Written by Phil Cerroni
Dear Mayor, Council Members and Citizens of Irving:
As the chairman and your representative on the DART Board of Directors, I am pleased to report to you the state of the agency, particularly as it relates to Irving.
If ever there were a watershed year in the DART-Irving relationship, 2012 was it. The arrival of the Orange Line in Irving culminated 12 years of land-use planning by DART, the city of Irving, the Las Colinas Association and the Dallas County Utilities Reclamation District.
The first two Orange Line segments opened on schedule: on July 30 to the University of Dallas, Las Colinas Urban Center and the Irving Convention Center; and on Dec. 3 to North Lake College and Belt Line Road. For thousands of employees who commute in and out of Irving daily, the Orange Line offers fresh alternatives to driving. But it connects to more than jobs – it’s Irving’s new link to educational institutions, medical services, entertainment venues and more.
When the much-anticipated third segment of the 14-mile, $1.3 billion line opens in December 2014, Irving will have a direct rail connection to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – and, by extension, to the world. DART will be one of the few transit properties in the nation with direct rail service to and from a major airport. That final piece of the Orange Line is being built as we speak.
Also on Dec. 3, DART opened a 4.5-mile extension of the Blue Line east to Rowlett. DART has built more than 40 miles of track in the last three years alone. At 85 miles, DART Rail now is the largest electric light rail system in the nation.
While the arrival of rail service is certainly a game-changer, buses have always been the backbone of our system. Currently, DART is undertaking a $248 million, full-scale fleet replacement. We have purchased 120 small, agile buses and placed an order for 542 larger buses, which already are beginning to arrive. All are environmentally friendly, powered by compressed natural gas.
DART also strove during 2012 to identify new revenue streams. In March, we implemented Fair Share Parking at two end-of-the-line stations, and at a new park-and-ride bus facility a few months later. We extended the program to Belt Line Station when it opened in December. In addition to regular parking, that station offers long-term parking for riders who are headed to the airport.
Also in Irving, DART is continuing to plan with the city to implement new bus shelters near the corner of Nursery Road and Irving Boulevard. These are not only state-of-the-art shelters featuring solar-powered heating and other amenities; they are a pilot project to explore the viability of advertising at DART’s bus facilities. If the program succeeds, we will roll it out throughout the service area.
Some other highlights of 2012 include:
In August, the Board selected Dallas attorney Scott Carlson as the agency’s new general counsel. Scott had been Dallas’ appointee to the DART Board since 2003. He served on a number of board committees and chaired the planning committee. He joins DART from the law firm of Cavazos, Hendricks, Poirot & Smitham, where he served as senior counsel.
In October, DART awarded a new paratransit services contract to MV Transportation, and adopted a new service delivery model in the same stroke. Paratransit now uses multiple vehicle types: MV Transportation’s own fleet, outsourced taxis, as well as leasing some of DART’s paratransit vans until MV’s fleet of larger vans are delivered. As a result, the service is more flexible. The agency expects to realize $90 million in savings over the course of the seven-year contract.
DART’s sales tax revenues were $432.5 million, 2.4 percent better than target, and total revenues reached $720.1 million. The agency’s total subsidy per passenger was 6.7 percent better than target, and sales tax allocated to operating expenses came in 3.5 percent better than target.
Fixed-route ridership is up: The DART Board set a target of 65.9 million passenger trips, and DART exceeded that goal by 2.7 million, or about 4 percent. That’s an 11 percent increase over FY11 reported ridership, and includes a change in light rail counting from manual counts to the use of more accurate, FTA-approved, automated passenger counters. While total system ridership was down by 6.2 percent from FY 2011 – clocking in at 104.9 million passenger trips – that decline is largely attributable to the closing of HOV lanes on LBJ Freeway early in the year.
DART has continued to look for innovative ways to address the demand for public transit beyond our service borders. In March, we began providing express bus service to Mesquite on a contract basis. The program is still under evaluation, but it could offer a template for similar services to other area cities.
To better leverage our resources as a region, DART, the Fort Worth T and the Denton County Transportation Authority have entered into a Tri-Party Passenger Rail Alliance. I believe that this alliance is potentially the next major step in a new era of passenger rail transit for the North Texas region – an area that extends across 16 counties. Our combined leverage could translate to increased purchasing power of vehicles and rights of way, the moxie to develop bigger projects than ever before, and the credibility that comes from presenting a united front in Austin.
With the three agencies joining forces, we can ensure that the process of getting passenger rail projects up and running is streamlined and backed by a strong advocacy coalition. Chief among these potential projects is the Cotton Belt corridor, which extends from DART’s Red Line in the Plano-Richardson area through North Dallas, Addison and downtown Carrollton, on to DFW Airport – and beyond to Fort Worth.
The Cotton Belt is not funded in DART’s 20-Year Financial Plan. But the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) of the North Central Texas Council of Governments is exploring innovative financing options – most likely a public-private partnership that would be the first of its kind in Texas. What role DART, The T and DCTA will play remains to be seen, but the Tri-Party Passenger Rail Alliance gives our agencies a strong, collective voice. The RTC’s findings and recommendations are expected in the coming months.
How we approach the Cotton Belt could set the stage for other similar initiatives in the future. I envision the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Line eventually being developed for passenger rail. It would extend from Irving’s Heritage Crossing to Downtown Carrollton – and ultimately, it could reach the bustling city of Frisco and even the Red River.
I believe that Irving is on the path to a new way of life. The DART System is rapidly maturing; in 2012, we celebrated our 250 millionth light rail passenger. The agency now turns its attention to operating one of the most robust multimodal transit systems in North America. Irving is deeply invested in the DART project, and we are poised to reap abundant dividends.
