When the Dallas Streetcar opened for business last April, it seemed like a novelty, a brand-new concept for the city. But with the much-anticipated second phase to Bishop Arts District opening in a little over a week, it’s worth remembering that once upon a time, the streets of Dallas were lined with streetcar tracks. In fact, what is now the Bishop Arts District was built as a streetcar hub – an early forerunner of what we now call “transit-oriented development.”
The Dallas of the late 18th and early 19th centuries grew up around streetcar lines. Places like Bishop Arts were part of a national trend now dubbed “streetcar suburbs,” where neighborhood-oriented commercial facilities, such as grocery stores, bakeries, and drugstores clustered at regular intervals along the streetcar lines.
Beginning in 1872, streetcar service began booming in Dallas, with several operators vying for riders. There also was the fabled Interurban Railway, which provided passenger service to outlying towns such as Denison and Waco. For a fascinating look at the history of the Interurban, catch the Red Line up to Downtown Plano Station and check out the Interurban Railway Museum. It’s located in Haggard Park, right next to the station.
Streetcar use began dwindling after World War II, as the age of the auto took hold. Service was discontinued altogether in 1956 – not to be seen again until 2015, when the Dallas Streetcar began its run between Union Station and Dallas Methodist Medical Center. Stay tuned for the story behind the first streetcars in Dallas in more than a half century.
If you’re interested, an enterprising Google Maps user has created a map of all the streetcar lines that crisscrossed Dallas in the old days. We can’t vouch for its accuracy, but it’s interesting and thought-provoking.