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Why is DART light years ahead of METRO?

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Despite the fact the ridership is about 1000 per mile overall one has to admit DART is light years ahead of METRO. Over 85 miles of rail is something Houston could only dream about. I've been working in Dallas the past few weeks and I have to admit I'm impressed. Once the extension to DFW is complete it will be a pretty good system overall.

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DART is doing a good job in terms of investment, and I think eventually it will pay off, but right now I don't think the routes they are building are best suited for light rail. They are long and thin routes to the suburbs.

I do like that DART is expanding to both airports with the light rail though.

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Every time I've traveled to Dallas I've made time to ride the light rail lines just to see what Houston's METROrail can eventually become. I've even spent 2-4 hours at a time exploring the region on the rails and believe me when I say it takes FOREVER to get somewhere unless you're just traveling a couple of stops and you'd probably be better served just getting in your car and going (unless you do not own a car).

While I'm impressed with the amount of miles DART has been able to complete, I really do not believe that's a good measure to compare METRO and DART. Dallas has invested $6-7 billion into this thing but I wouldn't necessarily call that investment good or wise. I believe the mistake has been to make it more of a commuter rail line system.

The fact that DART member cities are spread apart far and wide has forced them to make these lines "long and thin". Trust me, that is not what DART would have preferred. When a small city like Rowlett has "only" invested $80 million in sales tax revenues into the system since 1983 and DART is forced to spend hundreds of millions extending the rail line 5-10 miles to reach "downtown Rowlett" to apease city leaders, then you begin to reassess the wisdom of that investment.

I love the fact DART jumped on the rail "bandwagon" first and has put pressure on Houston to get with the program but I actually hope Houston learns from DART's mistakes and make METROrail more of an inner city type streetcar system. I believe this would also discourage sprawl (or at least not encourage it).

When you build transportation infrastructure out to far flung places you support more sprawled out development. Imagine Houston without Beltway 8 or - God Forbid - a totally completed 180 mile Grand Parkway - more development would have been forced to center around loop 610 thus encouraging a more dense inner loop.

And I'm really only concerned with Hobby being connected to the light rail since it is just 7 miles from downtown and probably only 4-5 miles from the current end of the Southeast line near Palm Center, set to open in late 2014 . IAH is just too damn far and would take too damn long when you're trying to catch a flight. Most of the folks riding to IAH would be those who work there which could be considerable (I guess) but not worth the billion plus it would take to complete a line out there.

And this is not at all meant to be a knock against DART's system because I'm a strong rail supporter and just think its kinda cool to see modern trains breezing around the city. My point is - being the first to have something is not always better neither is being bigger always better! Houston could more wisely invest in 30 miles of rail (vs 100 miles) and have similar or higher ridership than DART and all the while encourage more inner city transit oriented developments.

Edited by HOUSTONIAN (N-ATL)
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Despite the fact the ridership is about 1000 per mile overall one has to admit DART is light years ahead of METRO.

Actually, one does not have to admit that at all.

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DART Rail is far from perfect, but it's really great for the few people that take advantage of it. The reality is that Dallas needs BOTH Commuter Rail and inner city rail to make the system work properly. I am a big rail supporter, but the truth is that Houston's HOV system moves a lot more people than stretching rail out to the metro fringe. Good for Rowlett, Garland and Carrollton that they have a direct link to Downtown (if they ever even go to Downtown), but what about the urban neighborhoods? It seems borderline ridiculous to have no rail connections through Oak Lawn or Uptown.

Of course who is Houston to be critical? After all, Montrose, River Oaks, the Heights and Rice Military have no rail hopes in sight, while 2nd and 3rd Ward connection is under construction.

I did a post about DART Rail back in July. I tried to be fair about the system, from an outsider's perspective.

http://texasleftist.blogspot.com/2012/07/darting-around-dallas-transit-trip.html

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It was built in the fastest way possible which may not be the best route alignments, but the amont of rail they've made in a short amount of time is astounding. Also I believe there is a streetcar system in uptown.

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I know lots of people in Dallas and not one ever uses the light rail. Like most things Dallas, rail (as it is today) is a superficial trophy, nothing more. Looks great on a map, looks great on paper, looks great on a stat sheet (not including ridership numbers), but serves little purpose for the majority.

