Aesthetics Are Important for the Cotton Belt

In Behind the Tracks, we’re bringing you all of the info you need to learn what goes into designing and building a regional rail line like the Cotton Belt. Today, we’re taking a look at how DART lessens potential impacts caused by rail and station construction.

We’ve talked about the steps DART is taking to be a good neighbor. Mitigating potential noise, and softening vibration, are just a few of the ways DART is working to incorporate the Cotton Belt into North Texas as seamlessly as possible. Another element that DART considers when in the project design process is the aesthetic or visual impacts.

What is a visual impact?

Impacts on the visual and aesthetic character of an area may occur if a project:

  • Results in loss of important existing views
  • Conflicts with existing visual elements
  • Exposes undesirable views of existing urban features
  • Is out of character for significant community activities
  • Does not meet municipal ordinances

What can DART do to be a good neighbor and lessen the visual impact?

DART can take many steps to mitigate potential visual impacts from the Cotton Belt.  Some of these steps include:

  • Landscaping at intervals along residential areas to visually “screen” or block the view of the train or stations and soften views of sound walls and corridor fencing
  • Preserving existing vegetation to act as a natural buffer to the view of the Cotton Belt
  • Incorporating landscaping around stations and appropriate (non-disruptive) lighting in residential areas
  • Choosing materials and finishes for stations that complement the area’s character
  • Creating a complementary structure for the Cotton Belt to travel along the corridor while appearing aesthetically appealing
  • Coordinating with the public to make some aesthetic choices together, including choosing the type of vegetation used in landscaping

Give me an example!

DART introduced visual mitigation measures they can already take on the Cotton Belt.

Appropriate Light Distribution: Incorporating the right balance between lighting at Cotton Belt stations that ensures that the light is focused in on the right areas for safety, and light pollution that may cause a disturbance to surrounding neighborhoods is avoided.

Complementary Design for the Wheeler Bridge: In an effort to move the Cotton Belt across the North Texas region as seamlessly as possible, DART has created a complementary design for the train to move over Midway Road traffic that complements the iconic arch on the Wheeler Bridge.

Making transit neighbor-friendly

We work every day to design the best transit solutions possible for North Texas, and for DART that means making transit fit seamlessly into our neighborhoods and communities. Take a look at other ways DART is being a good neighbor and mitigating potential impacts from the Cotton Belt. Stay tuned as we continue to go Behind the Tracks and explore what the transit professionals, like us, are thinking about as we design North Texas’ 26-mile regional rail line.

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2018 DART Student Art Contest Judge Highlight: Illustrator Gustavo Zapata

Meet one of the 2018 DART Student Art Contest judges, illustrator Gustavo Zapata. As the head of art at the Dallas advertising and marketing firm, Dieste, Inc., and the creator of his #DARTpeople illustrations, Zapata says the most beautiful thing about art is to “have fun with it.”

Learn more about Zapata’s work in this DART Daily article.

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DART and TRE announce Christmas schedule

TVM N Carrollton Frankford Station

DART and the Trinity Railway Express remind you to make your Christmas holiday merry and bright this year and remember that all buses and trains operate on reduced schedules. Look for those schedules at and

Sun., Dec. 24

  • DART – Sunday schedule.
  • TRE – No service.
  • Paratransit – DART Paratransit Services for customers with disabilities will operate regularly. Customers may call beginning Thurs., Dec. 21, to schedule service through Tues., Dec. 26. Call 214-515-7272 and choose Option 3 to schedule your trip. Next day scheduling is also available using X-Press Booking, web booking or the semi-automated voicemail.

Mon., Dec. 25

  • DART – Sunday schedule.
  • TRE – No service.
  • Paratransit – Services for customers with disabilities will operate on a Saturday schedule on Christmas Day. The DART Paratransit Scheduling Center also will be closed. Regular subscription trips are canceled on Mon., Dec. 25. Next day scheduling is available using X-Press Booking, web booking and the semi-automated voice mail.
  • DART On-Call – Will not operate.

