Dallas 2002

Note: pictures and graphics coming soon!

Another business trip. This time, Dallas, the Big D.

Sun, May 19

After an uneventful flight (Frontier Airlines via Denver) I arrived at DFW airport. The plan was to take DART bus #202 to Downtown Dallas. But I had arrived at the wrong terminal (#202 only stops at terminals E and A). No problem, I boarded a free DFW "train" (automated, rubber-tired, guideway transit) to Terminal E.

After about a half hour, a big, Greyhound-type bus with the DART logo pulled up to the stop. I and about two or three other passengers boarded. The bus continued through the loopy terminal roads to Terminal A, where we picked up a few more people. Then we traveled to, and waited for about 10 minutes at, a remote parking lot/shuttle transfer point.

Our first stop after leaving the airport was the North Irving Transit Center, a bus hub (with its own windmill!) near a suburban business/office park. There wasn't a lot of traffic, probably because it was Sunday...As we headed downtown on the freeway, toward the Dallas skyline.

Downtown Dallas was eerily quiet, again because of the day of the week. There are two transit centers, located on both sides of downtown (East and West) and #202 stopped on the street near, but did not enter either of them. The West transit center was near my conference hotel, so I got off there and registered for the conference.

After about an hour of walking about the booths, I figured it was time to get settled at my hotel (different than the conference hotel, but on the DART light rail line). So I walked toward the nearby light-rail stop, purchased a $2 day-pass from the ticket machine, and waited for the train. I didn't have to wait long; a big, yellow, light rail train pulled up and I boarded. Inside it didn't seem too different than the Metro Blue Line in LA, except that these cars had LED signs near the front of the car flashing news headlines and ads.

The DART LRT is mostly a street level system, except for one tunnel portion (described below) and a few flyovers here and there. Stations are relatively simple, with the same sort of round shelter at most of them. At LRT stations and the bus transfer centers, there are usually posters ("Coming At-track-tions") promoting DART's expansion plans.

Going north-east of Downtown, the line (both Blue and Red) goes into a tunnel to serve Cityplace station (in the basement of a large office building). The next stop after that is Mockingbird, after which the two lines split and go towards their respective destinations.

Mockingbird Station is being developed as a "transit-oriented" destination, with a small, upscale shopping center, an "art-house" movie theater, and some residential lofts. Of course the rest of the neighborhood is the usual suburban form. From Mockingbird, it was a short walk to my hotel.

After checking in, I did a few more trips on the LRT between Mockingbird and Downtown. Cityplace had the big office building, but again, the surrounding neighborhood still featured lots of shopping centers and parking lots. I had a quick bite at Whataburger (good burger, but the fries were greasy enough to wipe the ink off the receipt!), then found my way back to the station and continued downtown.

Most of Downtown was still quiet, although there was some activity near Union Station, as well as in the West End area of downtown (restaurants, bars and other "entertainment").

Mon, May 20

After a morning of meetings and booths, I spent most of the afternoon exploring the light rail system.

Both lines pass south of Downtown through the (still under construction) convention center, and then through an industrial area near an abandoned railroad track. The two lines split at the 8th/Corinth station.

From 8th/Corinth, the Blue Line passes through a rural area. It passes by a big Veteran's Administration hospital before making its final stop at Ledbetter station. Not too much to see here, really, but Ledbetter is well-served by DART buses.

The Red Line, on the other hand, veers south-west to serve the Dallas Zoo, then through a suburban-to-rural area not too different than the one the Blue Line passes through. Most of the scenery was backs of houses; the area didn't look particularly dense or transit-oriented. The last two stations (Hampton and Westmoreland) consisted mostly of large parking lots. At Westmoreland (the terminal), one could also connect with several local buses. On Sundays, DART even runs buses to a local church some distance from the end of the LRT route!

Not that much to see there, so I rode back downtown, then changed to the Blue Line to see one more segment. This part of the Blue Line went toward the affluent northeast part of Dallas, passing through a nature preserve along the way. There were two new stations, White Rock and LBJ/Skillman, both with not too much around them except parking. (This segment also features the only soundwalls I saw on the system). Eventually, the northern segment of the Blue Line is to be extended to Garland.

Then it was back to Downtown to go to one more conference meeting, as well as a special night event (how did we conference-goers get there? Via Light Rail, of course!). On the return trip, I took a DART local bus from Mockingbird Station to my hotel. It was a short ride, but I do remember that they were nice buses with comfortable seats and no grafitti at all.

Tue, May 21

The last Red Line segment to cover ran north from Mockingbird to Walnut Hill, stopping at Lovers Lane and Park Lane stations. along the way. (It has since been extended northward, and will serve Downtown Plano sometime in 2003). There were lots of office buildings along this part of the system, but none looked particularly easy to reach from any of the stations.

I checked out of the hotel, and rode the Light Rail back downtown. I spent some time visiting the Sixth Floor Museum (in the building where JFK was shot).

I had planned to travel to Fort Worth on the Trinity Rail Express (a commuter train jointly operated by both DART and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority) but was running out of time. So I decided to just ride to Centerpoint/Airport station, and catch a shuttle to the airport there.

TRE runs both Budd self-propelled railcars, and locomotive hauled trains consisting of "lozenge" commuter cars (like Metrolink, etc.) My train was the latter. Just like Metrolink back home, except that tickets were only $2, all day. The downside was that the train windows had been "wrapped" as part of the color scheme, making it difficult to see out the window or take pictures....

We passed by the Medical Center station, just outside of downtown, then continued towards South Irving, and then West Irving. The route along most of this trackage seemed very open and undeveloped. Finally we arrived at the Airport station, where I deboarded. There, a couple of DFW Airport shuttle buses awaited, one serving Terminals A,B,C, the other one serving D,E, and F. (Or something like that). I boarded the proper shuttle bus (there were no other passengers) and we drove through a business park area and into the airport.

I made it to the terminal within the requisite two hours, got checked in, and waited.

The flight was ok until about 40 minutes before landing (at Denver), when the air got rather bumpy. Out my window I could see a peculiar formation; blue sky above, then a layer of puffy white clouds over the golden dust-filled atmosphere of Denver. When we actually did land, a handful of people clapped.

At DEN, there was just enough time to grab a Quizno's sub, then back on the plane to LAX. This flight segment was uneventful.

The rest is a blur of LAX terminal, Flyaway bus and driving home, getting there around 1 a.m. or so.

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