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Mobility Matters - Images of a freight truck traveling on a highway, downtown Fort Worth, a TRE locomotive, downtown Dallas skyline and highway traffic; Celebrating 35 Years of Regional Transportation Excellence, 1974 - 2009

A-train Opens New Frontier for Denton County Commuters
Keeping Transportation on a Path to Tomorrow
      A Message from Michael Morris, Transportation Director

Harmon, County Eye Long-Awaited Opening of Chisholm Trail Parkway to Fort Worth
     Member Profile, Roger Harmon, Johnson County Judge
Web Exclusives Aim to Keep Transportation Content Fresh
Public-Private Partnership Moving Rail Improvements Forward
Refocused AirCheckTexas Remains Key to Region's Air Quality Plan
New Fact Sheets Helping Public Understand Transportation


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A-train Opens New Frontier for Denton County Commuters

Passengers gather on the platform, preparing to exchange the brutal summer heat for the air-conditioned comfort of a train. They climb aboard the silver cars at Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Trinity Mills Station.

Until recently, the only passenger cars on these tracks were the iconic yellow DART trains, transporting passengers between Carrollton and Pleasant Grove along the 28-mile Green Line. Now, passengers arriving from the south on the Green Line, which opened to Carrollton last year, may continue to the end of the line on those trains or hop aboard the A-train, Dallas-Fort Worth’s newest passenger rail service.

The A-train left the station about 3:45 pm on the way to Hebron Station, the first of five new rail stops along the Denton County Transportation Authority’s 21-mile commuter line.

As it passed rail intersections, the train remained largely silent, not blowing its whistle when it came upon a crossing. The intersections have been declared quiet zones, meaning trains may not blow their loud horns when rolling through them under normal circumstances.

 

DCTA Rail Stations

Resources
Denton County Transportation Authority
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Instead, the crossings have extra safety equipment. A typical rail crossing has arms that extend over the road while a train approaches. In a quiet zone, there could be extra gates or medians to prevent vehicles and pedestrians from  crossing over while a train approaches.

The train prepares to pull into Hebron Station to pick up more passengers and drop others off. To the west of the stop is Hebron 121 Station, a 90-acre mixed-use development with apartment homes. Hebron 121 Station, which will contain retail and office space, is being called Denton County’s first transit-oriented development.

Data show that passenger rail benefits the economy. According to a 2007 study by researchers at the University of North Texas, a $4.86 billion investment in rail through 2013 is projected to result in an increase in activity of $8.1 billion.

The development won’t come all at once along the new A-train line. For example, even though the Highland Village Station offers access to Lewisville Lake, it is adjacent to Interstate Highway 35E, which is due for expansion in the coming years. When that happens, the station location will likely change slightly, said Dee Leggett, DCTA’s vice president of communications and planning.

But signs that progress is occurring around the stations are evident. In downtown Denton, already well established, infill development will be the focus. A-train ridership has been meeting the agency's expectations since its June debut. A 25 percent spike was seen in August, when classes at the University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University and North Central Texas College in Corinth began.

All three institutions are accessible by train and bus, and two-thirds of bus riders are connected to the schools, Leggett said.

$250 Million: The approximate investment...  

Early returns from the public have been positive. Many customers want additional service to fit their schedules. Some riders want earlier weekday service; others would like more options on Saturday and late Friday night. Their requests are being heard with the reshuffling of the schedule DCTA recently announced. During the week, the A-train offers morning and evening service, but does not run in the middle of the day. For a full schedule, visit www.dcta.net.

The goal of bringing rail to Denton County residents was realized just a decade after DCTA was created, aided by $250 million in Regional Toll Revenue funding from the Regional Transportation Council.

The A-train line was constructed in far less time than if it had been funded primarily by traditional means, the half-cent sales tax paid by shoppers in Denton, Highland Village and Lewisville.

RTR funds have helped advance projects throughout the region since the North Texas Tollway Authority agreed in 2007 to build State Highway 121 through Collin, Dallas and Denton counties in exchange for $3.2 billion.

The A-train is just getting rolling, but it opens up new commuting possibilities for people who want to get to work or entertainment options throughout the region. It efficiently connects fast-growing Denton County with the region’s rail system, allowing riders to travel from downtown Denton to Dallas and even Fort Worth, via the Trinity Railway Express, without having to venture out on the congested roadways. DCTA and the TRE share another connection.

The new rail service has used the old TRE cars since beginning service in June but will soon have rail vehicles of its own. Some of the sleek green, white, and yellow cars have already arrived. And the old vehicles could be replaced with the new ones next spring. Regardless of the vehicle, the A-train is moving full steam ahead through Denton County and in the process, helping people see a new side of Denton County.


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Keeping Transportation on a Path to Tomorrow
A Message from Michael Morris, Transportation Director


The way we deliver transportation projects is rapidly changing as we confront the shortage of necessary funding and an explosive growth rate that has seen Dallas-Fort Worth add 3 million people since 1980. Add to this the public’s expectation that government do more with less, and it becomes clear that we must find innovative ways to confront our mobility and related air quality problems. Three examples illustrate how innovation is working in our region: Mobility 2035, AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine and the Cotton Belt Innovative Finance Initiative. With governments facing tight budgets, it becomes essential to find nontraditional methods of improving our quality of life. The groundwork is being laid with these programs.

Logo: Mobility 2035

 

 

Mobility 2035 | We are faced with a two-pronged transportation problem. North Texas is expected to continue the staggering growth that has shaped the region over the past five decades. And we do not have the resources to adequately address the resulting needs. This required planners to think creatively when developing our long-range blueprint.

Mobility 2035 relies on both traditional finance mechanisms and new partnerships between the public and private sectors to build transportation assets and improve quality of life.

