1983 sure feels like a long time ago: the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” was a top hit, Ronald Reagan was president, and the movie, Gandhi, took home best picture. 1983 was also a historic year for public transportation in North Texas. For the first time in the region’s history, 15 cities came together to create a regional transportation network to address the region’s growing traffic congestion and total dependence on individual vehicles. In fact, DART was hailed as a forward-thinking revolutionary regional transit system upon its creation in 1983
Why was DART created?
The drive to create DART began in 1980 after a proposal to create the Lone Star Transportation Authority (another potential regional public transportation system) failed to pass. In an effort to work with the citizens of the region, DART included public involvement in its initial design and created a detailed plan to use rail to ground its transportation network.
Fifteen North Texas cities voted to commit a 1 percent sales tax to join the system and begin transit services in 1984. DART won 58 percent of the more than 175,000 votes cast. In the city of Dallas, DART won the vote with 55 percent of the vote. Almost every northern suburb voted to join DART including, Carrollton, Addison, Coppell, Highland Park, University Park, Farmers Branch, Flower Mound, Garland, Glenn Heights, Irving, Plano, Richardson, and Rowlett. With nearly unanimous support from North Texas businesses, real estate, and political leaders, DART was truly becoming an integral part of the region.
|“Transportation is the deciding factor in whether a community is going to grow or be stagnant.” — Former Garland Mayor Ruth Nicholson|
What was transportation in North Texas like before DART?
Prior to DART, smaller towns and the city of Dallas had their own smaller transit services. The Dallas Transit System (DTS) was owned and operated by the city of Dallas. With limited bus service and no public transit rail, the system was largely ineffective and had minimal success in connecting the region.
The first supporters of DART cited traffic reasons and congestion as one of the primary reasons they needed a comprehensive public transportation system. Former Councilman, and one of the inaugural DART board members, Sid Stahl, cited that growing congestion could be addressed by DART, “There was a clear understanding on the part of the public of the nature of the problem and how severe it was…They (voters) realized that DART represented a thoughtful and sensible solution.”
Benefits for the past, present, and future
We know that a comprehensive public transportation system can bring a multitude of benefits to any community, whether improving traffic congestion, promoting individual savings, or creating economic gains.
Voters and DART supporters must have realized the values of public transportation as well as how our region would depend on DART to support the unprecedented business and population growth over the past few years. Here at DART, we are always looking forward to new and innovative ways to create public transportation solutions for our region. However, we know that while we move forward, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come since 1983!