Tues., Dec. 26

  • DART – Regular weekday schedule.
  • Updated: TRE – Regular weekday schedule.
  • Paratransit – DART Paratransit Services for customers with disabilities will operate regularly.
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DART Employees Spread Tons of Goodwill


DART is doing its part to help wipe out hunger in North Texas. This holiday season, employees donated 10.9 tons of food and raised more than $10,000 in cash for Union Gospel Mission, which is dedicated to feeding, clothing and housing Dallas’ homeless population.

The annual food drive, called the Friendly Food Fight, pits DART’s various departments against each other in a congenial competition for a good cause.

IMG_8598“We all know that homelessness and hunger are ongoing issues in our community, but even so, it’s sometimes hard to put a face on it,” said DART President and Executive Director Gary Thomas.

The Friendly Food Fight has been a DART tradition for 21 years.

“I am proud to see the true spirit of the season in action,” Thomas said.

Bruce Butler, executive director of the Union Gospel Mission, thanked DART and its IMG_8642.JPGemployees for their continued support.

“It’s wonderful to see how the DART family responds to the needs of others,” he said.




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Ring in the New Year with Miller Lite Free Rides® on DART

Dallas 710x273

The Original Light Beer is once again teaming up with DART and Andrews Distributing to help Dallas residents and visitors celebrate New Year’s Eve safely. Miller Lite Free Rides® will be available on all DART buses and trains and Trinity Railway Express (TRE) trips between Union Station to CentrePort/DFW Airport Station on Sunday, Dec. 31, beginning at 6 p.m. with extended service until 1:30 a.m. 

For the 30th year, MillerCoors is helping consumers enjoy New Year’s Eve responsibly by offering Miller Lite Free Rides nationwide. Since its inception, the Free Rides program has provided more than 5.5 million people with a safe ride home and has been an important part of MillerCoors’ commitment to prevent drunk driving.

“MillerCoors believes drunk driving is preventable. For the past 30 years, we’ve remained committed to making sure consumers can enjoy Miller Lite and New Year’s Eve responsibly,” said Gene Giron, Responsibility Initiatives Manager for MillerCoors. “Through continued partnerships with DART and Andrews Distributing, the Free Rides program helps North Texans and their visitors enjoy the holiday season while providing a safe and free transportation alternative.”

The program began locally in 2015. Now in its third year, Miller Lite Free Rides has provided more than 70,000 people in North Texas with safe, alternative transportation on New Year’s Eve. Last year, more than 30,000 people took advantage of a Miller Lite Free Ride.

“Taking Miller Lite Free Rides is a great way for Dallas residents and visitors to enjoy New Year’s Eve,” said Gary Thomas, President/Executive Director for Dallas Area Rapid Transit. “We encourage celebrators to plan ahead and stay safe by letting us be their designated driver, courtesy of Miller Lite.” 

As part of the 2025 Global Goals MillerCoors developed in partnership with Molson Coors, MillerCoors aims to implement impactful programs to prevent drunk driving in every market where beer is sold. Designated driver and safe ride programs like Miller Lite Free Rides are critical components of meeting that goal.

“We’re pleased to continue our partnership with Miller Lite and DART to offer people safe and convenient transportation alternatives to driving on New Year’s Eve,” said David Holt, Andrews Distributing Vice President of Brand Building.


Press Release by MillerCoors

For more information, visit

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#TBT: System Plans of the Past

In our series on the system plan, “A Path to 2040,” we are exploring all of the components of the 2040 System Plan DART is planning to present in 2018.

This system plan, however, is not the first plan that DART has put together.  The first one was created in 1983 as Chapter 452 of the Texas Transportation Code requires DART to have a service plan and also created a process for assembling and changing the service plan. The system plan is the long range element of the service plan by Board policy.

Check out our timeline below to learn some interesting facts about Service and System Plans of the past.


Stay tuned to DART’s series, A Path to 2040, to learn more about just how DART creates the vision for the future of transit in North Texas.

