Council members complain that the Oak Cliff Streetcar is a "vanity project" that drains money from other potential transit improvements.

2 minute read

March 1, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

DART Dallas

DART connects the Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station with the Bishop Arts District in downtown Dallas. | Philip Lange / Shutterstock

The Dallas City Council's Transportation Committee came close to killing the Oak Cliff Streetcar, "a pilot trolley line that the city has long hoped will someday evolve into a modern streetcar network covering downtown and the surrounding inner-city neighborhoods." Writing for D Magazine, Peter Simek reports on the contentious process that leaves the downtown trolley's future uncertain.

The city is also attempting to approach transportation planning with a more long-range vision, as proposed by the region's top transportation official and the assistant city manager for transportation. "The idea was to design each transportation project not as a single, standalone investment, but as a component of a broader network of iterative improvements." Yet while the streetcar is a prime example of a project that can be expanded, the council has expressed "understandable" frustration at the project's loss of revenue. Some council members called the streetcar a "vanity project" and balked at "spending $1 million on a line that, during the COVID-19 lockdown, only carried around 375 passengers a day." However, the city is stuck with the project: "because the project was funded through a federal TIGER grant, the city is obligated to operate the streetcar for 30 years."

"After reviewing several options – ranging from a 'transportation utility fee' paid by residents living along the streetcar line, to selling off city property – the consultant determined the only realistic short-term option was selling advertising and naming rights in and around the streetcar and stops. That might produce around $50,000 for the 2022 budget and another $100,000 to $200,000 the following year. Even with that new revenue, however, the city projected the streetcar would require more than $1 million in general fund support in 2022 and 2023."

Simek argues that to get beyond its status as a vanity project, what the streetcar project really needs is the funding to expand its service area and become a truly useful link for downtown residents and commuters. "Accelerating plans to connect the current line to downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods would simultaneously create opportunities to institute the kinds of value capture tools that can generate additional funding for future operations."

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 in D Magazine

Aerial view of homes on green hillsides in Daly City, California.

Depopulation Patterns Get Weird

A recent ranking of “declining” cities heavily features some of the most expensive cities in the country — including New York City and a half-dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

April 10, 2024 - California Planning & Development Report

Close-up of maroon California 'Clean Air Vehicle' carpool lane access sticker on the back bumper of a silver Tesla vehicle.

California EV Owners To Lose Carpool Lane Privilege

A program that began in 1999 to encourage more electric car ownership is set to expire next year without Congressional and state action.

April 2, 2024 - San Francisco Chronicle

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Google street view of grassy lot next to brick church with elevated freeway on other side in Houston, Texas.

Houston Supportive Housing Development Sparks Debate

Critics say a proposed apartment building would negatively impact the neighborhood’s walkability.

April 12 - Houston Chronicle

Closed black wrought iron gate in front of gated residential community with large palm trees along sides of street.

Friday Funny: Gated Community Doubles Down

The Onion skewers suburbia.

April 12 - The Onion

Aerial view of Chicago with river in foreground.

‘Cut the Tape’ Report Takes Aim at Inefficiencies

A set of recommendations from the Chicago mayor’s office calls for streamlining city processes to stimulate more residential and commercial development.

April 12 - Block Club Chicago

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.