This spring, DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transportation) started service on its new streetcar route, a 1.6 mile stretch connecting Oak Cliff commuters with Union Station in Dallas. The city’s new streetcar is the latest in a trend sweeping urban centers across the country. (Tucson, Arizona launched a successful streetcar project in 2014, and Kansas City has high hopes for its new transit system, which should open next year.) Of course, the streetcars cropping up today are nothing but modern versions of those our cities so often utilized in the first half of the twentieth century.
As this news script from the KXAS/NBC-5 collection shows, streetcars ran through Dallas from 1872 until 1956, when the streetcars performed their last run. At its peak, Dallas had over three-hundred streetcars crisscrossing the city, carrying residents from place to place. The map shown features interurban streetcar lines as they existed in 1919. The Western History Department at the Denver Public Library also has a great photograph in its digital collections of a group of men and women waiting for a Dallas streetcar, taken by Robert W. Richardson in February 1946.
From the start of public transportation in Dallas, private corporations were in charge of services, the last of which was the Dallas Transit Company. The city purchased DTC in 1964, and it continued to run under the same name until 1984, when DART assumed control of operations.
In 1954, The city council ordered the transit company to dispose of all the streetcars within two years. Thus, transportation in Dallas changed in ways that happened in other American cities: buses emerged, along with a much heavier reliance on individual transportation via automobile. A large part of this new aversion to public transportation resulted from suburbanization. People simply didn’t want to live in the hustle and bustle of the city anymore.
Today, more and more people are moving back into the cities, resulting in the need for more (and different) modes of public transportation. Two future phases of the new Dallas streetcar are currently underway. The first is a connection to the Bishops Arts Center, and the second will connect the Civic Center and Reunion Districts.
The KXAS/NBC-5 collection is perhaps the largest collection of local news in the country. With scripts, video footage, and log books from 1951 onward, the collection showcases the evolution of the southwest metroplex. Currently, a selection of news scripts and video footage from the year 1956 is available for viewing on The Portal to Texas History.
-by Alexandra Traxinger Schütz