What do you get when you combine two major sports and entertainment attractions, a university with over 30,000 students, and no comprehensive system of public transportation? You get Arlington, Texas, of course! As a matter of fact, it the largest city in the United States with no public transportation. And with nearly 400,000 people, I wouldn’t exactly consider this an accomplishment to be proud of. But why is this a major issue, and what’s keeping mass transit out of Arlington? Read on to find out.
The transportation situation in city of Arlington particularly fascinates me. I’m trying to deduct the logic of the city officials here, but I just can’t. If having one of the largest public universities in Texas isn’t enough to warrant some kind of bus or rail service, then surely having the third-largest stadium in the NFL and being the home to the Texas Rangers is. One particularly significant example of the ill effects of this is a Michigan-Alabama game at the Cowboys stadium last year. Thousands of fans were forced to wait hours for cab rides out of the stadium, due to the lack of any sort of transportation structure except for roads.
You’d imagine that some sort of people mover system would have been one of the first thoughts in building a massive $1.3 billion NFL stadium, but apparently not. The City of Arlington’s attractive offer was clearly played a factor here. With the city providing over $325 million worth of funding to help pay for the stadium, there’s really no money left over to implement a comprehensive and functional public transportation system.
But being situated right in the middle of the largest metropolitan area in the south should cause the city of Arlington to get some mass transit sympathy from the adjacent cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, right? Wrong. The Trinity Railway Express, a commuter rail system which connects Dallas to Fort Worth, doesn’t even offer any service to Arlington, which is right in-between the two cities. The closest TRE station is a few miles north of Arlington.
Other than the fact that the city itself is probably out of cash, what’s keeping public transportation of any sorts outside of the city? Well, it could be the fact that the city hasn’t brought up the issue to voters in the past ten years, before a location for the new Cowboys Stadium was even decided. Maybe city leaders originally thought that only having roads would keep the poor people without a car out of city, but that clearly hasn’t been the case. The only other logical reason I could think of is simple city competition in the Metroplex. Cities such as Dallas and Fort Worth spend all of their effort trying to make their cities the most attractive, instead of working on a mutually beneficial transportation system. Again, I don’t know if this is the actual reason, but I can’t think of anything else.
However, there is evidence of such city conflict in the past. In the 1920s, Dallas proposed to build a joint airport between the two cities, but Fort Worth refused. Thus, the cities went on to build their own separate, competing airports. Many years later, when Dallas Love Field became severely overloaded, the FAA refused to fund the two separate airports and demanded that a site for a joint airport be chosen. The FAA nearly had to intervene when the two cities could not agree on a site. Eventually, though, Dallas and Fort Worth chose a location about halfway between the two cities, and what we now know as DFW Airport came into fruition.
Putting that little side-story aside, it’s obvious that the city of Arlington has a significant problem. With no public transportation, sports fans, students, residents, and commuters alike have no way of getting around other than by car. And having no backup plan for transportation is almost always a bad thing. What if our roads become too congested and there’s no room to expand? Or what if gas prices become even more unreasonably high than they are now? I guess only time will tell.
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