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Media Contact:
Morgan Lyons
or Robin Stringfellow

December 10, 1997

New services on a fast track

DART Board accelerates and expands rail, bus plans

DART is making major changes that will add almost nine million rail passengers and nearly five million bus passengers over the next five years.

DART's Board of Directors approved a financial plan that allows the agency to speed up light rail construction to Garland, Richardson and Plano and make major improvements in bus operations throughout the DART Service Area by purchasing 55 more 40' buses, 20 new trolley-style buses and implementing a new comprehensive bus service plan.

"The Board action to accelerate construction of our light rail system and make needed improvements in our bus service is our response to the demand from our 13 member cities for more service," said DART Board Chairman Norma Stanton of Irving. "It expresses our commitment to provide transportation people want, need and will use and is an investment in our member cities and their residents -- our customers. We are in a position to take these bold steps today thanks to smart fiscal management by this Board and previous DART Boards."

Light rail picks up speed

Based on community input and higher than expected ridership on the current system, DART will phase-in the opening of two light rail extensions as construction contracts along those lines are completed. In addition, instead of offering intermediate, single-track service from Mockingbird Station to Garland and from Richardson to Plano, as was originally planned DART will build a double-track rail system to those cities. All of DART's 20 mile Light Rail Starter System is double-tracked, allowing trains to operate in both inbound and outbound directions at any time.

On track to Garland

DART's Light Rail Starter System has two lines. DART's Blue Line presently runs north from the new Ledbetter Station in the South Oak Cliff section of Dallas, across the Trinity River, through downtown Dallas, ending at Pearl Station (Bryan and Pearl). This line will extend north to the Mockingbird Station, then 11 miles northeast to Garland. The opening date targets for the Northeast Corridor are as follows:

Line Section Original
Opening Date
New
Opening Date
Northwest Highway (G-1) December 2002 July 2001
LBJ Freeway (G-2) December 2002 February 2002
Garland (G-3) December 2002 November 2002

Next stop, Richardson and Plano

The Red Line will extend north from Park Lane Station (Park Lane and Greenville Avenue) 12 miles to Plano on the former Southern Pacific Railroad Company alignment. Presently, this line begins at Westmoreland Station, near the intersection of Illinois and Westmoreland in West Oak Cliff, runs north across the Trinity River, through downtown Dallas, and then enters a tunnel under North Central Expressway to Mockingbird Lane. From there, trains proceed above ground to Park Lane Station in North Dallas. Under the new phased rail station opening plan, the next section to open along this line will run from Park Lane Station to a new station south of LBJ Freeway near Floyd Road. The revised construction targets for the North Central extension are:

Line Section Original
Opening Date
New
Opening Date
LBJ Freeway (NC-3) December 2002 September 2001
Richardson (NC-4) December 2002 June 2002
Plano (NC-5) December 2003 June 2003

Christopher Poinsatte, DART's Chief Financial Officer, said the agency will add 1.3 million more light rail riders annually by building the second rail track immediately and 5.4 million riders by opening the line sections as they are completed. DART projects 8.8 million riders each year on the Northeast and North Central Extensions. DART presently transports about 35,000 riders each weekday on the Light Rail Starter System and expects to provide about 10.2 million light rail passenger trips during Fiscal Year 1998.

To transport the riders, the DART Board in October voted to acquire 34 new light rail vehicles to accommodate current passengers as well as those on the new segments of the rail system. DART operates a fleet of 40 electric-powered LRVs. The Board also is considering the purchase of another 21 light rail vehicles which would bring the fleet size to 95. The first of the 34 new vehicles is scheduled to arrive in June 1999.

Big plans for DART buses

While DART's rail and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes continue to grow, the agency's bus service -- mirroring national trends -- has posted annual declines in ridership. To correct that trend, DART's Board adopted a comprehensive five-year bus operating plan to increase ridership by 4.7 million trips by the end of the plan and improve the cost effectiveness of the bus service.

Some of the plan elements include: improvements in bus stop amenities, such as bus shelters and benches; increase service frequency; schedule changes to accommodate more riders who work nights and weekends; expand development of crosstown routes outside of downtown Dallas; develop neighborhood shuttle services; create bus circulator routes and employer shuttles in urban centers and establishment of intersuburban express bus routes.

Little buses expect to yield big result

To implement the new bus plan, DART will be adding buses to its fleet. In addition to the agency's standard 40' buses, the DART Board approved the purchase of 20 trolley-style buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). These buses will likely be used in circulator routes in Dallas, Oak Cliff, Addison, Plano and Garland. The buses, which are scheduled to arrive in 1998, are air-conditioned, wheelchair lift-equipped for mobility-impaired passengers and will carry about two dozen passengers each. The buses are built by Chance Coach, Inc. of Wichita, Kansas. The price of the contract for the trolley buses is $6.2 million.

More big buses on the way

In addition to the trolley buses, DART's new bus plan calls for more 40' buses. As a follow-up to its March 1997 order of 433 40' buses, DART will buy 55 more buses powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). The mix of clean diesel and LNG buses also has been changed to significantly increase the number of LNG buses. The changes are detailed in the table below:

  Original
Purchase Plan
Revised
Purchase Plan
LNG Buses 110 200
Clean Diesel Buses 323 288
TOTAL New 40' Buses 433 488

The engine in the LNG buses has recently been certified by the federal government as an ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV). As DART begins taking delivery of the new buses this spring, the agency will be building one of the nation's largest ULEV bus fleets. The cost of the bus order change that increases the number of new buses and revises the mix of LNG/Clean Diesel buses is $20 million and brings the new total for the 40' bus procurement to $162 million.

The new buses, built by NovaBUS of Roswell, New Mexico, will replace DART's older buses, some of which have been in service since the early 1980s. The buses will be manufactured and delivered to DART over the next four years. DART is scheduled to receive 103 buses this year -- the first of which should be in service by spring 1998.

DART President/Executive Director Roger Snoble said, "This is an exciting time for DART and its customers. We're confident our current customers will be pleased with the changes and that our system improvements will help us attract a lot more riders."

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