Planners from both sides of the region have been formulating ways to connect their cities to the air hub, and there are several plans on the books. The 14-mile DART Orange Line light rail system will connect downtown Dallas and Irving with the airport in 2013; current plans have the system terminating between the airport’s terminals A and B. Meanwhile, Tarrant County is planning the Southwest-to-Northeast Rail Corridor, which will run from southwest Fort Worth to the airport along a former freight route; that system would connect with the Orange Line at the same stub terminal in the airport zone. Finally, a longer term project would use the “Cotton Belt” transit line between DFW and Plano, via Carrollton and Addision, to provide commuter trains to the airport by 2027.
There are several problems with those initial plans: they force commuters attempting to transfer from one commuter line to another to do so at the airport, which would cause confusion and added congestion there; they prevent through-running trains from Plano to Fort Worth; finally, they prevent the future expansion of the Orange light rail line because of the stub-end situation
. Now under discussion, thus, is a proposal to connect the three lines and Skylink at a hub north of the airport that would allow through-running and an extension of the Orange Line. This would require an extension of Skylink, a realignment of the Orange Line, and an elimination of airport access by the Southwest-to-Northeast Corridor and the Cotten Belt Line. Below are schematic maps showing the proposed changes.
In many ways, the changes are rational - like the Phoenix Sky Harbor’s proposed airport train, placing the airport transit hub off campus allows people commuting by transit but not attempting to access the airport fewer inconveniences, whereas airport commuters are simply suggested to transfer to an easily accessible people mover that goes to the terminals. It should be pointed out as well that many people arriving at the airport under the original transit plan would be required to switch to the terminal link buses anyway if they need to get to terminals C, D, or E, so the amount of time required to get to the gate for 3/5 of airport users will hardly increase. Meanwhile, the future expansion of the Orange Line and the interconnectivity of the two commuter rail lines are worthwhile considerations and make the new plan an improvement over the old.