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And I'm really only concerned with Hobby being connected to the light rail since it is just 7 miles from downtown and probably only 4-5 miles from the current end of the Southeast line near Palm Center, set to open in late 2014 . IAH is just too damn far and would take too damn long when you're trying to catch a flight. Most of the folks riding to IAH would be those who work there which could be considerable (I guess) but not worth the billion plus it would take to complete a line out there.

I agree. IAH can be effectively conected by rail, but they'd have to limit stops on the way there to cut travel times down. Light rail in it's current form wouldn't be very effective. It could work if they limited stops.

DART Rail is far from perfect, but it's really great for the few people that take advantage of it. The reality is that Dallas needs BOTH Commuter Rail and inner city rail to make the system work properly. I am a big rail supporter, but the truth is that Houston's HOV system moves a lot more people than stretching rail out to the metro fringe. Good for Rowlett, Garland and Carrollton that they have a direct link to Downtown (if they ever even go to Downtown), but what about the urban neighborhoods? It seems borderline ridiculous to have no rail connections through Oak Lawn or Uptown.

Actually, Houston's HOV system only has about 30,000 boardings a day, which is less than the main street line and far less than Dallas' DART system, but I see your point. On those long and thin routes, buses work better. DART would be more effective if it was a more urban system, but I guess that's politics. Meanwhile, there's only one or two lines that I think would generate high enough riderhsip to warrant commuter rail in Houston. For most lines I think the P&R system is adequate.

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I agree. IAH can be effectively conected by rail, but they'd have to limit stops on the way there to cut travel times down. Light rail in it's current form wouldn't be very effective. It could work if they limited stops.

Not true. I've caught the train from both of Chicago's airports and I didn't see the multiple stops as an inconvenience and it was packed with passengers.

Edited by ricco67

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I know lots of people in Dallas and not one ever uses the light rail. Like most things Dallas, rail (as it is today) is a superficial trophy, nothing more. Looks great on a map, looks great on paper, looks great on a stat sheet (not including ridership numbers), but serves little purpose for the majority.

Once DFW extension is done we'll see

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Not true. I've caught the train from both of Chicago's airports and I didn't see the multiple stops as an inconvenience and it was packed with passengers.

Hmm well I'm pretty sure that heavy rail, not light rail, connects Chicago's airports to downtown. That goes a lot faster, stops are further apart (in comparison to light rail), so travel times aren't as long to cover the same distance.

I'd be in favor of heavy rail connecting both airports (one line running through downtown to connect them) and another line down Westheimer to uptown. That'd generate a lot of ridership IMO.

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Hmm well I'm pretty sure that heavy rail, not light rail, connects Chicago's airports to downtown. That goes a lot faster, stops are further apart (in comparison to light rail), so travel times aren't as long to cover the same distance.

That is exactly correct.

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Chicago may run heavy rail, but I'd doubt the average speed they go is much more than our own light rail.

the big difference is that there's more stops along our light rail.

Last time I was in Chicago I skipped the car and rode the rail, I can't remember how long it took to get from the airport to the CBD, but it wasn't terribly fast, I know it would have been a lot faster by car, or taxi, or a bus direct from the airport to the CBD.

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I admit I have never been to Chicago, but I have rode the heavy rail subway in Boston, New York, and Washington DC and I can tell you that the average speed is at least twice as fast as Houston's light rail. It's not even close.

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I admit I have never been to Chicago, but I have rode the heavy rail subway in Boston, New York, and Washington DC and I can tell you that the average speed is at least twice as fast as Houston's light rail. It's not even close.

Google maps says it's 18 miles on the car route from ORD to CBD of Chicago, the train route follows roughly the same path, and it says 39 minutes, so about 30 mph average (including stops).

probably faster than our light rail performs.

it did feel slow though.

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Google maps says it's 18 miles on the car route from ORD to CBD of Chicago, the train route follows roughly the same path, and it says 39 minutes, so about 30 mph average (including stops).

probably faster than our light rail performs.

it did feel slow though.

Twice as fast. Our light rail travels 7 1/2 miles in 30 minutes. 15 mph

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Despite the fact the ridership is about 1000 per mile overall one has to admit DART is light years ahead of METRO. Over 85 miles of rail is something Houston could only dream about. I've been working in Dallas the past few weeks and I have to admit I'm impressed. Once the extension to DFW is complete it will be a pretty good system overall.

It was built in the fastest way possible which may not be the best route alignments, but the amont of rail they've made in a short amount of time is astounding. Also I believe there is a streetcar system in uptown.

