The Dallas Area Rapid Transit Orange Line grand opening inaugural train.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened the Orange Line in Irving on Monday, July 30, bringing new access to employment and educational opportunities, most notably in the master-planned community of Las Colinas. For the thousands of employees who commute in and out of Irving daily, the Orange Line offers fresh alternatives to driving.
The first 4.5-mile section of the 14-mile, $1.3 billion Orange Line has stops at the University of Dallas, the Las Colinas Urban Center and the Irving Convention Center. The arrival of light rail culminates more than 12 years of land-use planning by DART, the city of Irving, the Las Colinas Association and the Dallas County Utilities Reclamation District.
“With the opening of the Orange Line, thousands of people now can reach one of the region’s densest employment centers via public transit,” DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas said. “That makes it easier for people to not only find jobs, but also pursue careers.”
Airport Connection Ahead
On Dec. 3, DART opens the second phase of the Orange Line to North Lake College and Belt Line Road. At Belt Line Station, buses will meet trains to take passengers to and from DFW International Airport. The DFW Station is scheduled to open in 2014, connecting downtown Dallas to one of the nation’s busiest airports and making DART one of the few transit agencies in the U.S. with direct rail service into a major airport.
“The Orange Line is going to be huge for improving mobility and for getting commuters in and out of Irving and Las Colinas,” said U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. “And when the section into DFW Airport is open, the ability to travel to the Dallas area by transit will be enormous for the economy.”
Federal Funds Seed Economic Recovery
DART’s massive $3.4 billion light rail expansion, which includes the Orange Line, has provided a much-needed stimulus during the economic downturn. The Irving build-out received $61.2 million in ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) funds because of its employment impact and ability to attract additional development, companies, employees and residents to Irving.
True to expectations, the project produced more than 600 jobs at some 80 contractor companies in 14 states. Federal officials have closely monitored the project’s progress and cited DART’s Orange Line as one of the top “Recovery Act Projects Changing America.”
“This kind of investment makes it easier for people to come to Irving — whether it’s for conventions, vacation, business or access to the airport,” said Hutchison.
Construction of the Orange Line adds to the largest electric light rail system in North America. The DART Rail System will reach nearly 90 miles at the completion of the expansion in 2014, creating viable transit access to greater housing, employment, educational, medical and entertainment options throughout the Dallas area.
Irving is the only city in the service area — other than Dallas — to have both light and commuter rail service. The Trinity Railway Express has operated in South Irving since December 1996 along the right of way of the Rock Island Railway, where the city was founded in the early 1900s.
The highly anticipated arrival of DART Rail has spurred construction of luxury apartment communities throughout the Las Colinas Urban Center, with more than 7,000 units existing or planned, and several transit-oriented developments are in the works. To better link major points of interest in Las Colinas, DART also introduced a new weekday circulator bus service that originates at the Urban Center Station and stops at the entrance of Irving Convention Center.
Station Art Reflects the Community
DART’s growing collection of public art adds three new displays with the opening of the Orange Line. The award-winning Station Art & Design Program creates site-specific works that both acknowledge the surroundings and assert themselves as a new contribution. As a result, DART stations become vibrant public spaces and not just transit stops.
A local advisory committee works with planners, architects and engineers at the earliest stages of station design, and later gives input to the station artist about themes and materials, to ensure the station reflects the history and culture of the community it serves. Art is then integrated into the design of column claddings, platform pavers, windscreens and landscaping. Information about the entire DART public art collection, along with photos of many of the pieces, is available online at www.DART.org/PublicArt.
Rail Stations Rebranded; Northwest Plano Park and Ride Opens
In addition to the Orange Line’s numerous bus and rail changes, three stations were renamed and a new park and ride lot opened in Plano, the second-largest city in DART’s service area.
Rail stations near the Dallas Arts District, Uptown Dallas and Irving’s historic downtown Heritage Crossing took the names of their adjacent destinations as part of the first station renaming since rail service began in 1996. Pearl Station became Pearl/Arts District Station; Cityplace Station changed to Cityplace/Uptown Station; and the TRE’s South Irving Station became the Downtown Irving/Heritage Crossing Station.
Location-specific station names make it easier for riders to navigate DART. And strengthening the relationship between the DART stop and the destination increases the appeal of the community to developers.
Also on July 30, DART opened the new Northwest Plano Park & Ride, located near the headquarters of several major corporations, including JCPenney, Frito-Lay, Pizza Hut, Dr Pepper Snapple and Ericsson. Seven routes serve the facility, including a new express, rush-hour service to downtown Dallas. Commuters from West Plano, as well as points north, now enjoy an efficient commute downtown, while reverse commuters, from the southern parts of the DART Service Area, gain a direct link north to this vibrant employment center.