- Despite opposition from some community leaders, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board approved two suburban light-rail extension projects that could cost more than $2 billion, according to the Texas Tribune.
- DART will borrow $1 billion for a suburban rail that it said will link the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to a number of cities and will pursue a $650 million federal grant to build a $1.3 billion downtown subway.
- Proponents of the DART plan point to the scope and potential of the future system, but critics said the agency is valuing "rail over ridership" and ignoring the needs of existing bus and train users by allocating resources to increase the mile-count of the rail system.
Dallas has a 93-mile system, but a Chicago transit study found that it is one of the most underutilized and the costliest when compared to a select group of other metros. It is also the most subsidized by public money — rather than ridership covering most of the operating costs.
Lawmakers and communities across the country are in a tug-of-war over how best to plan rail systems for maximum ridership and efficiency. In some cases, everyone seems to be on the same page, like in San Diego, where the city just received a $1 billion federal grant for a $2.1 billion expansion of its Mid-Coast Trolley service, which is already under construction. In other areas of the country, it hasn’t been as easy as that.
In Minneapolis, for example, local governments, with the help of the governor, had to do a sort of end-run around state lawmakers and arrange funding themselves for a contentious Minneapolis rail project. After being denied state funding, local governments joined forces and came up with the $145 million necessary to secure a $900 million federal grant.
Perhaps the biggest rail-related squabble, however, is over the $5.6 billion Purple Line project in the Washington, DC suburbs of Maryland. The project was just days away from a federal funding infusion when U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon vacated both state and federal approvals until project officials submitted a second environmental review with updated ridership numbers and a revised list of transportation alternatives. Leon's decision was a result of a lawsuit brought by a group of Chevy Chase, MD, residents who said the demand wasn’t there for the new rail and that officials would have to tear down three-miles of park tree line as part of the construction. Both sides are in a waiting pattern as the judge reviews a request for reconsideration from the Purple Line developers.