Commerce Street is the preferred path for both a new DART rail subway and a street car extension after a Dallas City Council vote Wednesday.
“I’m excited to see this item move forward,” Councilman Lee Kleinman said.
It came after years of debate about the locations. Council Members praised Dallas Area Rapid Transit staff members for their patience with changes city leaders demanded.
“I know it took a great deal of work, a lot of community engagement to get to this point. I think you did a great job,” Councilman Adam McGough said.
But while they had the attention of DART leaders, City Council Members also piled on over what many of them believe is still wrong with the transit agency.
Among other things, Councilman Dwaine Caraway said the existing Lancaster DART line that runs down the middle of the street lacks fences to keep cars and pedestrians safely off the tracks.
“We’ve been on all the tours. They do all this yapping but they bring no dog gone results,” Caraway said. “I’ll get off my rant, but I want them to hear me and I want some results.”
Other Council Members voiced complaints about bus routes that do not serve enough of the places where people live and work.
Councilman Tennell Atkins said too many routes require transfers through downtown.
“It takes you about an hour and a half out of your day to just transfer back and forth,” he said.
McGough said a Dallas City Council resolution asked for bus route improvements a year ago at the same time as the change in the second downtown rail route.
McGough said the fast progress on rail planning shows DART can respond.
“All this stuff we’re still hearing about today,” McGough said. “We’re not moving the needle.”
DART officials have said in the past that complaints are being addressed and that bus improvements are being made but the sprawling service area makes public transportation to all points a tremendous challenge. Demographic and employment patterns have also changed in North Texas in recent years.
With Wednesday's route endorsement from the Dallas City Council, detailed planning will now begin for the subway and street car projects.
Officials hope federal money will pay most of the cost with DART sales taxes and other grants paying the rest.
The street car expansion is forecast for operation by 2023 with a cost of $92 million. The second downtown DART Rail path is expected to operate a year later with a $1.3 billion investment.