Quantity over quality isn't always the best way to go. In actuality, both our rail system's are in a poor place, but I prefer Houston's position for the near future. DART has the issue of building rail where the people aren't, METRO has the issue of having no money to build rail. If we could just actually build our rail and not at the expense of adding more buses and park&ride we would have a great foundation.

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Every time I've traveled to Dallas I've made time to ride the light rail lines just to see what Houston's METROrail can eventually become. I've even spent 2-4 hours at a time exploring the region on the rails and believe me when I say it takes FOREVER to get somewhere unless you're just traveling a couple of stops and you'd probably be better served just getting in your car and going (unless you do not own a car).

While I'm impressed with the amount of miles DART has been able to complete, I really do not believe that's a good measure to compare METRO and DART. Dallas has invested $6-7 billion into this thing but I wouldn't necessarily call that investment good or wise. I believe the mistake has been to make it more of a commuter rail line system.

The fact that DART member cities are spread apart far and wide has forced them to make these lines "long and thin". Trust me, that is not what DART would have preferred. When a small city like Rowlett has "only" invested $80 million in sales tax revenues into the system since 1983 and DART is forced to spend hundreds of millions extending the rail line 5-10 miles to reach "downtown Rowlett" to apease city leaders, then you begin to reassess the wisdom of that investment.

I love the fact DART jumped on the rail "bandwagon" first and has put pressure on Houston to get with the program but I actually hope Houston learns from DART's mistakes and make METROrail more of an inner city type streetcar system. I believe this would also discourage sprawl (or at least not encourage it).

When you build transportation infrastructure out to far flung places you support more sprawled out development. Imagine Houston without Beltway 8 or - God Forbid - a totally completed 180 mile Grand Parkway - more development would have been forced to center around loop 610 thus encouraging a more dense inner loop.

And I'm really only concerned with Hobby being connected to the light rail since it is just 7 miles from downtown and probably only 4-5 miles from the current end of the Southeast line near Palm Center, set to open in late 2014 . IAH is just too damn far and would take too damn long when you're trying to catch a flight. Most of the folks riding to IAH would be those who work there which could be considerable (I guess) but not worth the billion plus it would take to complete a line out there.

And this is not at all meant to be a knock against DART's system because I'm a strong rail supporter and just think its kinda cool to see modern trains breezing around the city. My point is - being the first to have something is not always better neither is being bigger always better! Houston could more wisely invest in 30 miles of rail (vs 100 miles) and have similar or higher ridership than DART and all the while encourage more inner city transit oriented developments.

Sorry, I know it's not the central topic here, but I had to nitpick about something. I believe that without circumferential freeways, Houston would be even <i>more</i> spread out. Instead of development filling in the spaces between the arterials, it would simply spread out along the arterials like fingers. You can see this pattern somewhat in Atlanta (though their loop is slightly further out than Houston's). They lack a second loop or beltway. On the south side west of Fayetteville, there is not a ton of development and on the west side between I-20 and I-85, there is very little outside of 15 miles from downtown.

With rail, maybe it's also the same thing you describe. Houston is trying to develop an inner network first and avoiding the "fingers" pattern.

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Google maps says it's 18 miles on the car route from ORD to CBD of Chicago, the train route follows roughly the same path, and it says 39 minutes, so about 30 mph average (including stops).

probably faster than our light rail performs.

it did feel slow though.

Comparing Chicago's airport rail links to Houston's light rail system doesn't make a lot of sense because the two are entirely different types of vehicles.

Houston has a light rail system. it works at grade and mingles with the traffic like a trolley does.

Chicago's airport connections are subway trains. The O'Hare branch operates in tunnels (about 5 miles), elevated structures (2.2 miles), and in the median of I-90/94 (10.98 miles). There are 19 stops between downtown and ORD. At peak times, trains run as often as every 3 minutes. The longest scheduled time between trains is 15 minutes, which happens between midnight at 4:00am (Chicago is one of only a few cities with 24 hour rail service. Even Tokyo shuts down at night).

"Heavy rail" isn't exactly the right term for this line. In Chicago, heavy rail service is supplied by Metra, Amtrak, and the South Shore interurban line.

Not that long ago, the trip took 45-50 minutes between downtown and the airport. These days I'd say it's closer to 30 or 35. Officially it's still 45 minutes and always has been, but that's because the CTA doesn't keep a timetable for trains (train due at 3:30, 3:37, 3:41, etc...). Instead it uses more vague dispatching frequency language (train every 5-7 minutes, train every 3-9 minutes, etc...).

