|Bisnow learned more about one of the Metroplex’s best kept secrets: Dallas is in the process of the largest light rail construction underway in North America, with $3.5 billion of light rail expansion in the works, resulting in DART doubling in size.
December will bring 28 additional miles on the Green Line; the Blue Line extension to Rowlett comes in 2012; and the Orange Line to DFW Airport arrives 2013. We caught up with DART media relations guru Morgan Lyons and economic development and planning director Jack Wierzenski at the Akard Station last week for the details. Morgan says there are no larger light rail projects in terms of miles under construction outside of Asia or the Middle East. DART started with 11 miles of light rail in summer 1996 with the Red and Blue lines. Extensions between 1997-2002 added connections to South Oak Cliff, Garland, Richardson, Plano, and Victory Station. A new infill station, in Lake Highlands between LBJ Skillman and the the White Rock Station, will happen this December, too.
DART fast facts: It covers 13 cities; it’s a multimodal system of buses, HOV lanes, and two types of trains; it covers 700 square miles; and cities join DART by dedicating one cent of sales tax to transit. Morgan believes that once DART doubles its capacity, it will double ridership within a few years, too. Construction on SH 114 may delay the opening of the first two segments of the DART Orange Line, Morgan tells us, with first segment from Bachman Station to Las Colinas possibly opening in August 2012 instead of December 2011, as planned. Above, Akard Station from another angle.
The 2013 access to DFW Airport is not affected by the delays, Morgan adds. One of the added benefits to the light rail stations are the transit-oriented developments that accompany them. Jack says there are some TODs along the new Green Line already, with Baylor and Cityville, plus some other things in the works with Deep Ellum and the Hatcher Station. Irving has plans for the Orange Line, too. Jack says there is $8 billion in private investments either in place, under construction, or in the “vision stages” along DART lines.
An example of a thriving DART TOD is Mockingbird Station. “We started reactive and transitioned to proactive,” Jack says about the development. Mockingbird is known as one of the state’s first transit-oriented mixed-use developments. It started off with the acquisition of seven acres of an old warehouse site by developer Ken Hughes. About a year later, he bought another four acres; the station is built upon and around the historic elements from the original warehouse. The Mockingbird development opened in 2000, after the station was up and running, Jack says: "This is what developers look for."
Another view of Mockingbird. Jack says, “We can’t replicate the same thing at each station. They’re unique to the areas. Mockingbird Station is urban infill. There is suburban infill in downtown Plano, and mixtures of everything at other stations." Before its station opened, Plano had no restaurants neaby, "and now there are at least a half-dozen.” More good news: Jack is still meeting with developers who have plans along the lines.