Whether roadway, rail or bicycle-pedestrian improvements, or air quality programs, residents need continued transportation progress. And it’s happening thanks in part to collaboration with the private sector.

AirCheckTexas | AirCheckTexas has been one of NCTCOG’s most successful air quality-related programs, offering qualifying motorists up to $3,500 toward the replacement of their high-polluting vehicles and up to $600 for repairs.

But as legislators sought to close a multibillion-dollar budget deficit earlier this year, they reduced funding to the program by 88 percent.

 

Logo: AirCheckTexas

Logo: Drive a Clean Machine

This was a difficult setback for a program that has led to the replacement of more than 25,000 vehicles and the repair of 25,000 more. As always, we deal with the resources we have. That means making changes to programs to ensure they continue to improve the lives of people in the region.

We refocused AirCheckTexas to run for the rest of the year as a vehicle-repair program all year round. Motorists who qualify are able to apply for vouchers to help them with emissions-related repairs. By getting their vehicles fixed, these residents are doing their part to improve air quality, especially important since nine Dallas-Fort Worth area counties are in nonattainment for the pollutant ozone.

Early in 2012, replacement vouchers are expected to be offered for a limited time. More details on a specific date will be provided on www.nctcog.org/airchecktexas.

While these changes will be felt throughout North Texas, we expect the program to continue to accommodate the needs of those who rely on it most.

Photo: Cotton Belt Innovative Finance Initiative Phase I Final Report Cover  

Cotton Belt iFi | The Cotton Belt iFi could change the way transportation is funded. If successful – our analysis to this point gives us reason for optimism – this initiative will help bring rail to a 62-mile corridor running from southwest Fort Worth, northeast to the Plano/Richardson area. It would bring passenger rail service to more than a dozen cities, many of which have been waiting years for trains to come through. But it won’t stop there. If we bring passenger rail service to the corridor, which includes Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the model we use will be replicated in other parts of the region and throughout the country.

We want to leverage the value of surrounding land in the corridor, using the projected increases to help pay for the service. That’s just one of the many possibilities for bringing rail service to the Cotton Belt. But one thing is certain. North Texas will continue striving for solutions to its mobility problems, whether they come by traditional means, innovative measures or a mix of the two.

We live in uncertain times. And like many areas of government, transportation faces a challenging road ahead. The future is brightest for those regions that embrace innovative approaches to solve the same old problems. Our work to provide the public with cost-effective improvements gives us hope that Dallas Fort Worth will continue to lead in uncertain times.

After all … mobility matters.

Resources
Mobility 2035
AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine
Cotton Belt Innovative Finance Initiative
Questions/Comments - Contact Us


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Harmon, County Eye Long-Awaited Opening of Chisholm Trail Parkway to Fort Worth
Member Profile - Roger Harmon, Johnson County Judge

Photo: Roger Harmon, Johnson County Judge

Talk to Roger Harmon about the drive from Cleburne to Tarrant County, and chances are you’ll hear about the preponderance of lights – he counts more than 30 – along State Highway 174. The drive from Cleburne to downtown Fort Worth takes about 45 minutes. By 2014, it could be nearly cut in half. That’s when Chisholm Trail Parkway is expected to be open, providing Harmon and other residents along the road’s path a more direct route to Fort Worth. As the Johnson County judge, Harmon frequently speaks with residents about the transportation needs of his growing county.

From 2000-10, Johnson County’s population grew 19 percent, from 126,811 to 150,934, according to the US Census Bureau. With the county’s growth, the need for the road is as great as ever. And after anticipating its arrival for so many years, residents are genuinely excited about the prospect of being able to use it in just a few short years, he said.

But getting to this point has not been easy. The road has been planned for more than 40 years, and many people from both Johnson and Tarrant counties deserve credit, he said.

“I guess you could call it truly a combined, team effort,” he said.

“There’s no one individual person you can single out that made this happen.”

 

Harmon represents Johnson County on the Regional Transportation Council, where he and 42 other policymakers determine how best to steer Dallas-Fort Worth through transportation challenges faced by a region of 6.5 million people.

He has served on the RTC since 2002, when he took over for former RTC Chair Ron Harmon when he retired as a Johnson County commissioner. Roger Harmon speaks highly of his predecessor, who also worked for years to bring Chisholm Trail Parkway, previously known as Southwest Parkway, to fruition.

Roger Harmon is prepared to welcome the growth he believes the road will attract to the southern portion of his county.

Burleson continues to expand at a fast pace because of its proximity to Fort Worth. The city welcomed 15,714 new residents from 2000-10 to push its population to 36,690, now larger than Cleburne, which grew 13 percent to 26,005.

Once Chisholm Trail Parkway is built, it will bring companies, new housing, retail and commercial development, Harmon said.

Large industries will be drawn by a good road, meaning more employment for the county.

Chisholm Trail Parkway took the cooperation of dedicated transportation leaders in North Texas and Austin.

“Good things happen when good people come together to accomplish a common goal,” he said.

Cooperation is one thing on which Harmon prides himself. He often talks about the role relationships play in moving issues forward in government. On the RTC, it’s essential that officials representing different parts of the region cooperate with one another. With so many competing interests, members must think about how their decisions will affect not only them, but also their neighbors in other parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The decision to build Chisholm Trail Parkway will be felt by people up and down the corridor today and for years to come.

Resources
Johnson County
North Texas Tollway Authority
Questions/Comments - Contact Us

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Mobility Matters is prepared in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration. The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors who are responsible for the opinions, findings and conclusions presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration or the Texas Department of Transportation.

10/17/2016  03/17/2009 JS

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