Chicago recently finished upgrading most of the line connecting to O'Hare airport. It used to be plagued with "slow zones" where trains were restricted to 15, or even 7.5 miles an hour because of deteriorating track ties. Those zones have been pretty much eliminated. The line was upgraded to handle trains going up to 75 MPH because the previous mayor wanted to have an express train connecting downtown to the airports (check in for your flight and check your bags at the downtown station and ride with just your carry-on straight into the terminal). There is even a half-built station for this purpose underneath the Block37 vertical mall.

Here's a current map showing the remaining slow zones and the speed limits on all sections of the CTA rail system: Slow Zone Map - December 13, 2012 The O'Hare branch has just 9.7% of its slow zones remaining. The rest is rated at 35 MPH (though it feels like most operators exceed this regularly).

The tracks to Midway Airport (MDW) have no slow zones. Officially the trip takes 25 minutes from downtown in spite of there being 15 stations along the way.

The subway cars that Chicago runs on its airport routes are limited to about 35 MPH because of their design. Unlike most cities which order rail cars to match the specific lines they will run on, all Chicago subway cars have to meet the same specifications so they can be moved from one line to another to adjust for demand over time, and for special events. One of the most limiting restrictions is the car length, because every line except Yellow has to negotiate 90-degree turns through the downtown skyscrapers.

Back to the original topic -- "Why is DART light years ahead of METRO?"

First, "light years" is an obvious exaggeration. I've been on DART, and I like METRO's trains better.

Second -- Because Dallas had a seven-year head start.

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"Heavy rail" isn't exactly the right term for this line. In Chicago, heavy rail service is supplied by Metra, Amtrak, and the South Shore interurban line.

In terms of transit, referring to subways/elevated rail as "heavy rail" is common. The distinction between heavy rail subways and trains like Metra etc. is "commuter rail."

Great post though.

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The problem with DART is the way DFW is setup. Dallas isn't the center of the metro and has to compete with some pretty big suburbs. Houston has a more centralized layout, so less miles of rail would have more riders in Houston. I believe the University Line projected ridership was around 40K, and that alone would put Metro right up there with DART ridership, not including the East End, North, Southeast, or Uptown lines. Politics has just completely screwed Houston, while DART at least is getting the rail on the ground. It is an impressive system, and once it connects with DFW (two airports), it'll be even better. Right now, DART needs some crosstown routes.

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Part of the difference is that DART had all this room to expand on relatively straight abandoned rail lines. Houston does not have that luxury. The Katy, in particular, was located too close to a freeway that needed to expand, or was a curvy mess running through highly residential areas. The rail line that parallels 59 MIGHT be a good alternative, and in fact IS planned for partial conversion to light rail.

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Part of the difference is that DART had all this room to expand on relatively straight abandoned rail lines. Houston does not have that luxury. The Katy, in particular, was located too close to a freeway that needed to expand, or was a curvy mess running through highly residential areas. The rail line that parallels 59 MIGHT be a good alternative, and in fact IS planned for partial conversion to light rail.

Unfortunately the area around abandoned rail lines aren't that conductive to mass transit in a sunbelt metro.

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The problem with DART is the way DFW is setup. Dallas isn't the center of the metro and has to compete with some pretty big suburbs. Houston has a more centralized layout, so less miles of rail would have more riders in Houston. I believe the University Line projected ridership was around 40K, and that alone would put Metro right up there with DART ridership, not including the East End, North, Southeast, or Uptown lines. Politics has just completely screwed Houston, while DART at least is getting the rail on the ground. It is an impressive system, and once it connects with DFW (two airports), it'll be even better. Right now, DART needs some crosstown routes.

In addition to the less centralized nature of DFW, it's interesting to look at their job centers vs. Houston's. Houston has 4 of its 7 major job centers within a 3.5 mile radius of Greenway Plaza. Dallas has its Uptown and Downtown pretty close to each other ... and then that's it. Houston is able to connect these four job centers with only parts of two lines: the western half of the University Line and the southern half (the part that's already built) of the Red Line. 11 miles on two lines connects all four job centers (assuming you leave at the part south of Holcombe). It looks like about 9 miles of line simply to connect Walnut Hill Lane with downtown. Wanna connect to TI? That's another 3 miles of line? Dallas Galleria area? Even more. Plano? Still more.

