It took years for the Oak Cliff Streetcar route to go from a dream to reality. Rail expert Hayley Enoch breaks down the long process of how new mass transit comes on line.

It took years for the Oak Cliff Streetcar route to go from a dream to reality. Rail expert Hayley Enoch breaks down the long process of how new mass transit comes on line.

By Hayley Enoch
Special Contributor

[Editor’s note: The now free Dallas Festival of Ideas kicks off tomorrow and runs through Saturday, with speakers and panels focusing on the future of our city. One subject that comes up time and again is the need for walkable cities and more accessible mass transit. To facilitate that discussion, we asked rail journalist Hayley Enoch to break down the long process of how mass transit ideas become reality.]

Dallas-area residents don’t have to travel too far from their driveways to see that our local highway system has not kept up with demand. One hour drive times, even for small errands, have created a population eager to invest in light rail, streetcars, and other forms of public transportation.

Despite the demand, new public transportation projects and expansions to the existing system have been slow to materialize. This gives ammunition to those who call for wider highways and more toll roads, and believe that public transportation cannot efficiently serve Dallas-area residents. However, what makes expanding the system to keep up with demand difficult isn’t so much that civic planners are unaware of the need for additional capacity, but that there is a  complex pre-planning process that must be carried out before any new construction can begin. A better understanding of the process could help residents of Dallas-Fort Worth plan for our transportation future.

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Guest Post by Austin Rucker, a Realtor with Dallas-based Von Buren and Associates

Back in 1904, the city of Dallas had about 72 miles of electric streetcar lines worth around 32 million dollars. In today’s dollars, that is $804 million or $11 million per mile of track. In fact, the first streetcar opened in spring of 1873 from the courthouse down Main Street to the Houston & Texas Central Railway Station. In 1940, the fare was seven cents.

McKinney Avenue is named for Collin McKinney, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and the man credited with suggesting that all Texas counties be made 30 mile square, so you could travel to the county seat and get back home all in one day. McKinney Avenue was the road that was used to get to the town of McKinney. The streetcars are the first modern transit option the city ever had. Rail has left it’s mark in Dallas: Pacific Avenue is named for the eponymous company whose rail ran through our downtown.

The current MATA (McKinney Avenue Transit Authority) line was put together using only $28 million from TxDOT, and soon will have one of the original streetcars from the original line that was sold to GE and Goodyear. The line was disbanded in 1956 to make room for a bus route that never happened.

Tourists visiting Dallas love our trolleys. (more…)

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Once upon a time, people rode trolleys in the cities. It was a quick, efficient way to get around. The power source? Horse hoofs.

The first urban light rail system was simply a relatively small, boxy car pulled by horses over rails imbedded into the street. The first system of this type began operations in New York City in 1832 (two years before Brooklyn, across the river, was incorporated into a city itself). The horsecar was much more efficient than the coaches then in use. Running along rails eliminated most of the friction, allowing horses to pull a much greater load with a lot less effort. Soon horsecar lines criss crossed the City of New York. The rapidly growing City of Brooklyn began its own series of lines in 1854.

Next someone attached a car to a constantly running cable underground. The Cable Car was born, and was larger, faster, and less polluting than horses.

Next came the electric generator and motor technology. In 1888 Richmond, Virginia became the first city to successfully electrify a streetcar line, and Brooklyn followed shortly thereafter. Electric streetcars soon replaced the cable cars and, of course, the horselines. Electric streetcars were tagged the ‘trolley’ after its original electronic pick-up devise, called a trawler. Soon whole centers of activity developed around trolley stations.

What would change all that would be, of course, the automobile with some old-fashioned political meddling:

Beginning in the 1920’s, however, the trolley companies (all privately owned) began to face a number of problems. This was a time of expanding automobile ownership and increasing automobile traffic. Furthermore, local governments were becoming increasingly hostile to trolley operators. Track repairs were often hindered by demands on transit companies to also repair adjoining streets; simultaneously, municipalities made additional claims on their revenues. In New York the nickel fare was mandated despite inflationary trends, making once profitable trolley lines (and subway and elevated lines) into money losing propositions. Of course, shortly after the city took over transit operations, the fare was raised.

 

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Gabriel Barbier-Mueller

Bleu Ciel, designed by HDF, LLC and Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

Since we first heard the news, Bleu Ciel has made a big impression on us. From the design to the prices, we have to admit that this 33-story condo building is going to have a big impact on the Harwood area. The tower will include two- and three-bedroom homes from 1,300 square feet to more than 7,000, with prices starting at $805,000.

