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DART Rail Facts

DART's Rail Cars Are Electric-powered Wonders

DART Rail at Downtown Garland Station image
DART Rail at
Downtown Garland Station

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As customers ride DART's electric-powered light rail vehicles, they are riding the wave of the future, and traveling into the past as well.

Like the streetcars of yesterday, the new non-polluting rail cars are powered by electricity fed from overhead lines. But each DART light rail vehicle is a state-of-the-art example of modern rail technology. A "catenary system" of two electrical cables provides stable working voltage for all trains on the 93-mile, 65-station system.

DART opened its light rail system in June 1996 with a fleet of 40 cars and through the years, has increased the total fleet size to 163 cars (2011) to improve service and to accommodate the expansion of the system to Garland, Richardson, Plano, Pleasant Grove, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving and Rowlett.

What makes it run?
DART's 93-mile light rail system requires about 9.5 million kilowatt hours per month from the Texas General Land Office and Garland Power & Light to feed into the 68 mainline substations -- big boxes measuring 15 feet wide, 46 feet long and 14 feet high located at intervals of 1.5 to 1.75 miles along the line.

Inside the substations, more than 13,000 volts of AC electrical power is converted into 845 volts of DC energy required to run the trains. Two additional substations are located at each of DART's Service & Inspection Facilities. The power distributed from each substation varies, depending on the number of trains in service and operating speed of rail traffic.

DART is unique in having one of the few variable voltage power distribution system in North America. Each substation is polled for energy usage and voltages are varied according to energy used and energy needed. Not all substations have to be operational for the light rail system to work. In the event of loss of utility power to a substation, the system is designed to provide enough power to compensate.

Image of a DART Rail C-Car vehicle
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Substation power flows into catenary lines hanging 20 feet above the tracks. "Catenary" is actually a geometric term that refers to the curve of the heavy top cable that hangs in a scalloped design from pole to pole on hinged cantilevers that extend out to the middle of the tracks. Distances between poles vary between 50 feet on curves and hills to 210 feet on straight stretches of track. The shorter the curve or the steeper the hill, the closer together the poles must be to maintain proper alignment between the contact wire and the track.

Thinner contact wire is stretched taut between one and four feet below the curved catenary wire and is connected to the cable above by hangers placed 20 to 25 feet apart, again depending on the length of the span between poles. On the top of each rail car is a "pantograph" -- a bar 78 inches wide with a carbon insert for conducting electricity. The pantograph picks up power from the contact wire as it moves along the track, and feeds it into the four 175-horsepower electric motors that drive the train.

DART Light Rail Technical Information

Vehicle Type: Double-ended, articulated car, multiple unit operation up to three cars
Fleet Size: 163 vehicles (2011)
Vehicle Height: 13 feet
Vehicle Width: 8 feet, 10 inches
Vehicle Length: 123 feet, 8 inches
Vehicle Weight: SLRV 101-140: 142,204 pounds
SLRV 141-195: 139,960 pounds
SLRV 196-215: 136,612 pounds
SLRV 216-263: 138,250 pounds
Passenger Capacity: 209 passengers, 96 seated
Travel Speed: Top speed: 65 miles per hour
Average speed: 25-35 miles per hour
Body: Lightweight, welded steel, with reinforced fiberglass covering operator cab and weatherproof articulation (bending) section
Designed for 30-year life
Interior: Constructed of stainless steel and lined with an upholstered, padded insert. Rubber interior flooring
Cooling/Heating: Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system
Wheels: Steel-tired with acoustic dampening
Doors: Five sliding doorways per side
Special Features: Middle car has a low-floor entrance and is wheelchair-accessible with accommodations for two wheelchairs per vehicle
Power Requirements: 600-900 Volts DC. Requires 288 KWH per hour of system operation averaged from total electrical consumption of the system.
Vehicle Cost: $7.3 million each (includes design, engineering, shipment, Automatic Train Protection (ATP), GPS-based Vehicle Business System (VBS), etc.).

DART Rail Ridership by Fiscal Year
1996 1.4 million (11 miles opened June 14, 1996)
1997 7.97 million (6 mile North Central extension opened January 10, 1997; 3 mile South Oak Cliff extension opened May 31, 1997 completing the 20-mile DART Rail Starter System)
1998 10.94 million
1999 11.34 million
2000 11.43 million
2001 11.51 million
2002 13.73 million (North Central extensions to Richardson and Northeast extensions to LBJ/Skillman Station opened in stages during the year)
2003 16.97 million (Northeast and North Central extensions completed adding 24 miles to system bringing the total to 44 miles)
2004 16.49 million
2005 17.48 million (The opening of Victory Station, the first station of the Northwest Corridor rail expansion, adds 1 mile to the system bringing the total to 45 miles)
2006 18.58 million
2007 17.9 million
2008 19.4 million
2009 19.0 million (The opening of the first four stations of the Southeast Corridor rail expansion on September 14, 2009 adds 3 miles to the system bringing the total to 48 miles)
2010 17.8 million
2011 22.3 million (The remaining 24 miles of the Green Line opens on December 6, 2010, bringing the system total to 72 miles)
2012 27.7 million (The first two phases of the Orange Line open, July 30, 2012 and December 3, 2012, and the Blue Line extension to Downtown Rowlett opens December 3, 2012, bringing the system total to 85 miles)
2013 29.5 million
2014 29.5 million (The Orange Line opens to DFW Airport on August 18, 2014, bringing the system total to 90 miles)
2015 29.9 million
2016 29.8 million (The South Oak Cliff Corridor Blue Line Extension opens on October 24, 2016, bringing the system total to 93 miles)
2017 30.1 million
2018 28.9 million
2019 28.3 million
2020 20.1 million
2021 14.5 million

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