City Journal, a magazine about urban policy, recently published an issue focused on “Texas Rising” including an article on the development of the four big metro areas: San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth.
Their writer is not impressed with the accomplishments of Dallas Area Rapid Transit:
Generous philanthropic communities are Texas’s secret weapon. Donations—including 134 separate donations of $1 million or more—provided almost all the performing-arts center’s financing and also helped pay for the new Klyde Warren Park, built on a deck over a freeway, and a signature bridge design by Santiago Calatrava. Like northern capitalists of the great industrial age, wealthy Texans are willing to spend big to put their hometowns on the map. High-quality urban amenities cost money, and a robust Texas private sector made these kinds of investments possible. But it was the philanthropic culture of the Texas money men that led them to put their cash to work to expand the area’s cultural offerings.
Not all the money has been well spent. Dallas built the longest light-rail system in the United States, at 90 miles, but the DART rail system carries only about 100,000 passengers per day, a drop in the bucket for the region. DART cost billions to build and requires about $75 million per year in subsidies to operate, and unlike the cost of the performing-arts center, these costs are financed by tax dollars.
I’m guessing he didn’t see that the city of Dallas is being asked to pony up many more tax dollars to keep the performing arts center going too. But, otherwise, hard to argue that the DART costs so far have been worth the benefits accrued.