Denton A-Train is just that: A train

Finally getting around to posting my photos from the Denton County Transit Authority’s “A-Train” system, from which I came away with some surprising impressions. For the sake of brevity and organization, they are numbered below:

  1. Very low ridership. Only 1900 daily riders. Yep, you read that right.
  2. The 21-mile corridor, finished in 2011, hasn’t had enough time to generate much TOD.
  3. Good TOD is happening in Denton, Hebron, and Carrollton. Give it time maybe?
  4. Bad service frequencies. And schedule. Had to wait 40 minutes when I parked in Downtown Denton.
  5. Also expensive. A day pass was $10 (!!). That said, it was also valid on DART. DART alone is nation’s largest and most-comprehensive LRT network, and the 21-mile A-Train trip could save I-35 commuters a lot of time and gas.
  6. Bad information. Upon return, actually missed the last train because I was going off of an old schedule. There are three differing schedules online and they don’t have an effective date printed at the bottom like you’d expect. Let’s just say that was an expensive Uber ride, but it was a good exercise in understanding the unreliability of the Denton rail system.
  7. Beautiful trains and stations. Absolutely immaculate system. Very clean. Brand-new Stadler diesel multiple-unit coaches. When the more heavily-ridden DART trains are parked side-by-side, you would never guess which system nobody uses, comparatively.
  8. Follows existing railroad corridor that even awkwardly cuts through some new subdivisions and apartment complexes.

The photo tour starts in Downtown Denton, which has a really nice historic square. Denton itself is well-known as a liberal college town that, as the seat of Denton County, has exploded with growth. Denton is centrally-located in the huge county, which in 1990 had a population of 273,000 – up to 753,000 in 2014. In that time, Denton itself has gone from 66,000 to 128,000. While most of the growth is actually in between Denton city and the Dallas County line (Carrollton), Denton has in-fact captured a lot of that growth, which has fueled mostly subdivisions and a few denser complexes in-town (mostly around the University of North Texas). The A-Train then follows what is essentially the I-35 E Stemmons Freeway corridor through the wasteland that was formerly the blackland prairie of North Texas.

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DART Light Rail Review

While I was in the area over the Winter Break, it made sense that I should take a day trip to Dallas to see how the nation’s largest light rail network has fared in attracting development. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, with 90 miles of track and 238,000 daily riders, has its own TOD implementation office. For anyone interested, their website has a pdf download for each of its stations, showing all of the TOD at each of its 62 light rail stations.

Coming from OKC, I parked my car in Denton, and purchased a $10 (!!) day trip card that was good for both Denton County RTA and DART. It was the only day trip option available in Denton, where the A-Train has been one of the least-successful passenger rail projects. Upon returning from Dallas at 8 p.m. on a weekday, I had to uber my way through Denton County just to get back to my car, because the DCTA’s last train had already passed. More to come on the Denton A-Train, but for now here some photos of its larger, more successful neighbor to the south.

 

And then my iPhone died with 30% battery life remaining. Nonetheless, I was convinced that Dallas is worth a look if studying TOD. I came to this conclusion after spending a day riding mostly lesser-developed lines, the A-Train and Green Line. Even these lesser-developed lines have been successful in moving the needle on investment and density, just as their more successful counterparts (TRE, McKinney streetcar, Oak Cliff streetcar, north red, orange, and blue lines, and east green line) have been in more established parts of Dallas (Central Corridor, Irving/DFW, Deep Ellum, Fair Park, etc). For a tour of neighborhoods along the north red/orange line, see my 2009 post on “Dallas: Shopping and riding the rails.”

Some of the better pics (keep in mind, 2009):

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Red/Orange Line North Park Mall – Park Lane Station

North Park Mall / Park Lane R

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Historic retail node at Mockingbird Lane and Preston Road

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Historic retail node at Mockingbird Lane and Preston Roa

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Historic retail node at Mockingbird Lane and Preston Road

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

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Mockingbird Station, near SMU

 

(Notice the same trains. Looking just as outdated in 2009.)

 

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On the road again…

More pan-Midwestern content coming soon because I am on the road, seeing friends, family, and conducting thesis research on more awesome cities!

In this instance…

Flew to Omaha. Just wrapped up a week in Omaha and Sioux City, Iowa. Got snowed in and had to cancel other plans, but I love the snow!

Drove to Kansas City. Spent a day there. KCMO is just about the coolest town around.

Drove to OKC. Spending a week here over the New Year’s holiday. Good to be back at the Homa.

Dallas? Maybe Dallas. Debating going down there for actual Midnight NYE 2016. Or before I fly out. We’ll see if I get to it.

I am trying to get interviews with policy makers and economic developers here in OKC, for my thesis; if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll just go down to Dallas and conduct more on-the-ground research.

6-hour layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Just long enough to ride all the rails, I hope. And get back down to MSP for my flight back to Columbus.

What is on-the-ground research, and what does one do on-the-ground in a city I already know, you ask? I am specifically taking photos that just don’t exist online. Since my thesis is on leveraging the value capture with TOD, photos augment that by illustrating exactly what that value looks like. On-the-ground.

Here’s the trail I’m blazing this time:

Winter 2016 Trip

Stay tuned for the photo analysis!