Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Beginning of the End for DART

With the runoffs to Dallas City Council races over, three incumbents were defeated. There are, perhaps, many reasons to cheer the overturning of the old guard in Dallas. But the future of DART for Richardson is not one of them.

As reported in December, 2016, the Dallas city council voted unanimously on a resolution that did not include the Cotton Belt line as one of its transit priorities. Then, it named Patrick Kennedy to the DART board. Kennedy is opposed to converting the Cotton Belt line to passenger service from Richardson to the DFW Airport. I concluded with, "Richardson is going to have a fight on its hands to get that Cotton Belt line developed." Developments since then have only gotten worse. It's not just the Cotton Belt line at risk, but the whole DART system.

Wick Allison, publisher of D Magazine used the election results to declare an "Agenda for a New Dallas". DART isn't part of it.
So far the $5 billion Dallas has spent has produced a minimal — some would say invisible — return on investment. Dallas should say, Thanks but no thanks.

Dallas has an alternative. The suburbs can keep the rail. We could give it to them. Dallas can keep its $260 million a year to invest in multi-modal systems that actually spur urban development, fatten the city’s wallet, and get its citizens — especially those living in the southern sector — to work.
Source: Wick Allison.
The Dallas runoff election could mark the beginning of the end for DART, not just the Cotton Belt line that would benefit Richardson enormously, but the whole DART network. More likely, it won't play out that badly. The new Dallas City Council will appoint new members to the DART board. Dallas by itself has a majority on the board. So, it's likely the new DART board will vote to kill the Cotton Belt. The current DART board appears to understand that, as they are considering a special board meeting June 20 on the issuing of debt needed to build the Cotton Belt line. The meeting would take place before the new Dallas DART members would be seated. After that, expect the new majority will make sure that DART's budget sends more money to projects that benefit Dallas vs the suburbs. If they get all that, there's no reason to kill DART itself. That wouldn't be in Dallas's interest. That would be stupid. And we are confident that the Dallas City Council would never do anything stupid, right?

In any case, the new Dallas City Council looks to be on the verge of adopting a beggar-thy-neighbor strategy. June 10, 2017, could be remembered as the beginning of the end for DART.


Mark Steger said...

The death knell: "Cotton Belt Debt Issuance Fails to Pass DART Board".

Citizen X said...

Mark, I'm interested in what you feel are the potential enormous benefits of the Cottonbelt line for Richardson? Far as I can see we would get a station at UTD's north side, which already has substantial development in the works, and service to DFW airport from Cityline which already has service to DFW Airport as well as a ton of existing development. I've never really understood the argument for Richardson. For Addison & Carrolton, sure, definitely some gains for them to have rail service, ignoring any opportunity costs, but Richardson already has 4 rail stations and I've never heard what I considered to be a strong argument for almost $2B of investment. I'm interested in your perspective as a non-elected official without a vested interest (far as I know).

Mark Steger said...

"Citizen X", thanks for the feedback, but real names are desired here, not aliases. Spurring new development is only part of the goal. Spurring sustainable development is also important. So too is servicing the development that already exists and that will exist regardless. Public transit is an important piece of a robust transportation plan. Putting all of the burden on already overburdened highway system is an expensive and inefficient solution. The costs and benefits of the Cotton Belt line are shared by many cities in north Texas, including Richardson (and Dallas). Richardson benefits from being part of that.

Mark Steger said...

Drumbeat from Dallas to kill DART grows louder: "The best thing that could happen to the city would be for the suburbs to pull out and leave Dallas to run what’s left — or leave the whole thing high and dry and start over from scratch."
-- "DART Worst Transit Agency in America, Thanks to Dallas' Suburban In-Laws"