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DART: Your Ride This Weekend

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It’s the last weekend to catch some of the area’s greatest seasonal entertainment. Take a break from shopping, skip the holiday traffic and let DART help you get in the spirit.

Friday, Dec. 15

Holly Jolly Holidays at Reunion Tower ends its run today. The event offers families an opportunity to take in the view from the Geo-Deck while taking photos with Santa, visiting with cute critters from the Dallas Zoo and enjoying tasty treats from Cloud Nine Café – all at 470 feet in the air. Reunion Tower is accessible via pedestrian tunnel from Union Station.

Saturday, Dec. 16

Peruse the vendor’ wares and explore the unique gifts at Farmers Branch Holiday Markets. Here, you’ll find one-of-a-kind items both vintage and handmade. There also will be live music, concessions, beer and adult libations. The market takes place at The Grove @ Mustang Crossing, a short walk from Farmers Branch Station.

It’s the last Saturday of Downtown Wanderland, which transforms downtown Dallas into a yuletide extravaganza with pop-up shops, photos with Santa, and lots of holiday lights and decorations. Wander through downtown and wonder at all there is to see and do. The event is centered around Browder Plaza near Commerce and Akard streets; get there by taking any DART Rail line to Akard Station and walking three blocks south.

Sunday, Dec. 17

Santa’s Village is a tiny town of 16 colorful holiday dwellings on the north side of Richardson City Hall. Each one features a fun kids’ activity and a visit with Santa. Additionally, there are live performances, holiday photo ops, and hot chocolate and snacks. The free event happens at 411 West Arapaho Road in Richardson; you can get there via DART Bus Route 361, which departs from Arapaho Center Station.

The Firehouse Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol captures all the magic and poignant wisdom of the classic holiday fable. Bitter, miserly Scrooge decides to change his ways after visits from three ghosts that have been familiar to audiences for many, many generations; this is your last chance to catch this charming production. The theater is a short walk from Farmers Branch Station.

For many, the holidays are about homecoming, and the WaterTower Theatre’s The Great Distance Home investigates that theme in a multidisciplinary theatrical experience. This world premiere is full of joy, love, and warmth, and gets its last performance today. WaterTower is within walking distance of Addison Transit Center.

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Inmotion: Downtown Dallas, Inc. Staff Ride DART

DDI Rosa Parks Bus_7980

Downtown Dallas, Inc. staff have a short walk to their office in Bank of America Plaza from DART’s West End transit facilities.

Employees Embrace Multimodal Travel

By Matt Thomas, Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Downtown Dallas, Inc. and DART have a deep-rooted relationship. For more than a decade, DDI – the nonprofit organization supporting the safety and improvement of greater Downtown Dallas – has participated in DART’s Employer Annual Pass Program. DDI President and CEO Kourtny Garrett says the organization pays for annual passes because it gives our employees options.

“The program also supports our values as an organization to promote public transit use and is consistent with trends in today’s workforce, particularly the desires of young talent,” Garrett said. “As we continue to work with DART and the city of Dallas to improve and expand multimodal transportation options, it is important that we set the example for other downtown employers.”

Approximately 30 DDI employees, including members of our Downtown Safety Patrol and Clean Team, use DART either daily or several times a week to commute to the city’s urban core.

When I started working for DDI in July as the new communications director, I began riding the Red Line from Downtown Plano Station to the West End. It’s nice to look out from the train at the traffic crawling along Central Expressway every morning and afternoon and not have to worry about that added stress.

My colleague, Doug Prude, economic development and planning analyst, has used the light rail to get to work in the Main Street District since joining DDI last year.

“DART gets me to work consistently on time. It removes variables like traffic, construction and most weather, while allowing me time to catch up on news and sports, check emails and calendar appointments, or watch a show that I’ve downloaded to my phone,” Prude said. “Taking transit removes the hassle of finding a parking spot and cuts the costs of maintaining and fueling my SUV.”


Learn more about how DART keeps you moving in our winter issue of Inmotion.

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Feel the rumble of the train? Not so much with the Cotton Belt!

