For the first hour or so of Tuesday’s meeting of the Dallas City Council’s Transportation Committee, council members listened as the region’s top transportation official and the assistant city manager who oversees transportation discussed the need for a more integrated approach to long-range planning.
They proposed an approach to transportation planning that allowed for other city investments and services – like improved traffic signals, reconstituted streetscapes, and expanded access to high-speed internet – to be incrementally built into the system. The idea was to design each transportation project not as a single, standalone investment, but as a component of a broader network of iterative improvements.
Then, the council pivoted and nearly killed the Oak Cliff Streetcar, a pilot trolley line that the city has long hoped will someday evolve into a modern streetcar network covering downtown and the surrounding inner-city neighborhoods. It was a paradoxical juxtaposition of planning philosophies and something of a case study in what works – and what doesn’t work – with city planning in Dallas.
Council members are understandably frustrated that the Oak Cliff Streetcar is leaking money. The streetcar connects the far southwest corner of downtown at the Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station with the Bishop Arts District. It is short nearly $1 million of its $2.3 million annual operating budget. Staff proposed the council draw from the city’s general fund to cover the gap, but only North Oak Cliff representative Chad West was vocal in supporting that idea; the streetcar is in West’s district. In the end, the council voted to delay action – but not before the committee kicked the tires on giving up on the streetcar altogether.Read More