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. Over the last year of reading about these kinds of issues, I’ve learned that many of the great old street car systems that American cities used to have were bought up by the auto/highway companies, and shut down. They simply bought up the competing system of transportation, with the help of some government scumbags.