The new downtown-to-Oak Cliff Dallas Streetcar began running today — and the car had that new streetcar smell.
Owned by the city of Dallas and operated by DART, the 1.6 mile new service is free and runs Monday-Friday from 5 a.m.-7:15 p.m. The trip takes six minutes, but the streetcar runs only once every half hour during business hours and three times an hour during rush hours.
Weekend service may be added later, according to DART officials at the Union Station stop.
The trolley makes four stops: one downtown at Union Station and three in Oak Cliff — Founders Park at Greenbriar Lane, Lake Cliff Park at Oakenwald Street and Methodist Dallas Medical Center at Beckley Avenue.
The Greenbriar Lane stop is three blocks from Hillcrest House and other AIDS Services of Dallas facilities.
An extension is planned up Zang Boulevard to the Bishop Arts District. So far, it’s unfunded, but plans are for it to open in 2016. That extension would be just three blocks from AIDS Arms’ Trinity clinic.
A phase 3 extension will include a downtown loop that will include the Omni Hotel and Dallas Convention Center.
Unlike the McKinney Avenue trolley with its historic cars, the Dallas Streetcar uses modern vehicles that are hybrids powered in two ways. They’re run by overhead power lines downtown and in Oak Cliff and by an on-board stored energy system as it crosses the Trinity River on the Houston Street Viaduct. This is the first streetcar in the U.S. to use this type of power. DART officials at the Union Station stop said on days when DART light rail has had problems with its overhead lines, the Dallas Streetcar could operate entirely on its battery power.
Currently, only one car is running and from Union Station to Greenbriar Lane, there’s only one track. In Oak Cliff, there are two tracks, so as the line is lengthened, two (or more) cars can run.
Other than the Dallas Streetcar, the Houston Street Viaduct is still closed to vehicles. New concrete is being poured and it looks like the bridge should reopen soon, alleviating some of the backups from downtown into Oak Cliff during rush hour.