In this week’s Behind the Tracks, we’re breaking down how DART mitigates any potential impacts from new transit projects.  In our last post, we told you about our process of implementing mitigation measures to avoid, reduce or eliminate impacts like noise. Today, we are taking a deeper dive into how we mitigate vibration.

What vibration?

Have you ever stopped on the side of freeway and had a large-semi truck pass you by? Do freight trains passing by rattle your dishes?  You don’t just hear it, you feel it too. DART wants to make sure that the Cotton Belt doesn’t feel like a freeway or those old freight trains!

How does DART assess vibration?

DART takes the following steps to assess potential levels of vibration after the Cotton Belt is built.

Step 1: Obtain data on ground-borne vibration propagation characteristics through the soil along the corridor
Step 2: Crate an estimate of future vibration levels once the project is in operation
Step 3: Propose mitigation measures or solutions to lessen vibration where potential impacts are identified

Taking steps to minimize vibration

Luckily, thanks to new technology and advances in engineering, DART can take certain steps to make sure the Cotton Belt is a good neighbor. Some mitigation measures we are proposing to address the few potential vibration impacts identified along the corridor include:

  • Complying with stringent transit vehicle and equipment specifications
  • Building all new track with specifications to reduce vibration
  • Adding rubber mats below the tracks to reduce or eliminate vibration levels where impacts are anticipated
  • Carrying out routine maintenance of the vehicle and track

DART proposes to take an innovative approach for the rubber mats and use Tire Derived Aggregate (TDA). This high-performing material is lightweight, drains water easily and most importantly dampens vibration. DART plans on using this material, along with the other mitigation measures outlined above, when moving forward with engineering plans and design plans for the Cotton Belt Corridor.

Designing transit solutions with North Texans’ interests in mind

DART wants to take North Texans behind the tracks when it comes to the project development process for the Cotton Belt.  Addressing issues, such as vibration, early in the design phase makes sure that we can successfully integrate the project into the community.

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Dallas Illustrator Brings #DARTPeople to Life

dart people 1

“DARTpeople 1” by Gustavo Zapata

Four men standing at the back of a DART train car may look unremarkable, but to Dallas Illustrator Gustavo Zapata, the scene creates a perfect composition developing right before his eyes. He quickly sketches them.

Zapata started drawing at a young age in his hometown of Medellín, Colombia. Mountain valleys, lush trees and multi-colored buildings backdropped Zapata’s childhood, and, along with his family, fueled Zapata’s bent toward creativity.

“I think my enjoyment for drawing is sort of a legacy from my family, and it’s part of my decision to choose a career in illustration,” Zapata said.

Now living in North Texas, Zapata works as the head of art at Dieste, Inc., an advertising and marketing firm in Downtown Dallas. He rides the Red and Orange lines to and from Plano and Dallas, and uses the people he sees on his DART commute as inspiration for his art.

“I can see Dallas’ melting pot when I ride,” he said. “In the morning, in the evening and at night, it’s like looking at a photograph of the region. It’s like watching a documentary in silence about the richness of the culture.”

Whether it’s sketching a student gazing out the window as the sunlight hits his face or two women conversing or a businessman typing away on his laptop, Zapata said creating a successful illustration on DART means finding people who let their activities absorb them.

“It’s wonderful when you get the perfect scene,” he said.

You can find Zapata’s #DARTpeople illustrations on his Instagram page, @zdezapata, where he’s gained more than 1,000 followers.

Zapata said he considers himself an old-school art director. Before executing a project, he first sketches, explores and crosses some lines on paper or in his sketchbook to develop an idea. As he created these illustrations, he soon developed a process for adding definition, lighting and color to his drawings.

After finding a subject on board his commute and quickly capturing the scene in his sketchbook, the next phase of Zapata’s process involves adding definition to each piece, using tracing paper to trace over the sketch with black ink.  He then scans those ink tracings and uses computer design software to add color, lighting and life to his drawings.

“I enjoy each moment of the process,” he said.


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