Thursday, October 13, 2011

DART to Fair Park - An Update

From 2011 10 State Fair

Two years ago, DART opened a short section of the DART Green Line from downtown to Fair Park. Football fans from UT and OU overcrowded the trains for the ride to the Cotton Bowl and the annual Red River Rivalry game. Anger overflowed. DART's image suffered.

Last year, DART added trains and rerouted the Red Line to eliminate the need to change trains downtown. And, likely, many fans, burned once, decided to drive, reducing demand. The result? A better balance of capacity and demand. Less anger. No headlines featuring DART.

This year, DART faced a new challenge. The Green Line has been extended to Carrollton. Would the influx of new passengers again overcrowd the service? DART was ready once again. Riding DART to Fair Park was a non-story. Good for DART.

How is DART handling the State Fair traffic on days other than the day of a big game? After the jump, my experience this week.

In 2009, Ellen and I rode the newly opened Green Line to Fair Park on a weekday. As reported here, the experience was pleasant and hassle-free. We did the same thing again this year. How did 2011 compare to 2009?

The southbound Red Line train was already full as it pulled into Richardson's Arapaho Station, so we had to stand for the ride to downtown. (In fact, only I had to stand. A gentleman graciously gave up his seat to Ellen. Chivalry isn't dead after all.)

At Pearl Station, we got out to switch to the Green Line to Fair Park. That's when we discovered the impact of the extension of the Green Line to Carrollton. The first Green Line train was already full. Many Red Line passengers wanting to transfer were left standing on the platform. Uh oh. Not good.

Ellen and I decided to jump ahead of the crowd by hopping on the next westbound train one stop to St Paul Station, where we would squeeze onto an eastbound Green Line train before it reached the crowded Pearl Station. Good idea, but unnecessary, as another Green Line train, less crowded, was following close behind the full one. Given a do-over, we probably would have ridden the Red Line train to St Paul's in the first place, just to avoid the crowded Pearl Station. But it might not have saved us any time.

Enjoyable State Fair interlude...

From 2011 10 State Fair

Leaving the State Fair in the late afternoon, there was a Green Line train arriving at Fair Park Station just as we walked up. No wait. Thank you, DART. This time, we decided to ride it past Pearl Station to St Paul Station, rather than jostle the crowds at Pearl Station. Good idea, but again unnecessary. Given another do-over, this time we would have gotten out at Pearl Station, as there was a northbound Red Line train waiting, crowded but with enough room for a couple more passengers. We watched from the windows of our Green Line train as the Red Line train pulled away, headed to Richardson. Our wait at St Paul Station for another Red Line train was short and our tactic did at least win us some open seats for the ride home, so we weren't too disappointed with our decision.

All in all, the State Fair and DART continues to be a winning combination. By all means, take in the Fair and leave the driving to DART. Just be prepared for crowds. But, hey, you're going to the State Fair. Crowds are part of the experience.