Irving—December 30, 1996 was an important day in Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex history, the maiden voyage for the Trinity Railway Express (TRE). TRE’s first trip spanned 10 miles, traveling from Dallas’ Union Station to the Downtown Irving Transit Center. Some 4,000 people rode the first day, when TRE became Texas’ first commuter rail line.
In the years since, TRE has grown to 10 stops, including three in Irving. The current route travels from Union Station in Dallas to Fort Worth Texas and Pacific (T&P) Station, a trip from one end of DFW to the other, which takes around an hour and without any driving-related stress.
TRE is jointly run by Trinity Rail of Fort Worth and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Seeing the line turn 25 in December 2021 is a source of pride for everyone involved.
“It is a major achievement in public transportation,” Anthony Fuller, chief operating officer for Trinity Metro, said. “TRE started 25 years ago when support for transit, especially commuter rail was not very strong. It’s huge in the regard that TRE has lasted 25 years.
“It’s also significant in the people of the DFW Metroplex have supported TRE and continued to ride, which says it was an important part of providing alternative means for them to move about the region.”
Gordon Shattles is DART’s director, External Relations, and admits it is still hard to fathom TRE recently turning 25.
“Twenty-five years, it might feel young as far as the transit world goes, but for a commuter rail line, especially in an area like North Texas, to have the service TRE provides and especially the ridership people enjoy from it, is really a monumental achievement,” Shattles said.
The original TRE fleet consisted of rail diesel cars built in the 1950s. However, the current fleet features 11 locomotives, which weigh 260,000 pounds each, 17 coach cars, and 8 cab cars.
TRE drew its millionth customer in 1999 and its 25 millionth rider in October 2011.
Neither Fuller nor Shattles has any idea what the next 25 years will hold for TRE or DFW for that matter. However, as the Metroplex comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty has been learned from how the pandemic affected TRE and the entire transportation industry.
“I wish I had a crystal ball to predict the future. [The pandemic] changed the landscape of businesses,” Fuller said. “One of the things we’ve learned is we must remain flexible and must also wait to see whether people will continue to work remotely, whether businesses will bring their employees back to the office or whether it’s going to be a combination thereof.
“That would force us to then look at our current schedule and see if it continues to meet the needs of the people. If people are working remotely or working a hybrid schedule of three or four days a week, that [current schedule] might not meet their needs.”
One big difference between the initial version of TRE and the current one is there is now a station, CentrePort/DFW Airport at the always-busy DFW International Airport, which provides travelers with a less stressful option for getting into and out of one of the world’s busiest airports.
“One of the great ones [selling points for TRE] is for people in the southern area of North Texas to be able to get that easy access to the airport. That Airport Station, as you deboard there, you can take a shuttle bus to DFW Airport, which makes traveling that much easier,” Shattles said.
Shattles adds that train enthusiasts yet to ride TRE will love the experience of riding a double-decker train through the heart of the Metroplex.
The TRE also still holds strong appeal to people who live on one side of the Metroplex and have friends or family on the opposite side, giving them a stress-free way to travel to see friends and family, one where they can leave the driving to someone else, relax and enjoy the journey.
Two proposed high-speed rail projects involve the Metroplex. A high-speed rail line which would travel in a hyperloop, a tube allowing trains to travel three times faster than normal high speed rail lines, has been proposed along the Interstate 30 corridor between Fort Worth and Dallas.
Preliminary work also continues on developing a high-speed bullet train similar those prevalent in Japan, which would travel between Dallas and Houston. That line, should it become reality, would be the first of its type in the United States.
TRE welcomes both projects to the area, adopting an attitude of “the more the merrier” about DFW having an array of rail options potentially available to residents in the future.
“I would view it in a positive manner, because it will provide more opportunities for TRE to get additional riders they haven’t had previously,” Fuller said. “People like new technology, and they like new things. I can see them trying that and saying we’ve never taken TRE, so let’s try it.”