“And for something entirely different”…a word on streetcars.

by lostindrawers

Every city wants to be considered modern, up-to-date, metropolitan if you will.  The hallmark of most of the cities of significance in the United States (and all of Europe, for that matter) is that they have reputable public transportation.  New York has its cabs and subway, Chicago has its trains, Portland has its bicycles & bike lanes and San Fransisco has its street cars.  Street cars.  What a novel idea.  So, what does Dallas/Fort Worth have?  Well, the two share the TRE train – which is a nice connector between the cities.  But is it full service public transit?  No.  Dallas has the DART, but while decent – it seems to be limited in scale and how often it runs smoothly.  Dallas has a cheeky little street car, over in Uptown – but it seems more novelty in an area known for foot traffic and overrun parking lots.  And the buses – oh, the buses.  I still don’t understand the bus schedules.

So, it was interesting to see that a group of proponents for a different look for Fort Worth’s transportation needs debuted a model street car in downtown Fort Worth for citizens to see and get information.  We knew we wanted to get more info on routes, etc.  We got to check it out this weekend, and the honestly – I was pretty impressed.  Nicer than a DART train, reminiscent of the London Underground to be honest, the modern street car is something I really think could elevate Fort Worth further past Dallas in the national consciousness about its place in the list of metropolitan cities.  The routes could potentially connect all the best neighborhoods, cultural and retail/shopping areas of the city.  My first question was if the city would be footing the bill.  The fact is that the initial line and car(s?) would not have to be publically funded.  Pretty awesome, right?

So, why is the city council split?  Why is there a town hall meeting to try to see if it worth discussing further?  Why is there resistance to a culture shift that allows people more access to affordable public transportation?  The fact is that it comes down to money and power.  There is a lot of parking lots and garages surrounding Sundance Square in Fort Worth – some charge upwards of $10 per day per car.  It seems that much of the people who have half of the council’s ear are the power mongers and real estate holders in downtown.  Why they don’t want more citizens, customers and foot traffic in downtown is a mystery.  They already don’t want us bicyclists to have some nice bike lanes to keep us out of traffic but in downtown, but that’s a different post.

Here’s the truth: Texas is a car culture, we are spread out and we need to drive.  I like cars, and don’t mind driving.  But as a one car family, we wouldn’t mind some options.  We want to ride bikes safely, and we would like a simple street car to get us around town.  So, Fort Worth leaders – don’t worry, people aren’t going to quit driving to downtown, but the truth is that you could make a statement to the country that you are truly progressive – and with that watch companies, retailers, restaurants and PEOPLE come to Fort Worth to enjoy how good of a city it truly is.