It’s the weekend of Green Lines. Yesterday, as Portland was celebrating its light rail extension along I-205 to Clackamas County, Dallas previewed the first 2.7-mile segment of its new transit corridor, which will provide rail links to the southeast side of the city for the first time in decades. Revenue service begins tomorrow. The full line, running 28 miles from Carrollton to Buckner, will open for customers in December 2010.
Dallas has one of the most ambitious rail programs under development today, with a new Orange Line planned to reach the airport in 2013, a circumferential Cotton Belt Line running around the north side of the city, a west Dallas corridor, and further extensions of the Red, Blue, and Green lines. But the first phase of the Green Line may be one of the most important, as it connects some of the city’s most important assets directly to the central business district, including Baylor University Hospital and the state fairgrounds.
The Green Line provides the spine for the Orange Line, which will share the former’s route until Bachman station, where it will split off to the west. The two new lines will add a total of 45 miles to the DART light rail network and an estimated 60,000 daily riders, to 120,000 systemwide.
Unlike Portland’s corridor, the Dallas Green Line runs in its own right-of-way adjacent to minor city streets, rather than a huge highway. This slows speeds a bit, since trains will have to go through intersections, though traffic lights will be automated to stop cars before trains pass through. On the other hand, the project’s routing will maximize surrounding development opportunities and make walks to and from the station convenient and comfortable, ultimately increasing ridership. Stations are generally well linked to nearby buildings and parks; each is unique in design and some even include fantastic sculptures. It says something really good about Dallas when it is building its rail lines more effectively than is Portland. Even so, stations further down the Dallas line still under construction are less interesting, more oriented around parking lots than neighborhood connections.
The project is especially consequential for the revival of the Deep Ellum neighborhood, which was the city’s underground arts center for much of the 1990s, but which lost some of its appeal as crime increased and arts-oriented businesses were replaced by clubs. The community has recently seen increasing investment in the form of high-density residential buildings along the line, and several old warehouses are being renovated for new use. The rail line could spur new vitality.
Further down the line, the inhabitants of the poor, mostly black areas around and south of Exposition Park are excited to see increased mobility coming their way. Too much excitement over the line, however, could be problematic, causing gentrification and increasing housing prices — and leading to the less weathy having to move out. Even so, with the entire Dallas region to benefit from new lines over the next few decades, this fear seems unlikely to come to fruition, so the Green Line is probably all-in-all a good thing.
The project’s opening will put added stress on Dallas’ downtown light rail route, which is already used by the Red and Blue Lines and runs on Pacific Avenue and Bryan Street. With the addition of the Orange Line and the eventual creation of a West Dallas corridor, the city will need a new route downtown to handle the number of trains. No problem: planners recognize this issue and have already allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for a second downtown corridor, complete by as early as 2014.
Note: See Human Transit for a discussion of the right place to route rail lines; See Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space for a discussion of designing for beauty in transit systems.
Image Above: Green Line Map, from DART