I was sitting around with a head full of memories of one of my favorite things – the St. Charles Streetcar in New Orleans. I came to a sudden realization – Dallas has a streetcar too. It isn’t as famous or as beautiful – but it is there
It’s called the McKinney Avenue Trolley, or the M-Line. It’s an important part of Dallas’ hard work at becoming a real city, with a vibrant downtown. The line has been here for quite some time, and runs along McKinney Avenue from the Downtown Arts District out through the West Village and on to connect up with the DART train line at the underground Cityplace Station. Although it is operated by DART, the trolley is free.
Originally, the trolley was viewed as a small, quaint tourist attraction – and it is. However, now that a large population is beginning to move into tony uptown condominiums it is becoming an important transportation artery for the young professionals to get to their offices in downtown. Now, the trolley line is about to expand – first through the new park being constructed atop the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, then on through downtown and across the river into Oak Cliff.
Again, I remembered the trolley as I was on the DART train headed downtown and decided to take a ride. As I walked along the sidewalk a couple of tourists from Henderson, Nevada asked what train to take to catch the trolley.
“Well, actually, the trolley is only a few blocks away, and I’m walking there now, I’ll be glad to show you,” I said.
“Does it go around downtown?”
“No, it doesn’t go around through the skyscrapers. It goes out through Uptown, which is more interesting anyway – there’s a lot of restaurants, shops, and stuff.”
So we chatted as we walked. I always wonder about tourists in Dallas. It’s a pretty nice place to live, but a terrible place to visit. It’s not a tourist type of place.
So I dropped them off at the trolley stop by the Dallas Museum of Art and went on – I wanted to visit a couple other places before I rode the trolley. A couple hours later I was back and sat down to wait for a car. While I waited, trying to read a little, I was bothered by an aggressive, obnoxious panhandler who became abusive when I didn’t give him any money.
Experiences like that make it difficult to maintain feelings of charity and goodwill to all even during the holiday seasons. Downtown is getting a growing population of hard-core homeless panhandlers that are becoming problematic as the city is trying to increase the livability of the place.
While he was yelling at me, my streetcar arrived so I turned and got on board. The car was packed with about half tourists and half office workers on the way home. The residents helped the tourists with information on the trolley route and points of interest along the way.
Dallas doesn’t have a neutral ground like New Orleans does, so the streetcar has to fight its way through traffic like everybody else. It makes for a slow, rattling ride.
Another difference between Dallas and New Orleans is that here, all the streetcars are unique. This day, I was lucky enough to draw Rosie, the oldest operating streetcar in the country.
Rosie was built in Philadelphia by the J.G. Brill company in 1909. It spend many years running along the rails in Porto, Portugal. It was the first car that the M-Line restored and ran on the opening day in 1989. Since it ran past and was sponsored by the Crescent development they gave it the name “The Crescent Rose.” This was shortened to “Rosie.” Since it is now over a hundred years old, it is usually used for special events and charters, it was a rare treat to have it out on a regular run. It’s a popular car – a common subject (another).
Down at Cityplace Station they are building a turntable so that they can begin operating some trolleys they have that are only able to run one way.
I wasn’t in the best of moods and the trolley still can’t hold a candle to the St. Charles line – but I am excited about the plans for expansion. I can see sitting for a while watching that turntable go round. I think I need to come down some more and ride some of the other trolley cars – the “Green Dragon” looks like fun