As Oak Cliff native Bill Velasco takes over as DART board chairman, our neighborhood is on his mind. Velasco says his goals for the two-year stint at the helm include connecting DART to southern suburbs like DeSoto and Duncanville, bringing more transit-oriented development to Oak Cliff, and breaking ground on a streetcar system through Oak Cliff.
DART has done a good job connecting Dallas to northern suburbs like Plano and Garland, but the end of the southbound line is in Oak Cliff. Most of the southern suburbs don’t have the funds to bring DART to them, so the board might consider other ways to fund the expansion. "DART really only serves the northern suburbs. But if you get out and look at the morning traffic on 67 or 20, you’ll see that we’ve got a slew of traffic problems down there as well," Velasco says.
Velasco also wants to continue a push for new residential and commercial developments that feed passengers to DART trains. "Here in Oak Cliff, we have two or three prime locations for it — near the Zoo, near the end of the Westmoreland line," he says. DART is spending $40 million to remake the historic Monroe Shops into a new DART police headquarters, which Velasco hopes will spur private development.
Streetcars are the hot new thing in Dallas, and the idea came from Oak Cliff. More recently, there has been a push from City Hall to put streetcars in downtown Dallas. And Velasco wants to make sure those two plans synchronize. "The group here in Oak Cliff has their act together," he says. "They’ve got plans, cost analyses, they’ve even applied for some federal funds. They really want to get the dirt moving."