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.

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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.

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

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.”