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Rail News: Passenger Rail

DART, the 'T' take over TRE dispatching


Cars — people who drive them, generally love them. And they don’t want to leave their autos behind if they can help it. So how does a transit agency build ridership in an area where many residents would rather hit the road — and have that option?

Performance plays into it, says Lonnie Blaydes, vice president of commuter rail at Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). And that’s why DART and Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the "T") took over dispatching for Trinity Railway Express (TRE) — Dallas’ commuter rail system, formed through a partnership between DART and the T.

"It’s not that 97 percent [on-time] wasn’t good; it was," he says, adding that it’s not a matter of a train here or there being late, but about schedule recovery. The Dallas-to-Forth Worth segment is a single-line railway, so one delay cascades throughout the system for the peak-period’s duration.

TRE connects downtown Dallas to Richland Hills Station northeast of Fort Worth, with service to downtown Fort Worth scheduled to begin this fall on the former Rock Island line. The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth have owned the line since 1984, at which time Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad handled dispatching.

In 1988, Union Pacific Railroad and its subsidiary Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. purchased Katy Lines’ business, taking over dispatching and maintenance. In the early 1990s, Burlington Northern began dispatching the line, since the corridor held greater importance for BN than for UP.

By May 2000, DART took over the line’s maintenance; UP served most of its customers and Burlington Northern Santa Fe handled dispatching. But TRE is "by far the dominant user of the corridor," says Blaydes.

So it only makes sense that DART, TRE or the T dispatch.

The transit trio paid for worker training at a community college, while BNSF purchased computers and set up the dispatch center while lending its personnel’s expertise to the mix.

TRE will pay more to handle its own dispatching, but Blaydes expects the change to be well worth it — for freight and passenger service.

"Our dispatchers know the corridor really well and will do a really good job of getting all trains across smoothly," he says.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/13/2001