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February 15, 2006
Ridership, revenue gains put DART on track for growth
With five million new riders and a steady upturn in the regional economy, Dallas Area Rapid Transit is well-positioned to kick-off a $2.4 billion light rail expansion that will double the DART Rail System to 90 miles by 2013.
Another major signal that the Northwest/Southeast expansion is on track came earlier this month when Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officials announced their intention to recommend $700 million in federal funds toward a 21-mile portion of the project running from Pleasant Grove to Farmers Branch. The first $80 million of federal funding already is included in President Bush's proposed FY 2007 budget, and the FTA's final technical approval of the project is expected this spring.
During the 12 months ending September 30, 2005, a resurgent regional economy and an increase in jobs keyed a DART ridership gain of 5.1 million trips over FY 2004. The economy also contributed to $342.7 million in transit sales tax revenues from DART's 13 member cities -- a $9.4-million gain over the previous fiscal year. A one-cent sales tax accounts for approximately 80% of DART's annual revenue.
Skyrocketing gas prices - exceeding $3 a gallon - stimulated high ridership through the late summer and early fall. As fuel prices stayed high and the regional economy strengthened, so did DART ridership. Between October and December 2005, DART saw a 4.8% gain in riders on its network of bus, rail and high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.
"We're on a good roll and ready to build," President/Executive Director Gary Thomas said. "We're seeing great ridership gains, and a growing number of people are choosing to live, work and invest in the increasing number of transit-oriented developments near our stations."
DART Rail Expansion on track
Later this year DART will break ground on an aggressive light rail expansion program that will double the 45-mile system by 2013 with a southeast extension to linking downtown Dallas, Fair Park, South Dallas and Pleasant Grove, and a northwest extension serving the Dallas medical and market centers, Dallas Love Field Airport, Farmers Branch and Carrollton. An additional branch will serve Las Colinas Urban Center in North Irving and DFW International Airport. Service also will be extended from Garland to Rowlett.
Expansion plans continue for HOV and Trinity Railway Express (TRE)
Responding to the 17% ridership gain enjoyed by the TRE during the first three months of FY 2006, track upgrades are in the works. During 2006, the TRE will continue its long-range program of adding double-track capacity at key parts of the 34-mile commuter rail line connecting Dallas and Fort Worth.
Bolstered by a ridership gain of nearly 2.5 million trips over FY 2004, the region's HOV lane system is being expanded to improve mobility and air quality. The HOV lanes along I-635 (LBJ) and I-30 (East RL. Thornton) will be extended into Mesquite, and new concurrent flow HOV Lanes will be built along US 75, north of I-635 into Collin County.
The region's first managed HOV Lanes will be implemented along I-30 (Tom Landry Freeway) from just west of the Dallas CBD towards Tarrant County where single occupant vehicles will be allowed - for a fee -- to use the lanes and enjoy travel-time savings.
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