The A-Train: What Happens When Transit Becomes Priority

January 14, 2013 12 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While Jacksonville can study with the best, Denton County, Texas turns a 2005 concept into an operational mass transit reality by 2011. Today, Metro Jacksonville takes a ride on the A-Train.

About The A-Train

The A-train is a 21 mile commuter rail line in Denton County, Texas that parallels Interstate 35E and acts as an extension with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Green Line at Trinity Mills Station in Carrollton. It is operated by the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) and serves Denton County. It opened June 20, 2011.


A formal Alternatives Analysis study conducted in 2004-2005, which included extensive community and citizen involvement, identified the proposed rail line as the best and most cost-effective mobility solution for Denton County and the region. It cited the impacts of projected population growth, growing safety, traffic congestion and air quality concerns, as well as the need to improve access to Denton County’s vital health care facilities and three major college and university campuses.

In May 2005, the DCTA Board of Directors approved the study’s recommendation to construct the rail alignment on east side of I-35E using an existing railroad corridor. DCTA is working closely with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to accommodate all necessary Federal and local regulatory requirements. In March 2008, the DCTA Board of Directors approved the Final Environmental Impact Determination which details proposed measures to mitigate the environmental impacts of the rail project. In August 2008, the Regional Transportation Council approved funding of this project. Because of this, federal funds were not used in the construction of the train.

On 4 April 2011, the DCTA began tests of railcars, communications systems and signals on track between Carrollton and Lewisville Lake, with tests on the remainder of the route projected to begin later in the month, though this date was later pushed back to mid-May.

The train was opened on 20 June 2011 with celebrations at five train stations.

Lesson Learned For Jacksonville

The A-Train illustrates that it doesn't take long to implement significant transit projects when the political and local will is there. Previous Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) commuter rail studies have indicated that a service similar to the A-Train may be feasible to connect downtown Jacksonville to the airport area. We've been planning bus rapid transit for over a decade and commuter rail since the mid 2000s.  However, in less time, the A-Train concept went from Jacksonville style discussion and studies to full implementation and operation.

Images by Robert Mann