Plus, the layout of job clusters in Dallas seem to be different. Besides Dallas's uptown/downtown, the next closest job cluster on the North Central Expressway is a very linear, very low-density corridor of office buildings 5+ miles long all directly next to the freeway (couple exceptions at Walnut Hill). Houston's Galleria is the most spread out of Houston's "inner four", but it is still much more compact (<2.5 miles long) than the job center along U.S. 75. So essentially, Dallas HAD TO build lots of rail miles simply to connect its job centers. Houston doesn't have to.

Edited by ig2ba
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Just came across some sobering facts on DART:

http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/romantic-transit-in-dallas-and-san-antonio/

Excerpt:

The second difficulty is that Lantham declares the Dallas rail system (DART) as a success based upon opinions, again without reference to a single number. The DART rail system was sold to local voters in the early 1980s as a means by which traffic congestion would be reduced (as virtually all rail systems are sold).

Here are some facts about Dallas has changed since the first DART rail line opened:

1. Transit’s journey to work market share in Dallas County has fallen by one third, from 4.2 percent to 2.8 percent (US Census and American Community Survey data). Dallas County is the core county of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and all DART rail lines, and the line to Fort Worth converge in downtown Dallas).

2. Transit has become less important in the larger Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, having dropped 41 percent from a 2.4 percent work trip market share in 1990 to 1.4 percent in 2010.

3. DART’s light rail system has more than tripled in length since 2001. Yet, overall DART light rail and bus ridership was down from 2001 to 2011.

4. Traffic volumes in Dallas-Fort Worth have increased many times total transit ridership since before the first light rail line opened, and traffic congestion has risen by 65 percent.

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What about Greenspoint? Greenspoint as a whole area is continuing to die (Exxon bailing for parts north), so rail wouldn't be worth it to that area. Or would it put interest back in and make it viable? Maybe have Greenspoint Mall become sort of some commuters mecca (worked for one mall in the DC area) instead of a traditional shopping mall?

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Just came across some sobering facts on DART:

http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/romantic-transit-in-dallas-and-san-antonio/

Excerpt:

The second difficulty is that Lantham declares the Dallas rail system (DART) as a success based upon opinions, again without reference to a single number. The DART rail system was sold to local voters in the early 1980s as a means by which traffic congestion would be reduced (as virtually all rail systems are sold).

Here are some facts about Dallas has changed since the first DART rail line opened:

1. Transit’s journey to work market share in Dallas County has fallen by one third, from 4.2 percent to 2.8 percent (US Census and American Community Survey data). Dallas County is the core county of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and all DART rail lines, and the line to Fort Worth converge in downtown Dallas).

2. Transit has become less important in the larger Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, having dropped 41 percent from a 2.4 percent work trip market share in 1990 to 1.4 percent in 2010.

3. DART’s light rail system has more than tripled in length since 2001. Yet, overall DART light rail and bus ridership was down from 2001 to 2011.

4. Traffic volumes in Dallas-Fort Worth have increased many times total transit ridership since before the first light rail line opened, and traffic congestion has risen by 65 percent.

At least it got built

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At least it got built

I'd rather have it built where the people and jobs and have to wait longer for it to get built.

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2035?

Isn't a light rail system that no one uses the same as one that isn't built at all...except that the one no one uses cost billions more?

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Isn't a light rail system that no one uses the same as one that isn't built at all...except that the one no one uses cost billions more?

Once the extension goes to DFW it will be interesting to see if ridership rises as predicted.

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Once the extension goes to DFW it will be interesting to see if ridership rises as predicted.

How much of a ridership increase is predicted?

If DART's history is any guide, they will come nowhere near the predicted ridership.

Edited by Houston19514

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Once the extension goes to DFW it will be interesting to see if ridership rises as predicted.

I don't think it will be the least bit interesting. Even if one station at the airport caused a massive 20% increase in systemwide ridership (it won't), DART would still only be at 1,200 per mile ridership. It would still only be the 20th busiest LR system, hardly worth celebrating. Besides, I don't think that the DFW extension has even started construction. DART...and you...will simply have to promise us how great it will be someday in the future, even though there is not one single shred of evidence that it will have any more ridership than it already doesn't.

Face it, using DART as your argument for Houston rail expansion is the quickest way to kill off Houston rail forever.

