Trolleys: What’s the Matter with More MATA in Dallas?

McKinney trolley Trio

With the announcement of more frequent stops and later hours on the Downtown/OakCliff streetcar, once the extension is complete this summer, some Uptown residents are setting their sites even higher up the road.

Austin Rucker, Michael Motorcycle and Siobhan Winfrey want to see more trolley action, extending the McKinney Avenue Trolley to run around its original track up and around Cole Avenue.

Knox Henderson, they say, is getting more crowded by the second minute with even more density coming down the pike — like a 22 story apartment building. The area will soon be loaded with cars clamoring for non-existent parking spaces, crowding streets, and ultimately reaching a breaking point. As part of the Dallas “Complete Streets” Initiative, Dallas’s Team Better Block was challenged with demonstrating how to re-engineer a three block stretch of Knox Street from the Katy Trail to McKinney Avenue to be safe for cars, bikes and pedestrians back in 2012.

The area of Knox Street is a classic historic main street in Old North Dallas with early 1900’s era buildings built to the sidewalks and four lane auto dominated streets. Early renderings (see A to C) of the street focused on maintaining the auto-centric nature of the area while including shared bicycle markings and a single bike lane placed in the blind spot of vehicles parked on the South side of the street.

Why not extend the trolley along its original course, making it a trail of Dallas history?

McKinney trolley tracks

Photo: Mike Redeker

“The trolley line stops at West Village at Blackburn,” said Michael Motorcycle, a philosopher, entrepreneur, hair stylist and community activist who has been in the neighborhood since the 1980’s. “They disbanded the rail car in 1956, it actually used to run all the way up to Highland Park and SMU.”

Motorcycle’s real name is Koler, but it was the sale of his treasured motorcycle that financed his hair salon. So he gave it a name with a bit more grit than the other Highland Park beauty salons.  Aside from looking like the kind of guy you would find on top of a mountain in a Kung-Fu movie, Chicago-born Michael’s scissors get pretty close to the necks of some Dallas movers and shakers. Now his sights are set on TxDOT funding to set the McKinney Avenue Trolley tracks to follow the original course all the way up to and, perhaps, past Knox Henderson.

The current end of the track is on Blackburn, where what Michael calls a “poetic sign” exists in vestigial track running a few feet due north, and then cutting. The evidence up at the north end of McKinney by Javiers also clearly demonstrates the former path of a swooping curve for a trolley to do a perfect U-Turn.

Austin & Michael 1

Photo: Mike Redeker

“At the north end of McKinney, there will soon be a forest of apartment towers where so many parking waivers have been approved that we might as well change the name from McKinney Ave. to “Fury Road,” says Austin Rucker, a realtor with Von Buren and Associates and, as a 2003 St. Marks graduate, my second son.

severus Snape

Severus Snape

“We should have a small statue of Alan Rickman in Severus Snape attire to remind everyone that magic is more likely than finding a parking place anywhere on McKinney Avenue,” he adds.

Getting the M Line running on its original pathway has also stirred architect Siobhan Winfrey, who works in downtown Dallas and has been car-free for the last several months — after her car’s engine was destroyed by a huge city pothole.

The M Line would help people get (including Siobhan) get to work downtown, and provide access for one of the rapidly growing areas of multi-family construction: Knox Henderson.

“It would also add value to every existing condo and apartment building on the path,” says Austin, “plus provide the good bros and ladies of Uptown a way to get to the prestigious MAC, visit Emily Javadi’s memorial at Cole Park and then grab a custard at iconic Wild about Harry’s without having to do anything other than put on their shoes.”

I believe, says the young Rucker, whose father, Jerry Rucker, was a Dallas City Councilman in the ’80’s, this is what Ash+Lime Strategies calls a ‘walkable neighborhood.’

Michael and Sibohan

Photo: Mike Redeker

To that end, the three have been busy in meetings, first with the area’s City Councilman Phillip Kingston, then a 45 minute telephone interview with North Texas Council of Governments Director of Transportation Michael Morris.

“For all the press he gets, I thought he would be dead set against the hokey notion of making a historic trolley line longer,” says Austin. “Instead, his first idea was a PBS documentary on the process. Kris Boyd, if you are reading this, please e-mail mlineatknox@gmail.com

The trolley materialized from the discovery of the old perfectly preserved tracks during a project on Routh Street.

Morris posited the notion that a one-way to two-way conversion on McKinney and Cole could torpedo any trolley plans, said Rucker.

“Since 90% of the road that will be covered by this is north of Fitzhugh, he suggested we get community input going on this STAT,” say Rucker.

Next: a guest post from Austin on his groups’s new mission. Then, ever wondered why it’s so hard to take dreams of commuter rail and streetcars into the realm of reality? Rail expert and writer Hayley Enoch explains the process, which often takes several years. All coming up on CandysDirt.com.

 

 

8 Comment

  • This is a great article. I think expanding and adding more cars is a great idea. A few months ago my car passed out and needed a new something or other. Guess where? Right in front of the Trolley Shop. It was fantastic speaking with the volunteer mechanic as he described where all the cars came from. So very interesting. IMOH. Expand far and wide…..and fix them dang durn potholes or someone will spray paint naked body parts on them. That’s how to get it done, threaten porn in our fine city. Hahahaha…I digress.

  • I support this 100%… If the City of Dallas is truly behind lowering it’s carbon foot print and better walkability, adding the trolley all the way down to Javier’s is a no-brainer… Plus, the trolley is cool! Wonder what it would cost? Private donation for naming rights anyone?

  • This is a backwards concept, cars replaced electric streetcars for a reason, they are more efficient for microcommuting and give flexibility and options to the consumer. I understand all you hipsters want a jovial steam punk world but once you wake up and taste reality you see that cars are the only way to go.

    • mm

      That’s interesting, because time and again, studies have shown that mass transit and walkability — not cars — raise property values and attract businesses that increase a tax base. It’s also easier on the environment, unlike cars.

      • Attract business? Try opening a business with no parking lot and see how far that gets you, the entire United States is built on Car Culture, the interstate highway system and drive through hamburger business are emblematic of the need for mechanized transit.

        • mm

          Maybe in Frisco, but time and again, those areas that are walkable and accessible to mass transit have shown huge gains in overall property values and taxable value.

  • This is a fantastic idea and it would certainly get a lot of use. So many of my neighbors who live in Uptown hardly use their cars and I’m meeting more and more people in this neighborhood who don’t even own a car! It’s so great to see this area of Dallas become less dependent on the car. #progress