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In 1996 and 1997, Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened a 20-mile light rail “starter system.” The modest name concealed great ambitions. In 1988, 58 percent of voters had rejected DART’s plan to issue bonds for a 93-mile light-rail system.
DART’s light rail system is different things to different people: a more comfortable alternative to the bus for some, a less stressful ride than the freeway for others. Dallas has a range of rail transit including several light rail lines operated by DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which also operates regional bus service), two commuter rail lines, the Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth and the Denton County "A-Train." There is also a heritage streetcar line, MATA (McKinney Avenue Transit Authority) whose operation is integrated with DART. Building the light-rail system with the longest reach in North America is something that Dallas Area Rapid Transit can rightly be proud of. The Denton County, Texas, A-Train, diesel-powered commuter trains travel between Denton and the Dallas DART transfer station in North Carrollton. In 2012 the Union Pacific and the State of Arizona completed a realignment of the former SP line east of Tucson, AZ, so it would parallel rather than cross Interstate 10 near Mescal. This is the same location as photo 4, AFTER the rail bridge was demolished on March 8, 2013. Our Mission is to promote the development of a modern, sustainable, environmentally friendly passenger rail system through education of the public and government officials.
Our Vision is a comprehensive rail network of long distance, intercity, and regional trains, supported by and integrated with local transit, bicycle access, and pedestrian friendly stations. We accomplish these objectives via print publications, electronic media, testimony at government hearings, direct contact with elected and agency officials and conferences.

But the shape  is telling: DART is two systems, one north and one south, with different purposes and characters.
After a fast passage through the tunnel, trains emerge near SMU at Mockingbird Station, which is built in a huge trench with escalators up to street level. The 1988 rail referendum was no fluke, and DART’s unpopularity lasted through the early 1990s. The obvious conclusion is that once voters see trains running, they think differently about rail.
Your comments are subject to our Terms of Service and the privacy policy and terms of service of your social network. The “starter” line, built without bonds, was designed to be the core of that system, and it was built accordingly. If you do not want to comment with a social network, please consider writing a letter to the editor. Now, light rail remains a hot political issue, but in a very different way: The question is not whether but where and when. A new focus on attracting customers would be a wise message, given the proposal to double the cost of the day pass from just six years ago.We know there will be no magic bullet and that DART’s jurisdiction ends at its property line.
These were expensive projects, but they provide critical links, connecting downtown to ready-made rail corridors in the form of abandoned railroad lines, of which DART owns 125 miles. The difference between the rail system that the voters rejected and the one they now support is not substance but perception.

Yet it needs to partner more effectively with its 13 member cities, where possible, to build and grow a loyal customer base. Two such corridors provided the path for extensions north to Plano and Garland, which opened last year. What Dallas is now building is essentially the same as what it would have built had DART gotten its way the first time. Fast service — the trains speeding above cars stopped at red lights, past suburban shopping strips and the mid-rise office buildings of the Telecom Corridor — encourages them. Promote, promote, promote.Amenities: How about doughnuts, bagels and coffee carts to start the day, and chilled drinks, water and taco vendors to cap it off? What about WiFi on trains?Accessibility and signage: Some DART stations are hidden away so well that it’s hard even for locals to get there.
It’s reasonable to ask whether the agency would be in its current financial squeeze had it been working as intently on attracting passengers as it has been on extending its network to 90 miles of track by 2014.Readers’ ideasDallas Morning News writers asked blog readers and Twitter users how DART could build ridership.

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