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Further to the points raised by others above, according to DART's vice president for planning and development, even with their 85 miles of track and 53 stations "only 256,000 people work within a half-mile of a DART rail station." What a joke of a system. Metro already has about that many people working within a half-mile of its stations, even thought it only has 7.5 miles of track and 16 stations.

Edited by Houston19514

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I don't think it will be the least bit interesting. Even if one station at the airport caused a massive 20% increase in systemwide ridership (it won't), DART would still only be at 1,200 per mile ridership. It would still only be the 20th busiest LR system, hardly worth celebrating. Besides, I don't think that the DFW extension has even started construction. DART...and you...will simply have to promise us how great it will be someday in the future, even though there is not one single shred of evidence that it will have any more ridership than it already doesn't.

Face it, using DART as your argument for Houston rail expansion is the quickest way to kill off Houston rail forever.

County commissioners, Garcia, and the mayor did a superb job of killing the metro rail expansion by themselves this year

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County commissioners, Garcia, and the mayor did a superb job of killing the metro rail expansion by themselves this year

It's not permanently killed. METRO screwed itself with it's incompetence/corruption from previous administrations but the area along the University and Uptown Lines are gentrifying in spite of the lack of plan. I don't mind BRT along the proposed routes, but I just want a plan that eventually upgrades to LRT. No doubt these areas will need it eventually.

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A matter of semantics, I'm sure, but I don't think that what is currently happening in the Galleria area can be considered gentrification. Perhaps moving even farther upscale is a better term.

Either way, neither the area along the proposed uptown line, nor university line that is booming now is doing so because of any plans metro has (or had) for the areas.

I'm personally very glad that both lines that could be called the U line have been stopped indefinitely. Certainly LRT itself can be called compromise, but the path the line was to take was such a compromise itself. It's like a compromise of a compromise. I am okay with the lines that have, or are being built, while yes LRT is a compromise, it's a smart compromise.

but the university line, ugh, it's path was horrible. Hopefully in the years it takes to put it back on track (so to speak), the path it follows will be corrected as well.

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A matter of semantics, I'm sure, but I don't think that what is currently happening in the Galleria area can be considered gentrification. Perhaps moving even farther upscale is a better term.

Either way, neither the area along the proposed uptown line, nor university line that is booming now is doing so because of any plans metro has (or had) for the areas.

I'm personally very glad that both lines that could be called the U line have been stopped indefinitely. Certainly LRT itself can be called compromise, but the path the line was to take was such a compromise itself. It's like a compromise of a compromise. I am okay with the lines that have, or are being built, while yes LRT is a compromise, it's a smart compromise.

but the university line, ugh, it's path was horrible. Hopefully in the years it takes to put it back on track (so to speak), the path it follows will be corrected as well.

The uptown line had a good route, going straight up and down post oak. The university line should've gone straight down richmond then taken a left at Voss. Or better yet just gone straight down westheimer until beltway 8. The westpark corridor of that line was a joke.

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The uptown line had a good route, going straight up and down post oak. The university line should've gone straight down richmond then taken a left at Voss. Or better yet just gone straight down westheimer until beltway 8. The westpark corridor of that line was a joke.

agreed entirely, uptown line was a good route.

only problem with the University line was it was nixed by those residents out at the loop

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I don't think it will be the least bit interesting. Even if one station at the airport caused a massive 20% increase in systemwide ridership (it won't), DART would still only be at 1,200 per mile ridership. It would still only be the 20th busiest LR system, hardly worth celebrating. Besides, I don't think that the DFW extension has even started construction. DART...and you...will simply have to promise us how great it will be someday in the future, even though there is not one single shred of evidence that it will have any more ridership than it already doesn't.

Face it, using DART as your argument for Houston rail expansion is the quickest way to kill off Houston rail forever.

Construction of the DFW Airport DART station started in August and will open in December 2014.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20121214-dart-receives-120-million-federal-loan-to-fund-dfw-airport-rail.ece

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Sorry, I had to revisit this because I've been looking at numbers and wanted to revisit the central premise here. First of all, yes, I know that it's kind of pathetic that I'm looking at transit numbers on a Sunday morning and second, yes, I know that I'm severely masochistic for wanting to bring up transit again.

But let's look at numbers for a second and let's look at all modes across these two systems for 2012

System #1 - daily ridership - 290k - total annual ridership - 81,823k - operating expense - $445 million

System #2 - daily ridership - 245k - total annual ridership - 69,414k - operating expense - $449 million

I'm not sure why anyone would look at those numbers and conclude that one system is light years ahead of the other.

