I arrived in Dallas with no cell phone and no business cards (nothing calamitous happened in my life, just seems like Murphy’s Law was in full activation mode). It was not an auspicious start to attending the APTA rail conference. Moreover, Texas is not one of my can’t-wait-to-go-there places. Especially in summer.
But as unlikely as it sounds, Dallas quickly cheered me up, offering so many innovative transportation projects and ideas to sample that it was like being a kid in a candy store.
First, mass transit. Ridership is still steadily growing across the U.S., just as it was pre-recession. On June 4, Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials hustled to Union Station at 5 a.m., preparing to wow the unsuspecting 125 millionth rider of their 16-year-old system—the most expansive light rail system in the country, despite this being the home of the pick-up truck.
Speaking of trucks, then I toured the $3-billion LBJ highway widening, a P3 endeavor where managed lanes will soar imposingly alongside the existing lanes for a few miles, then descend into below-grade alignments.
Next day, I saw none other than Jim Crites, executive vice president of operations for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, sitting on a panel to discuss the importance of mass transit.
He said that as a Transportation Research Board member, “I’ve always appreciated the ability to reach out to other modes…we’re finally doing that as a region here.”
Construction is ongoing on DART’s $2 billion Orange Line, a 14-mile extension that will directly connect to the airport in 2014. A $1-billion highway widening job called the DFW Connector will also be opened in 2014 (one of various major area highway projects, along with the LBJ, run by TxDOT; the total value of all the work could reach $10 billion).
As part of its own $2-billion terminal renovation program, DFW will build the Orange Line station (and I’ll be touring the airport program just before flying home to New York.)
Gary Thomas, president of DART, joked that somebody, eagerly jumping the gun, had asked him about how to get to the airport using light rail. “‘What time does the Orange Line train leave for the airport?’ I said, 2014.”
Crites told the audience that the airport is working with DART to create a seamless data network. “You can be riding the train, and get your flight information,” he said.
It will take some time to get the seamless system going, but “then we’ll be ahead of the game,” he added.
Good. By then I’ll have a cell phone again, and I’ll be able to test it out.
Because I expect to go there again. Dallas may not be my personal destination of choice. But as a hotbed of transportation projects and leaders, it’s one of my favorite cities.