the major downtown streets.
What I really here are a bunch of excuses.
These are really excuses for people that wouldn’t invest, shop, or live downtown in the first place. Yet, some business owners have built downtown to great success.
7-Eleven opened at Commerce & Field. They didn’t say they couldn’t be successful because of the tunnels or anything else.  Try going in the store anytime during the day; there’s always several people in line or moving about the store. I would guess that it’s one of their more successful stores in Dallas.
The Joule Hotel is right in the middle of Main Street. They didn’t say that you couldn’t have a high-end hotel because a few homeless people are walking by the building. It’s a successful place.
Another reality: we’re stuck with the tunnels.  Most of the stores in the tunnels provide basic retail functions. They are a cash generator for the building owners and it’s probably too cost prohibitive to close the tunnels.  Philadelphia has an entire network of tunnels full of similar retail shops; so does Houston. In fact, in Houston the tunnels are marketed as an amenity, and some of them are open at night.
I have a different take on the tunnels than most.  We should look at the tunnels more as an asset and part of the overall strategy. Attract higher-level retail at the street level and leave the rest in the tunnels.  I’m sure the tunnels have lower rent costs, which would allow an aspiring business owner to strike out on his own and move to a street-level space once they have enough business.
I also disagree with the current alignment of the downtown streetcar. In my opinion, the route completely cuts off Deep Ellum from the rest of downtown. It’s a great route for the Arts district, but not for anywhere else.
I know that Deep Ellum is listed as a “potential extension,” but there are great businesses there now.  The main streets have multiple lanes that would be conducive to a streetcar.  How cool would it be to leave your office during lunch, hop the streetcar down to Twisted Root or Lemongrass or St. Pete’s, and get lunch? It also would show out-of-town Arts District patrons about this great alternative retail and restaurant scene right in the middle of our city.  Maybe just throw Deep Ellum a bone by having the train stretch to Good Latimer and Commerce,  circle back to Main and then continue north at Harwood Street.
If it’s impossible to build this route, then they should simultaneously look at a route for Deep Ellum.
The other funny thing is the people that are worried about driving on the streetcar tracks. Do you know how to drive? Seriously. As with a lot of things in Dallas, we want the amenities without any hassle. Well, the real world (which includes the cities to which we compare ourselves) works a little bit different.
It’s all about how you look at the situation.  Dallas has certain realities that must be dealt with downtown, but we should look at them more as opportunities than excuses not to invest, to shop, and to live.

DART’s Green Line Signals a New Era of Possibilities

September 13, 2009
While full service will start on Monday, Saturday was the first day that the public could ride the DART Green Line train.  There are four brand new stations, and each one had some sort of party around the station.
Despite the rain, the trains were packed! 
I started at the Baylor stop in Deep Ellum and ran into a few friends at the It’s a Grind coffee shop.  They had a great band, free cookies from Kessler Cookie Company and other fun stuff.  I then hopped on the train and rode to the south end of the line, which is the MLK station.
The Martin Luther King Jr. station is a jewel in itself. There is a lot of history that is detailed in the various art features.  Pictures from famed Dallas photographer R.C. Hickman are featured at the train stop.

The Fair Park station stops right in from of the gate on the Expo Park side.

Then the train moves to Baylor station (in Deep Ellum) where lucky residents of the Ambrose live right at the train stop and onto the Deep Ellum station on Good Latimer where we got a close up of The Traveling Man statue.

The current line will run from the MLK Transit Center to Victory Park, while connecting to the Red and Blue lines at all of the current downtown stops. The rest of the green line stations will be open in December 2010, with the line stretching from Pleasant Grove to Carrollton.
As some have said, access to jobs is an important byproduct of the green line. In a little more than a year people that live in Pleasant Grove, Parkdale, and most of South Dallas will have direct access to jobs from Love Field and to Carrollton.  While there may be bus service to some of these locations, it’s intermittent and it’s a totally different proposition to ride on the train. In terms of time and ease of travel this rail line will put a lot of jobs in reach.
In addition, as events are hosted in Fair Park and downtown the train will ease some of the car traffic that is generated when people are traveling to these destinations.  As I rode the train you could feel the excitement and there was a lot of conversation amongst the passengers about the benefits of having the green line. Once the State Fair hits, it will be a great way to showcase the progress of our city. 
I heard that Victory Station will have a party this coming Saturday. Bring it on!
Video of my trip is below.

Background music: “Car of Love” by Main Ingredient 

More on Downtown Streetcars

January 26, 2009

I watched the briefing today regarding downtown streetcars, and it triggered a couple of additional thoughts.

When you start looking at the streetcar as a way to increase property values and development, why wouldn’t it go into the more undeveloped sections of central Dallas? The parts where most of the maps are drawn in the briefing are getting redeveloped on their own. I didn’t see any streetcar lines being considered for Deep Ellum or the Farmers Market.

With respect to DART, I hope that all rail lines are funded for southern Dallas and to DFW Airport before streetcars are funded.

Downtown Streetcars?

January 26, 2009

A lot has been written regarding the possibility of streetcars, and they are now being discussed by the Transportation Committee at City Council. I’m not the biggest fan of streetcars in downtown Dallas, although my mind is not completely closed on the issue.

I hope that if downtown streetcars are approved that they do not travel down Main or Elm Street.

You can’t have parking meters and streetcars in a given direction when you only have two lanes. Add the DART buses, which most times do not pull into the proper lane when making stops, and you’ve got yourself a traffic disaster. Don’t forget about our beloved valet parking services.

Traffic is already bad on Main Street. Drive down Main Street on any weekend or during rush hour and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Maybe the parking meters should get the axe before we even consider more streetcar routes.