For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, of course Houston is system #1 and Dallas is system #2.

So here's my fundamental concern with the premise. The two systems have taken different approaches to transit. Neither cities approach has demonstrably reduced the need to widen and extend the highway network. Neither city has seen a measurable impact on urban sprawl as a result of their transit policies and I think that there are credible arguments about which metro has seen stronger urbanization in their urban core. Both metros have comparable commute times.

Given those things, why should it be accepted that DART is light years ahead of METRO?

Edit - forgot to mention that Metro ranks higher than DART in terms of percentage of the population with access to transit.

Edited by livincinco
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I rode it from Downtown to Richardson and it took an hour. I had to wait a long time for a train. After that I rented a car. I think people are moving to Frisco, Plano, North of Forth Worth. Arlington is the largest city without a transit authority. So, overall I have seen they have cutback service due to low ridership.

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Cannot wait till Metrorail opens it three lines. I believe the ridership will be very high. It always is the other lines will complement the Red line.

The areas they've been built in have population that rides public transit and will be thankful for upgrades.

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Sorry, I had to revisit this because I've been looking at numbers and wanted to revisit the central premise here. First of all, yes, I know that it's kind of pathetic that I'm looking at transit numbers on a Sunday morning and second, yes, I know that I'm severely masochistic for wanting to bring up transit again.

But let's look at numbers for a second and let's look at all modes across these two systems for 2012

System #1 - daily ridership - 290k - total annual ridership - 81,823k - operating expense - $445 million

System #2 - daily ridership - 245k - total annual ridership - 69,414k - operating expense - $449 million

 

 

I love analysis like this.  I spend lots of time looking at NTD and APTA numbers lol.  Kind of a hobby of mine. 

 

Anyway, the original topic is basically asking why DART has been able to fund and build so much rail while METRO is broke.  This is due to the fact that there is regional agreement on the system, and region-wide support.  This is both a blessing and a curse, because while this allows for more higher quality transit to be built, it usually means that long lines are built out to the suburbs and therefore results in lower ridership.  In DART's case, using light rail technology to build a commuter-like system was probably not the best decision in hindsight.  But most people in Dallas are happy with the system so I'm not going to crap on it. 

 

Also, you have to consider that a huge chunk of the Metroplex's population isn't served by DART at all.  If you take out Ft. Worth, Dallas is a lot smaller than Houston.  So it having similar ridership is actually pretty impressive. 

 

All those new trains are running mostly empty when you get outside Downtown, which is causing the inefficient cost-per-rider numbers.  But eventually the trains will fill up, it might take many decades though lol. 

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One of the things that DART has that Houston doesn't was conveniently abandoned railroad routes that could be utilized for light rail systems. Contrast Houston, which had several abandoned routes but utilized them as freeways and toll roads (Westpark Tollway, Katy Freeway), which given where they were, to what areas they connected, and other factors, were the most cost/usefulness effective.

 

There are some bike paths that could've been used as light rail--the Columbia Tap Rail Trail comes to mind, for instance--but had it been converted to lightrail, it wouldn't have really useful--it connects to TSU but that's about it. The existing 2004 route is much more effective.

 

Building underground may have technically worked--but it would've been enormously expensive (and Houston wouldn't have developed as well as it did) and it couldn't have gone underground in downtown due to the tunnels. 

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I love analysis like this. I spend lots of time looking at NTD and APTA numbers lol. Kind of a hobby of mine.

Anyway, the original topic is basically asking why DART has been able to fund and build so much rail while METRO is broke. This is due to the fact that there is regional agreement on the system, and region-wide support. This is both a blessing and a curse, because while this allows for more higher quality transit to be built, it usually means that long lines are built out to the suburbs and therefore results in lower ridership. In DART's case, using light rail technology to build a commuter-like system was probably not the best decision in hindsight. But most people in Dallas are happy with the system so I'm not going to crap on it.

Also, you have to consider that a huge chunk of the Metroplex's population isn't served by DART at all. If you take out Ft. Worth, Dallas is a lot smaller than Houston. So it having similar ridership is actually pretty impressive.

All those new trains are running mostly empty when you get outside Downtown, which is causing the inefficient cost-per-rider numbers. But eventually the trains will fill up, it might take many decades though lol.

