DART's decision to halt D/FW light rail blasted

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on June 23, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 23 at 6:40 PM

Not only is DART one of the few transit agencies that doesn't serve its city's core, but transit officials have now decided to put plans to expand light rail service to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on indefinite hold.

When DART's light rail network was conceived 25 years ago, the plan was to include a future line to D/FW airport. Today, most of those plans have been realized, with lines to south and southwest Dallas, to Plano, Garland, Pleasant Grove, Carrollton and Irving.

But due to a slump in sales tax receipts, DART officials have decided that extending the Orange Line to the nation's fourth-largest airport is a luxury they can't afford — at least not for the foreseeable future.

"We want to get to the airport," said DART Executive Director Gary Thomas. "But the important thing to remember is, a lot of people are riding the system to get to-and-from work, not necessarily to go to the airport."

The decision may be an unsavory one for DART officials, but for people who have to use cabs or cars to get to central Dallas from D/FW, it's a bad choice.

"Why do that?" asked Seattle resident David Nicastro just before boarding a plane back home. "What are they thinking? That doesn't make any sense to me."

Linda Ladd of Chicago also questions the move. "In this day and age on focus on conservation of energy, it makes very little sense to me that the civic government is not prioritizing mass transportation to an airport like this one," she said.

John Danish, Irving's representative on the DART Board of Directors, says failing to build the Orange Line out to the airport is a big mistake.

"This is the number-one job generator of our area," Danish said. "Everybody that has a mass transit system in the country gets to their international airport. We've been at this for over a quarter of a century. The time is no longer to avoid getting to D/FW Airport, but to get it done."

DART officials still hope to get it done — but only after serving the taxpaying citizens of Dallas and its suburbs first.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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