DART: Buy the CNG Buses

December 2, 2008

Right now, there is a big debate at DART regarding the choice between purchasing compressed natural gas (CNG) buses or buses powered by diesel fuel. To me, while there may be a cost difference in buying CNG buses it’s still a no-brainer.

I can’t believe that in this day and time we as a region are considering purchasing buses that run off of diesel fuel. Diesel fuel is foreign oil. So-called “clean diesel” is still diesel, and therefore is still foreign oil. Natural gas is an American resource.

The life-cycle for this proposed bus fleet is said to be twelve years. Who wants to still be running diesel buses in Dallas in the year 2020?

Throughout our nation, we have been beholden to foreign oil interests and when the price goes up we all feel the pain. Automakers and other industries are being forced to retool and become more fuel-efficient and environmentally responsible. Why wouldn’t DART follow the lead of the City of Dallas as well as other area municipal transit organizations and buy CNG buses?

DART should Check All Train Tickets

July 13, 2008

A few weeks back, I wrote about various issues regarding ways that DART could raise revenue. One of which was getting more aggressive in checking for tickets at all locations.

I saw this letter in today’s DMN letters section. Check it out:

I’m for checking tickets

When are the riders rather than the taxpayers going to start paying for public transportation? This is a disgrace.

I ride DART from the Forest/Jupiter station in Garland to downtown. I buy a ticket every time. I am never checked and neither are any of the others on the train.

In fact, I don’t ever see a ticket checker on board. People tell me I am foolish to buy the ticket, but I feel I should. I think DART does not check in order to boost ridership, or at least not discourage it, so they can lobby for higher taxes based on increased ridership. I think non-riders don’t care so they can get more people on DART and off the streets, so they can drive their cars on less-traveled streets.

Don Huschle, Garland

Turnstiles on DART Trains?

June 7, 2008

I rode the train in Washington DC with my lovely Mom. I always like riding the train in cities that I visit, so we took the Metrorail to the airport and grabbed a late lunch.

Riding DC’s Metrorail was a breeze. I bought a day pass and off we went. When you ride the Metro, you put your ticket in the slot and it pops out the top of the turnstile (similar to MARTA in Atlanta). They also don’t use bars for their turnstiles, but a two-piece contraption that makes in impossible to slide through without paying. If you hop, you’re likely to be spotted by DC finest.

This is the cool part; you also run your card through to exit the train. The system knows how far you traveled and reduces your card accordingly (since it is a regional rail system and fares vary). It also is another protection against people hopping the train.

If your card has a set dollar value (vs. paying for one day), it will tell you how much money you have left on your pass.

Everybody that rides DART knows that sometimes they take your ticket on the train, and sometimes they don’t. Here’s a thought:

If DART is in a revenue shortfall, maybe they should consider banning the honor system and collect everyone’s fare upfront. In all major cities in which I’ve traveled and used rail, no other city works on an honor system. In fact, the only system that I remember that worked on an honor system was in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. On the bus in Rio, you board the bus at the rear door and they actually had a guy in one of the seats with a cash register drawer that made change.

Turnstiles on DART trains would make sure that everybody pays and save DART the trouble of having to walk through the rail cars and take tickets. I realize that some stations would need some reconfiguring (Lancaster-Kiest, White Rock, etc), but start with Mockingbird and a few others and see if the revenue starts to increase.

What do you think?

Goodbye Hot-Sheet Motels, Hello to Real Development

May 30, 2008

Here is more coverage on the transformation of the Lancaster Road Corridor from a blighted area to a jewel of the community. Again, when we sought to shut down the side-by-side hot-sheet motels this is what we envisioned; that another group would pick up the baton and bring something positive to the community.

I remember when Dwaine Caraway and I went to City Hall over two years ago and spoke about these motels. The only person that spoke up in support from our own community was former councilman James Fantroy. A lot of people did a lot of work to make this happen. Thanks again to the city attorneys that fought the false allegations brought on by these slum owners in court. Thanks to Bishop Larry McGriff and the Church of the Living God along with the other pastors that supported him, and thanks to Dr. Beverly Mitchell Brooks of the Urban League. Back by prayer and determination, all of these people stood up to the plagues of the community. Unlike a lot of talk that you hear about who’s doing what, these people stepped up.

Brad from Channel 8, as he has done from the beginning from this fight, does a great news piece. Check it out here.

I Know How You Feel Barack

May 28, 2008

From Dallas to Washington, from local politics to the presidential race, we all have to ‘brush our shoulders off.’ Today, this just seemed appropriate:

We Have Your Back

May 7, 2008

Yesterday, I saw these two posts from my friends Janet Morrison (link) and Sylvia Baylor (link). I wasn’t going to write anything regarding the DART bus fiasco because we don’t do this for
press, but after reading those posts I felt the need to write.

The bus hadn’t run through Turner Courts at night since last year. It’s about time!!!

To my Turner Courts family:

Thank you for your support of Dwaine and me. It means the world to us.

I love y’all like family. Every setback and every step forward in your neighborhood deeply affects me. I admire your determination, resilience, and faith.

I would never ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. The progress we have made in your neighborhood is as much a result of your hard work and dedication as it is ours.

Change in your neighborhood has been slow by our standards, but we will continue to push. We are trying to overcome years of neglect, and there are people that are still in positions that literally don’t care what happens to you.

I told y’all before last year’s elections that Dwaine was the truth. It’s about more than the cowboys stadium and other big-dollar projects with him. That’s why he was on that bus Monday night. As you have witnessed first-hand, you have the elected advocate that you have never had for your neighborhood.

No matter what people claim happened or didn’t happen during the course of city business, no many how many biased columns Jim Schutze or other haters write from week to week, it doesn’t register with us. The people in our District know what we do. And that’s what matters.