If you have questions or suggestions at any time, please feel free to contact me at 972.554.0500.
Yours Very Truly,
John C. Danish
Chairman, DART Board of Directors (Irving)
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 15:46
Written by Phil Cerroni
I have lived in Irving for almost 37 years.
When TXU was my provider, I can count on one hand how many times the lights went out. Yes;...ONE HAND!
Since ONCOR took control; the lights go out a minimum of two times a month, sometimes even three times.
I have a CPAP machine, and when the electricity goes out at night, it is crucial for me.
I had my doctor send a form to ONCOR, and part of their response was “...Therefore it is your responsibility to prepare for possible power interruptions and to make arrangements for a backup supply or other alternatives in the event of loss of electric service as needed...”
My question is when my electricity is out from 5 minutes to 3 hours, and I can’t open my garage door to get my car out, and a generator is pointless since it can’t be used in the house, what next?
I have also given up on setting and resetting my clocks. I am tempted to buy old fashioned windup clocks.
I have called ONCOR numerous times about the line to my house being so tight because the pole is tilting away from my house. They have come here three times, and tried to release the tension, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. I had to laugh at the first time they came over. The service man said there was no way he would climb the pole, so he left. And the story goes on from there.
I also want to comment that one day I was grocery shopping and when I came home, I couldn’t open my garage door. I called TXU, and they said they couldn’t help, so they give me ONCOR’s number. ONCOR stated they couldn’t help either cause my cell phone number was not registered with them, and I needed to provide them with my account number. I would have, but I could not get in my house to give it to them. So they disconnected my call.
Just had to vocalize and wonder if anyone else in Irving is having this problem.
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:13
Written by Phil Cerroni
Last week residents spoke up about poor living conditions and poor billing at Oak Villa Apartments.
The Mayor mentioned how she was not happy with the situation and was frankly "disgusted" with the situation and what residents were sharing about the conditions.
She boldly stately what could be done about this. Yesterday (10-29) all departments were assembled for 300 to 350 Oak Villa Residents in attendance to and presented to and listened to Oak Villa Residents. Code Enforcement and Police. There are concerns about drug dealing, safety, and crime.
Irving PD are on it thanks to Mayor being proactive. I have never seen so much willingness for the city departments to work with residents as I saw yesterday. And fellow folks active in being around city government have mentioned the same.
We give thanks to a Mayor willing to take the lead on this.
Emmanuel Lewis Jr
Last Updated on Sunday, 04 November 2012 21:18
Written by Phil Cerroni
Dear Irving Rambler:
I previously sent an email where I discussed my position that a bribe or a payoff to former Fire Chief Mario Molina occurred by City Manager Tomas Gonzalez, in the form of paying Mr. Molina $161,900 for one year based on an artificially created grant writing position that was created for Mr. Molina by Mr. Gonzalez.
Though Mr. Gonzalez claimed that Mr. Molina had been "successful at securing grants for the Fire Department during the past several years", the City of Irving (City) could not produce any records in response to my open records request to show where Mr. Molina had signed any grant application letters or any records that showed the total amount of grant funds that Mr. Molina was responsible for obtaining for the City.
The City even failed to respond to this category of information I requested: "Additionally, I request a copy of the necessary City records establishing that Mr. Molina was actually the person that did the work that resulted in the City obtaining grants and not just the department head that signed the paperwork for the grants that someone else with the City actually did the work on."
I have since learned that Mr. Gonzalez's actions actually violated the Home Rule Charter the City has, since it was clear that Mr. Gonzalez artificially created the high paying position for Mr. Molina in order to settle any claims that Mr. Molina had against the City for placing him on administrative suspension and to get Mr. Molina to step down from his position as Fire Chief.
Section 25, Compromising and settling claims and lawsuit; from Article III, Corporate Power; from the Home Rule Charter, which the City has; states the following: "The city council of the City of Irving shall have the power and authority to compromise and settle any and all claims and lawsuits of every kind and character in favor of or against the said city, including suits by said city to recover delinquent taxes."
Even the Separation Agreement was a matter that should have been brought before the City Council, just as how Mr. Molina was given an artificially created position by Mr. Gonzalez in order to settle any claims that Mr. Molina may have had against the City in exchange for the administrative suspension and his being forced to step down as the Fire Chief.
It also appears that Mr. Gonzalez violated the City's Home Rule Charter since Section 3, Powers and duties; in Article VIII, City Manager; states: "The city manager shall also be the Chief Executive and shall see that the laws and ordinances of the city are enforced. He shall appoint all appointive officers, or employees of the city (such appointments to be made upon merit and fitness alone)..."
There is no evidence that Mr. Molina previously displayed fitness as a grant writer nor was there any merit that he was ever a qualified grant writer but rather he was hired to be a grant writer as some settlement that resulted in Mr. Gonzalez artificially creating a grant writing position for Mr. Molina. So, can the City be sued because it appears it has violated at least two parts of the Home Rule Charter? Where has City Attorney Charles Anderson and his staff of nine attorney been during all this, looking the other way as has often been the case in recent years?
S. Paul Jordan
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 September 2012 17:47
Written by Phil Cerroni
You can call it what you want but the taxpayers of Irving should not be footing the bill for what should be a private enterprise. You can pretend all you want that it will be profitable, but if that were true then it would not NEED taxpayer funding. Let those who support the IEC pass the hat, sell shares and raise the funds themselves without forcing everyone in town to chip in to what looks to me like an irresponsible gamble.
Floyd Geron Looney
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 September 2012 17:46