It's fair to point out that Ft. Worth isn't included, but that swings both ways. Houston is covering a significantly larger area and is able to do it on a comparable budget. That's in spite of the fact that rail theoretically has a lower maintenance cost than buses. Additionally, those costs don't reflect the cap/ex costs that Dallas incurred to build the system to begin with.

My additional point is that I don't see where the benefits that are commonly touted with light rail have occurred. I don't see reduction in highway spend, reduced traffic, or reduced sprawl. As a result, I don't see why DART is light years ahead of Metro.

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I love analysis like this.  I spend lots of time looking at NTD and APTA numbers lol.  Kind of a hobby of mine. 

 

Anyway, the original topic is basically asking why DART has been able to fund and build so much rail while METRO is broke.  This is due to the fact that there is regional agreement on the system, and region-wide support.  This is both a blessing and a curse, because while this allows for more higher quality transit to be built, it usually means that long lines are built out to the suburbs and therefore results in lower ridership.  In DART's case, using light rail technology to build a commuter-like system was probably not the best decision in hindsight.  But most people in Dallas are happy with the system so I'm not going to crap on it. 

 

Also, you have to consider that a huge chunk of the Metroplex's population isn't served by DART at all.  If you take out Ft. Worth, Dallas is a lot smaller than Houston.  So it having similar ridership is actually pretty impressive. 

 

All those new trains are running mostly empty when you get outside Downtown, which is causing the inefficient cost-per-rider numbers.  But eventually the trains will fill up, it might take many decades though lol. 

 

This post sounds like a list of reasons why DART is BEHIND METRO, not an explanation of why DART is light years ahead of METRO. 

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It's fair to point out that Ft. Worth isn't included, but that swings both ways. Houston is covering a significantly larger area and is able to do it on a comparable budget. That's in spite of the fact that rail theoretically has a lower maintenance cost than buses. Additionally, those costs don't reflect the cap/ex costs that Dallas incurred to build the system to begin with.

My additional point is that I don't see where the benefits that are commonly touted with light rail have occurred. I don't see reduction in highway spend, reduced traffic, or reduced sprawl. As a result, I don't see why DART is light years ahead of Metro.

 

True.  DART has really taken on a lot with their light rail expansion over the last 15 years.  I honestly have no idea how they can afford it or how there's political will to do it, because 1) ridership has been underwhelming and 2) their tax base is significantly less than METRO's.  I don't think they have something equivalent to general mobility payments though.  But again, they're happy with what they're building so I'm not going to criticize too much. 

 

And those benefits to light rail you listed are kind of silly.  IMO, light rail works well in shorter high ridership corridors to carry more passengers at a more efficient rate, resulting in savings in the long run.  But what DART is building isn't doing that.  Perhaps decades from now the system will be more well utilized.  I think the only area where DART is ahead of METRO is future ridership capacity/efficiency.  But those benefits are not showing as of yet. 

 

This post sounds like a list of reasons why DART is BEHIND METRO, not an explanation of why DART is light years ahead of METRO. 

 

Yeah, I think METRO seems to be doing better with the few resources they have that's for sure.  The only way DART really beats METRO is that their seems to be more political support for it. 

 

But DART has potential though, things can change in the next few decades.

Edited by mfastx

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And those benefits to light rail you listed are kind of silly.  IMO, light rail works well in shorter high ridership corridors to carry more passengers at a more efficient rate, resulting in savings in the long run.  But what DART is building isn't doing that.  Perhaps decades from now the system will be more well utilized.  I think the only area where DART is ahead of METRO is future ridership capacity/efficiency.  But those benefits are not showing as of yet. 

 

 

Yeah, I think METRO seems to be doing better with the few resources they have that's for sure.  The only way DART really beats METRO is that their seems to be more political support for it. 

 

But DART has potential though, things can change in the next few decades.

Agree completely with your statement about short high ridership corridors and I'd even add that the benefit is truly in shorter high ridership corridors that are already established.  What DART has done is speculative, assuming that the corridors that they have developed will eventually become high ridership corridors.

 

In a lot of ways, my point is less about rail vs. bus and more about effective use of public funds.  DART has invested a huge amount of money on future speculation and I just don't see how that makes financial sense.  If you think that an area will support light rail in 25 years - why build it now?  Buy the corridor then build the rail twenty years from now so that it's ready when it does make financial sense.  That happens all the time with highway development.  DART is now going to be paying interest and operating costs on low ridership lines for years and will be starving immediate needs related to public transit as a result.

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