Two Days With the DCTA…

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 | Cycling, Life

…in which I talk about the new rail system here in Denton.

So, as I may have mentioned previously, we got a new commuter train in Denton, and while we were able to stop by and see it on it’s inaugural start up day, we didn’t get a chance to actually ride it until this past Monday. As I said before, we’ve been anxiously awaiting this train for 8 years and our anticipation has been growing as we saw more and more of the system fall into place. But now that it’s up and running, and continually improving, we can see a great prospect for it on the attainable horizon.

Getting closer...
Keeping a lookout for the ellusive A-Train

So, after being far too hot and exhausted to ride the train two weeks ago, we made a specific plan to ride the train this past Monday. Due to a dentist appointment, I was already going to be out for the better part of the morning, so we decided to just make a day of it. I moved my appointment up earlier to maximize our day, knowing that the train ride to the Dallas Zoo would be longer than our regular drive down there. Even on day trips, I have an issue with spending more time driving, than actually visiting your destination. I guess I just can’t get behind the whole “it’s not the trip, it’s the journey” philosophy.

At any rate, I was out of the dentist and had met up with Heather at the MedPark Station to start our mass transit journey by 10am. Looking at the schedule, we saw that the next train would come by at 10:44am, so we settled in to wait for a bit. Our trip was off to a stagnant start even from the get-go. More and more people gathered around the station as the time came and by the time 10:44 rolled up, there were 15+ people waiting.

Of course, by the time 11am ticked by, there were 15+ people wondering where their train was. It was then that everyone, in their own way, started investigating what we had all obviously missed. From our collaborative effort, we determined that between the hours of 10am and 3pm the DCTA train is replaced by a series of shuttle buses. It became apparent to us that we were in for an awkward day.

One very proactive lady took it upon herself to call the DCTA and very politely insist that they do something about it since such a large crowd was out in the lurch. The DCTA agreed to send a grumpy driver in a rickety shuttle to take us directly to the northern most DART rail station. Shortly, we were on our way, though not with the level of excitement we had started with. We would still be using mass transit, but somehow heading out to catch a train and having to be rescued by a bus didn’t have the same appeal.

Nevertheless, we were on our way. It wasn’t long before we made it to the Trinity Mills station and were able to board the Green Line headed into downtown Dallas. At the West End station, we switched to the Red Line which took us the rest of the way out to the Dallas Zoo.  All in all, the trip was pleasant, after the initial cock-ups, that is. The transitions were easy, the schedules were easy to read, and the ride was smooth and carefree. Driving to the Zoo takes about 45 minutes, but while the rail took almost 2 hours, it felt like nothing because it was simple and stress free.

You can really get up close to the lions, too
The lions were just chillin’

Our ratio of travel to destination time was still in the negative, but we had a spectacular short time at the zoo, anyway. We saw the giraffe up closer than we’d ever seen them before and we made a magical discovery. The new “Serengeti Grill” has a window directly into the lion habitat, and because of some genius thermodynamics, the lions choose to just lay right up against the windows all day. It was the best view I’ve ever had of a lion in my life.

Our trip back was really no more complicated than our trip down. A little waiting here and there along the way, but still about the same travel time. Additionally, we left the zoo late enough to guarantee that the DCTA train would be running, so we ultimately were able to ride it, as well.

The current cars on the DCTA train are old TRE cars from the 1960’s but there are new cars on the way. Despite the cars being 50+ years old, they were comfortable, smooth, and a pleasure to ride. In fact, riding on these older cars only made me more excited about the A-Train because of everything that’s been published about the future cars. The new cars, which first start rolling in July, will be faster, roomier, have easier access into the cars and internal bike racks. There is nothing to hate and everything to love about this future. The moment we got back to the house, Heather immediately started Googling other places in Dallas that were accessible directly from the DART rail. We worked out that my car costs $16 to drive into Dallas and back, plus possible parking fees, etc, so at $10 per person per day ($7 if purchased in bulk) to ride the rails, we’re sold.

Last Import-0
My new Trekking bars, curtesy of BBB and Denton Bicycle Center

So, along with this new mass transit connection, we also received a new bike/pedestrian trail that parallels it, for nine miles, at least. Having gotten my bike back from Denton Bicycle Center with its new handlebars on Saturday, I decided Sunday morning that I needed to try out the new DCTA Rail Trail. I’d talked with a few people, and no one was sure exactly where it ended, only that it made it as far as Lake Dallas. I deemed it a fact finding mission and just shy of noon, I set out on my ride down the rail trail.

The trail is really smooth, as it’s all concrete. It has only a few hills and none of them are what I would consider challenging. From tip to tail, the trail is right around 9 miles and runs from the downtown rail station to the intersection of I35E and Swisher Road. On top of that, I had about 5 miles worth of travel to and from the trail itself, making my round trip just over 23 miles. I haven’t ridden a 20+ mile trek in a while, nearly a year, actually. I’m happy that it didn’t prove deathly difficult to me, but I did suffer a bit of a tweak in my back on the way home. So yeah, a couple days of Ibuprofen and I’m all ready to go again.

It turns out that another co-worker rode the trail the next day and he was similarly jazzed to do it again. Yet another co-worker has expressed an interest in riding the trail as well, and it made me think we should make an event of it and get a bunch of CVAD people together to ride it some Sunday morning. I’m not sure what will come of it, but since I honestly do so little away from the office with these people, it might be nice to do something we all enjoy out and away from the building.

All this though, makes me realize that while Denton has never really been small (in the time that I’ve lived here) and it’s been expanding consistently over the past 10 years, it’s only recently that Denton feels like it’s really growing up. It will forever be the “Little D” to the “Big D” of Dallas, but that doesn’t mean that Denton doesn’t kick some pretty major ass, itself. Denton really is a great place to live, work, and play.

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