MAXIMIZING LIGHT RAIL CAPACITY
DART Rail's capacity in Downtown Dallas will be expanded with the completion of three interrelated projects. This means the core of the system will have more station options and less crowded trains for customers. Federal funding would help advance these projects.
The light rail network was built with all four lines converging on a single set of tracks along the Bryan Street-Pacific Avenue corridor through the city's Central Business District. Centralizing train movement through four common stations was convenient and cost-effective, but as the region and ridership have grown, the core of the system needs to keep pace through expansion.
At peak operating hours in the morning and afternoon, passengers often pack trains to standing room-only levels for significant portions of each trip. Further, if there is a situation along the rail corridor that blocks the tracks, the incident affects rail service - not just downtown, but throughout the entire 90-mile network. With ridership continuing to grow, these projects address capacity issues and provide relief when incidents occur.
Platform Extensions Project on the Blue and Red Lines
At the busiest times, all four rail lines operate at 15-minute intervals, which equates to 16 trains per hour in each direction. Factoring the time needed to move trains through the two junctions located at either end of the corridor, DART has maximized the number of trains that can go through downtown without compromising schedule reliability.
Since the agency cannot increase train frequency along the current infrastructure, the first project enables DART to make each train longer.
The Platform Extensions Project will update platforms at 28 Blue Line and Red Line stations constructed before 2004 and located outside of Downtown Dallas. Modifications include extending platforms and/or raising portions of the platform to permit level boarding.
Currently, DART operates two-car trains on the Blue and Red lines. Although the Orange Line is the newest, the agency also operates two-car trains on that route because the portion east of Downtown Dallas shares the Red Line's north corridor (see map here). The Green Line was built to accommodate three-car trains at all stations.
With longer platforms, the agency can operate three-car trains on all rail lines through downtown. This will increase the current limit of 36 light rail vehicles per hour in each direction to 48 vehicles per hour, a 33 percent increase.
Agency staff are determining how to schedule construction to minimize the impact on customers. DART plans to begin work in summer 2018 with completion by 2020. The agency also intends to complete the second Downtown Dallas light rail alignment, known as D2, by the end of 2021. (See below.)
The Federal Transit Administration has reallocated approximately $9.5 million in Capital Investment Grant funds from fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016 for the Platform Extensions Project.
President Obama also has proposed in the FY 2017 federal budget $49 million in Core Capacity Grant funding. With Congressional approval of this vital funding, DART can complete this project by 2020.
D2: Creating a Second Downtown Dallas Light Rail Alignment
DART also is working on the Dallas Central Business District Second Light Rail Alignment, known as D2. By constructing a second rail corridor through downtown, the agency would add both capacity and operational flexibility to the DART Rail System.
The Green and Orange lines would shift to the new set of tracks, providing rail service to areas in the central business district that are underserved. If an incident or malfunction disrupts service along one alignment, some trains could be diverted to the other corridor to keep people moving.
The agency has applied for a $325 million Capital Investment Grant for Core Capacity to complete the project. On Nov. 5, 2015, FTA authorized DART to begin the project development phase as part of the extensive, multistep federal funding process.
DART staff have begun developing more detailed preliminary engineering (PE) on the locally preferred alternative route, leading to an environmental impact statement (EIS). The PE/EIS effort will refine the preferred alternative, solicit stakeholder and public input, and evaluate routing options to the Jackson Street segment of the locally preferred alternative along Young and Wood streets.
More information about the project is available at DART.org/D2.
Connecting Streetcar Projects
The third project - the Central Dallas Streetcar Link - would provide another east-west transit connection within the city's Central Business District, as well as expand transit capacity downtown and extend the reach of DART Rail.
This streetcar corridor would connect the Dallas Streetcar system, located on the west side of downtown, to the M-Line Trolley at the Olive-St. Paul loop on the east side (see above), better linking Uptown Dallas and the Bishop Arts District.
DART is assisting the city of Dallas in the development and review of alternatives for the missing segment. DART hopes to build the Central Dallas Streetcar Link in the same time frame as D2 construction to both expedite the project and save money.
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