By Rick Lopez
If a stranger talks to an Oak Cliff homeowner about the neighborhood for a few minutes, eventually he or she will boast about one of two things: the arrival of the newest critically acclaimed restaurant in the Bishop Arts District (which changes every few months) or a streetcar that will soon connect the neighborhood with downtown Dallas.
However, the latest development on the $51 million streetcar project set to debut early next year seemed to surprise some residents: It will only operate weekdays until 7 p.m., and make only four stops before it terminates at the corner of Colorado and Zang, just east of Methodist Medical Center.
Though the stops will service a swath of new apartment communities just south of the Jefferson Viaduct, the streetcar’s final destination isn’t exactly the nexus of North Oak Cliff.
Two bus lines and DART’s new free shuttle— the D-Link — already offer service from downtown to Methodist. D-Link, however, traces a circuitous route traversing the museum district, Klyde Warren Park, Main Street, Bishop Arts, and Jefferson Boulevard (home to the Texas Theatre, and very soon, a brewery) every 15 minutes, six days a week, from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
“The fact that the streetcar will only run during working hours Monday through Friday makes it nearly worthless,” said Barry Binder, who lives in Winnetka Heights. “Sure, people who work downtown will have a new public transportation option, but that’s not me, nor most people who I know that live in Oak Cliff.”
But that schedule and route will be temporary.
Keith Manoy, the city’s senior transportation planner, said “Phase Two” of the streetcar eventually will extend the route to the Bishop Arts District via Zang Boulevard to Davis Street, which for now is spared from construction. “Phase Three” will incorporate the Omni Hotel Dallas to the route, and planners are brainstorming on “Phase Four,” which would extend to Jefferson through a undecided path.
“We have the funding for the first three phases, but we trying to determine how to get the project contracted and scheduled,” Manoy said on Friday.
However, DART plans to operate the D-Link concurrently — at least while the streetcar project gains traction.
“The D-Link will continue its service for some time,” said Mark Ball, a DART spokesman. “The city and Downtown Dallas Inc. are helping DART pay for it and are very pleased.”
Binder he isn’t thrilled with either option for the moment, especially after experiencing a D-Link fail during a night on the town with some friends.
“We got so jammed up by the Omni on our way to Southside on Lamar, that we jumped off and just decided to walk under the convention center to South Side,” he said. “We left early enough to pick up a returning D-Link, but one never came by to pick us up, so we took Uber.
“I haven’t used D-Link since, even though it stops right in front of our house.”
Some residents say they don’t mind enduring the growing pains of a rapidly expanding mass-transit system if it leads to progress.
“We are all suffering a temporary inconvenience from the track building as we try to drive out of our neighborhood,” said Dottie Dunnam. “No matter how long its infrastructure construction takes, this streetcar is a great thing. Parking is horrible in Bishop Arts.
“I wish the streetcar’s route could be extended to include the Trinity Groves.”
Les Hall, who’s lived in North Oak Cliff for decades, is among those glad to see both transit options exist, even it it’s temporary.
“I can remember Dallas in 1984, when I didn’t have a car and there was little or no convenient public transport,” Hall said. “Now, we can jump on trains and buses with our bikes, we have bike lanes, and overall, there seems to be a movement to make public transport ‘cool’ to use — perhaps even ‘hip.’”
Rick Lopez is a writer, designer, and editor, as well as a resident of Kidd Springs in North Oak Cliff. Follow him on Twitter: @buzzdfw.