Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) reached another milestone with the opening of the North Lake College Station and Belt Line Station on Nov. 28. The two stations bring the Orange Line ever closer to the Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport’s Terminal A, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers to and from the airport in December of 2014.
Earlier this year, DART opened three stations along the Orange Line, the University of Dallas Station, Las Colinas Urban Center Station and the Irving Convention Center Station. The Orange Line now offers services to and from both the University of Dallas and North Lake College. The North Lake station is also a short walk from Irving ISD’s Jack E. Singley Academy. To recognize the importance of the Orange Line to current and future students, DART representatives and area educators met with community members for the DART Celebrates Education Orange Line Phase II Education Breakfast on Nov. 28.
“The segment of the Orange Line that opens today is a critical next step to our ultimate goal, having Irving and the entire DART system directly linked to DFW International Airport,” said John Danish, DART Board Chairman.
“With the opening of Irving II, DART also forges another connection to an institution of higher learning, North Lake College. Access to institutions of higher learning like North Lake College and the University of Dallas, which got its Orange Line Station earlier this year, is one of the core missions of DART
“Making that connection with young people is especially important in this world of transit. If you are a 20 year old working your way through college, why would you want to spend $10,000 a year on an automobile? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time and money on your education and maybe graduate debt free? It is literally possible now to live on a mass transit rail corridor, work on that corridor and attend your university on that corridor.
“The Beltline Station is Irving’s Orange Line’s first park and ride station, a new option for Irving area commuters. The Beltline Station will also provide shuttle service to DFW Airport, and it will offer special provisions for long term parking.
“Today we celebrate more than the opening of two new Orange Line stations, we celebrate the fact that we are on a path to a new way of life for Irving and for our region.”
In addition to regional access, the DART transit system creates area jobs according to Gary Thomas, DART President/Executive Director.
“When we open the Orange Line station at DFW Airport, we will be one of a handful of transit agencies throughout the country that will actually be connected to an airport,” Thomas said. “At that point, not only will the kids at the Academy and North Lake College be connected to the region, they will be connected to the entire world. That really is pretty special for the people of our region.
“The Orange Line has been and continues to be a major creator of jobs. As a matter of fact, 600 construction jobs were created as a result of this project. And 80 different companies were involved in the building of this project.”
Thomas Keefe, President of the University of Dallas, said mass transit projects and education are the responsibility of great nations.
“I was in the city of Arlington lately. And I noticed they have this great theme park and stadiums, but they don’t have any transportation. As we know, that stadium will eventually fall down as well,” Keefe said. “The city of Irving has invested in education. But the students being trained in Irving schools, North Lake and the University of Dallas will continue to grow.
“You’ve invested in the future, and I will tell you it is a darn good investment. We have a moral responsibility as a great society to educate our youth. It is not just about economics or how we are going to remain the wealthiest country in the world. It is about what we owe these kids. We owe them a respectful way to get to school. We owe them great schools like we have in Irving. We aren’t doing this because it is a great business deal. We are doing it because as a great society, this is what we are supposed to do.
“The DART Line is part of that infrastructure. We will be a city that people will look to 20 years from now and say ‘How did they do that?’ They did it because you all were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to invest in an infrastructure that allows these schools to survive. By the way, it is a darn good business decision.
“The University of Dallas is the most international university in the state of Texas. Fifty-eight percent of our students come from outside the state of Texas. When they graduate, the majority will want to stay here for some reason. That means as opposed to a brain drain like so many schools have, we have a brain gain. We are a brilliant school. Our admission rate to law school was almost 100 percent last year. Our admission rate to med school was 85 percent. The national average for admission rate to med school is 38 percent. Eighty percent of our students go on to graduate school within five years of graduating. We are the second largest MBA program in the Dallas area. We are a spectacular academic enterprise.
“We are not the best manufacturing country in the world anymore. But we are the best education country in the world. It is the one thing we do that everybody worldwide tries to emulate. Investing in education is a really smart thing.”
The Orange Line Phase II is just the lastest chapter in the cooperative partnership between DART and the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), according to Dr. Wright Lassiter, Jr, Chancellor of DCCCD.
“The Dallas County Community College District has had a very long history with DART. We’ve had a rich and very supportive relationship,” Lassiter said. “Many of the 105,000 students who are enrolled in our seven colleges and our five community campuses take advantage of DART’s efficient and cost effective transportation options.
“The Orange Line Phase II is a major newcomer that will support enabling individuals who are struggling with the cost of living and then the cost of education to be able to have an affordable means of transportation.
“A University of North Texas study determined that DART’s recent rail expansion efforts, the Green Line, Orange Line and Blue Line, will generate a total of $5.6 billion in economic benefit from 2009-2014. And 32,000 jobs have been created as a result.”
Dr. Dana Bedden, Superintendent of Irving ISD, indicated that DART and the school district share several features.
“DART and Irving ISD are both drivers of economic development. Like the Orange Line Phase II project, the success of Irving schools builds community pride, provides quality workers, increases real estate values and attracts new businesses to our community,” Bedden said.