Streetcar should serve tourists and commuters

Photo courtesy of Andrew Howard
Photo courtesy of Andrew Howard

The streetcar begins officially carrying passengers from Downtown Dallas to the Bishop Arts District this morning.

Rides are free and every 20 minutes between 9:30 a.m.-midnight Monday-Sunday. When the initial one-mile streetcar track opened last year, it operated 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Neighbors complained that the streetcar closed just when dinner service begins to heat up in the so-called Bishop Eats District. And what a shame to have it dark on weekends, when Bishop Arts is full of folks from outside the neighborhood.

DART in January changed the hours to make it more compatible with tourism.

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The late morning start, however, prevents the car from serving commuters, which was its original intended purpose.

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The Oak Cliff Transit Authority — a group of neighbors who began pushing for a return to streetcars in 2006 — applied for and won a $50-million federal TIGER grant in 2010, they said the streetcar would serve commuters.

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The streetcar was expensive to build — the extension from Beckley to Bishop Arts cost more than $50 million. It costs about $1 million per mile to maintain and operate. And since there’s no fare, it doesn’t recoup anything.

But we’re now nine figures deep into this crazy streetcar idea, and we’ve got to make it work somehow for commuters and tourists alike. As City Councilman Phillip Kingston said earlier this year, Dallas is “schizophrenic in its support of public transportation. We starve it and then we complain that it’s not serving enough people.”

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  • grannybunny

    The streetcar is not a good option for commuting, even if they extend the hours. It ends on the Houston Street viaduct, far from most downtown jobs or transit connections. It is also surprising slow, and cannot accommodate very many people. The buses are far superior. It’s also frequently out of service. It is of some benefit to tourists or those who can’t afford bus fare, though.

  • Brittany Hibbs

    Thank you for the coverage of this and addressing the commuter issue. As someone who lives in Kidd Springs and works downtown in the West End, I’m disappointed the streetcar service begins at 9:30am. Otherwise I’d take it to and from work almost exclusively. Tourism is important but the “schizophrenic” nature of our mass transportation issue won’t be resolved by excluding the needs of Dallas residents.

  • lakewoodhobo

    Curious about the commuter hours question since the primary employment center on the Oak Cliff side is Methodist Hospital, and that’s not a 9-5 workplace. Of course downtown has tens of thousands of 9-5 jobs, but they’re not exactly on the southwestern edge of downtown.

    I’m encouraged by the hundreds of apartments coming to the Bishop Arts side since those apartment dwellers will be more likely to use the streetcar for services along the line.