Dallas’ Suburb Commuter Train

The Transport Politic has a write-up on the just-opened Denton County A-Train. He makes a couple salient points I’d like to highlight here.

The whole route, including the 8-minute connection? About 80 minutes. Compare that to the express bus service between Denton and Dallas that was offered until now, which could make the link in about one hour.

The now-longer ride will not provide much convenience for people who make the daily commute, and in terms of speed itself it is a downgrade from the old service (though of course the train offers more station stops).

There were better alternatives to this commuter line but…

The fact that Denton County is not a sales tax-paying member of DART (but rather operates its own agency, DCTA) poses a major obstacle; why would DART make an effort to incorporate services by another entity into its plans if the two did not cooperate? This project may come to be interpreted as yet another failure of American metropolitan areas to act regionally.

Politics trumped solutions. A private entity wouldn’t have made this mistake. We need to find a way to enable private companies provide these services.

A final excerpt:

…perhaps the greatest success of the project’s backers was getting it funded in the first place through the creation of a 1/2-cent sales tax in 2002, approved by the electorate by a wide margin, and the redirection of road tolls, which covered 80% of the cost (no federal dollars were involved to speed up the process).

Three thoughts here.

Firstly, wow! A locally-funded commuter rail line with no federal money! Excellent. Folks will vote to fund transportation solutions that they need. Why send the money to Washington when the local entities can handle it? Conservative or Liberal, if the project makes sense and betters the community, folks will do what it takes to fund it.

Secondly, funding this with road tolls was an innovative idea. I wonder if they’ll continue to fund operations out of road tolls.

Finally, note that one impetus for funding this project locally was that Federal dollars would have slowed down the project. Politics trumps solutions. The more government you involve the more politics get involved.