I’ve been working in downtown Plano, Tx, for a few years now, and during that time my interest in transportation and urban planning have grown. Every time I’m driving around town and I see the DART light rail train, it just makes me smile. I love it.
Many people don’t know that between 1908 and 1948, North Texas had a very cool commuter rail system – the Texas Electric Railway. The system ran north/south from Denison in the north, down through Plano, Richardson, and Dallas, and all the way to Waco. It was a passenger system that ran electric trains that looked like street cars. Back in those days, Plano and Richardson were very small rural towns. The system allowed people to travel to the city efficiently. The cars could apparently reach speeds of 60mph.
I won’t try to tell the entire history of it here. The only place you can see one of the cars and learn about the system is the Interurban Railway Museum, in downtown Plano. Their website tells you a lot about the history.
Also, here is a D Magazine story from 1977: When Dallas had Mass Transit.
I’m going to try to make an appointment to go interview the historian there. I spoke briefly to one of the mean giving tours, who told me as a private company, the railway was not able to continue when faced with increasing requirements for more sophisticated control systems. Of course, as automobiles became popular, and the highway system was built, that probably put the final nail in the railway’s coffin, as it runs roughly parallel to Central Expressway and IH-35.
It is a shame that the government didnt’ help out. And its amusing that now, as the DART system expands, we are trying to recreate something we had 100 years ago. Here are some pictures from the museum.
What is sad is that we might never see high-speed rail in Texas in our lifetimes. Property rights trump social good in this state (see Trans-Texas Corridor project) and the likelihood of rail easily connecting Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston is a pipe dream.
While I wasn’t crazy about the Trans-Texas Corridor project, it was an example of how property rights would dominate the discussiono of any large scale transportation project in this state.
The line ran right in front of my house on Matilda Street. It would be cool to do a Google map of the old line route, just to show people what they’re missing.
My aunt who moved to Dallas in 1936 talked about riding the Interuban, and you can still see where it was by the part of a street named “Interuban” in Richardson on Beltline in the shadow of the elevated Dart rail support.