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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Rob Shearer leads panelists (left to right) Sarah Tillman, Councilman Scott Griggs, Michael Nazarian, Jim Lake Jr., Robbie Good, Mark Lamster, Allison Cuellar, and Patrick Kennedy.

Surprisingly, the discussion this past Tuesday (last week) over the future of Bishop Arts didn’t devolve into a gripe-fest. The evening began with a showing of The Human Scale at the Texas Theater. The film by Scandinavian architect Jan Ghel explores the state of cities and the evolution of our understanding of  the human habitat.

The tone of the conversation was “How do we get more of what’s great about Bishop Arts?” Rob Shearer, principal at Kickstand marketing and host of the program, pointed out that there are thousands of apartments and hundreds of square feet of retail planned for the North Oak Cliff neighborhood over the next few years.

In the lobby, two boards covered with butcher paper asked attendees what they fear losing the most, and how they feel about Oak Cliff. (more…)