“The Green Line is what we finished last year, and it basically runs from the southeast to the northwest — from southeast Dallas on through downtown Dallas where it runs along with the Red and Blue lines and then continues through northwest Dallas and then goes up to the cities of Farmers Branch and Carrollton. Most of the light rail has been to the north central and northeast and then southwest and south central, and so this gives us a whole new set of directions, connections,” Lyons says.
DART currently has two extension projects both in construction. On the Orange Line, the extension is comprised of three components, Lyons explains. The first section takes the line from the Bachman station to the Irving Convention Center and it is currently in construction and on schedule to open in August 2012. The second section is also under construction, which goes from the Irving Convention Center to the Belt Line station, which is near DFW airport. This portion is scheduled to open in December 2012.
“The final section of the Orange line, which goes from DFW Terminal A in the airport, we plan to have that award a contract at the end of this year or first of next so we can open December 2014,” Lyons says.
The Blue Line extension will take the line from Garland out to downtown Rowlett, Lyons says. The extension will cover about five miles and extends the line to the northeast.
“We’re also doing planning for another Blue Line extension, which would come from our Ledbetter Station. It’s about a 3-mile extension to the Dallas campus of the University of North Texas. You’ll literally be connected to two campuses on the UNT system. That’s 2018, 2019. We would like to try accelerate it; we still have some planning to do, there’s still work to do,” Lyons says.
Lyons says there are also plans for a second light rail alignment through downtown Dallas; however it is not part of any immediate plans.
A third project that is in the works is the Cotton Belt. “That is an east-west line that would come from our Red Line around the Bush Turnpike station and travel to DFW airport,” Lyons explains, “and then we actually own the corridor all along this area into the north side of Fort Worth.”
In addition, Lyons says the Fort Worth T has plans for a line on the west side of the Cotton Belt corridor that would come from southwest Fort Worth and meet up with the DART corridor on the north side of Fort Worth, connecting to DFW airport.
“That would actually be a light rail new technology vehicle. It’s a type of vehicle, a diesel hybrid vehicle we’re trying to develop. It would not be a traditional electric light rail vehicle. We’re continuing the planning for that,” Lyons says. “There’s a lot of regional interest in it. We’re looking at innovative financing and other planning groups in the Dallas area are looking at that.”
Hampton Roads Transit — The Tide
The Tide, Hampton Roads Transit’s (HRT) light rail line extends 7.4 miles from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center complex east through downtownNorfolk and adjacent to I-264 to Newtown Road. There are 11 stations along the line, which just opened in August 2011, and its daily ridership so far is averaging out to around 6,000 weekday riders.
Tom Holden, HRT public affairs manager, says that while the system has only been open a few months the launch has been a success. “It’s doing much better for the average daily ridership than was originally projected,” he says.
“I feel pretty comfortable saying it’s been very warmly received. There’s a terrific amount of interest in it. A lot of folks wanting to see The Tide extended into Virginia Beach,” says Holden.
Before the new service was launched, HRT conducted an extensive safety outreach program with the public and all the schools that are located along the line, Holden explains. The Light Rail S.A.F.E.T.Y campaign stands for: Stay Alert! Don’t Get Hurt!, Any Time is Train Time!, Forget Shortcuts!, Everyone Should Obey Signs and Signals!, Tracks are for Trains!, You! Safety Starts with You!.
“We worked very hard to convey safety messages to the public about being safe around light rail. We had outreach programs into the middle, high and elementary school districts to make sure we got into all the schools that were along the light rail alignment so we could teach the students and teachers about light rail safety,” Holden says.