But if you want to know more about this building, which is primed to become a landmark in the area, you can enter to win a pair of tickets to the first exclusive “Beyond the Bricks and Mortar” speaker event featuring our publisher and editrix Candace Evans. This is an invitation-only event that will host some of the most influential Dallasites and real estate professionals, so you don’t want to miss out.

Jump to find out how to win!

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Gables Park 17

We know the sad story of how young Kendra Hatcher was gunned down in the parking lot of Gables Park 17 in September likely involved someone who targeted the vivacious dentist over a love triangle or sick jealousy. We know that woman is still at large, somewhere south of the border. But Gables residents had been complaining about crime (break-ins, car thefts) for months BEFORE the murder.  The parking garage “arm gate” offers little security to the parking garage — drivers can piggyback in through it, and most condos have steel or mesh gates that go up and down. Residents complain the guards posted at the entrance to the parking garage (after the murder) are unarmed and usually dozing, talking on the phone or on a break.

Now the site Apartment Ratings has given Gables Park 17 a bad wrap, saying “don’t look here unless you want to experience crime, corruption and ghetto management”... WOW!

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Dallas police have arrested and have in custody a suspect in the murder of Kendra Hatcher, who was shot in her parking garage at the Gables Park 17 Wednesday evening.

Dental assistant Crystal Cortes of Dallas is being held on a capital murder charge. She apparently told investigators she was the one who drove Kendra Hatcher’s killer to the Gables Park 17 parking garage on Wednesday. If you look closely at the police photos, you can see the driver’s face looks like that of a woman.

But Dallas Police have not said a word about whether Cortes knew the victim, where the killer might be, or who he is.

What’s important here is this: Cortes told detectives that robbery was the motive for the murder. She admitted someone paid her $500 to drive the gunman to kill Hatcher. (more…)

IMG_8912I was in San Francisco last week for Inman Real Estate Connect. Loved it, as ever. Saturday, I got a Change.com petition launched by Rob Hahn (a Texan, Houston, and a pretty smart guy) to change the location of the conference OUT of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to somewhere else:

ICSF is a great event held in a horrifyingly bad location. Whether we’re getting more sensitive, or the vagrants and panhandlers around the Hilton are getting worse, things have never been as bad as they were this year. We are now actually afraid and worried about our physical safety. Networking with our industry peers should not have to include fending off a half-dozen super aggressive panhandlers, or getting screamed at by mentally unstable homeless people, or dealing with sexual harassment from vagrants. It’s time. Move the ICSF conference out of the Tenderloin.The homeless problem in San Francisco is bad and getting worse

Naturally, I said come to Texas. Just not in August.

I’m debating whether to sign the petition. I can definitely relate. I, too, heard a lot of complaints. Clay Stapp and James Bohan-Pitt saw gals shooting up heroin on the street, which is an everyday occurrence. Another exhibitor told me he had all his brand new Apple computers stolen out of his car the very first night of the conference, resulting in a scramble to get new computers overnight in order to stock his booth the subsequent days. A lot of agents complained about stepping over the homeless and their garbage/pee. I was horrified to see it’s no longer men and pets panhandling but women cradling infants with begging cups. And the day I arrived in San Francisco — after a super early morning flight, lost luggage, no food and little sleep — I learned real estate is not the only inflated commodity. (more…)

Victory Park is poised for a renaissance, and a new residential tower could help fuel new growth. (Photo: Victory Park)

Victory Park is poised for a renaissance, and a new residential tower could help fuel new growth.

Our appetite for high-rise residential evidently knows no bounds, as Richardson-based Genesis Real Estate Group has announced yet another high-rise project planned for the urban core. This project, a 28-story high-rise at Hi Line Drive and Houston Street inside Victory Park, was designed by Houston-based architecture firm EDI, according to Dallas Morning News reporter Steve Brown. Genesis is the 30-year-old firm that brought the 603-unit 3225 Turtle Creek, AKA The Renaissance, online.

Brown says that there are other high-rise projects in the works by Greystar, Novare Group and Lennar Multifamily. One has to wonder if we are perhaps biting off more than we can chew with all these new high-rise condo developments. Still, I’m optimistic that this project could usher in more foot traffic to Victory Park, which has so much potential but lacks the critical mass of residents to support a lot of retail and restaurants.

What do you think?