DALLAS — The Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma didn’t disappoint on Saturday, but hundreds of fans who elected to take public transportation to the big game at the Cotton Bowl missed much of the action.
They were stuck on DART’s new light rail service to Fair Park.
Crushing crowds literally overwhelmed the Green Line that was built, in part, to make it easier to get to the fairgrounds.
Passengers say DART failed its first big test.
Rail cars jammed with football fans kept on arriving at Fair Park up to one hour after the Texas-OU game kicked off.
“We were on the light rail for about an hour-and-a-half,” said Daniel Jones. “It was stop-and-go, and it was just horrendous.”
DART warned riders heading to the fair and the game to come early and to expect delays. But some passengers told News 8 they never expected this.
“Fifteen minutes? That’s a ‘delay.’ But an hour-and-a-half? That’s unacceptable,” Jones said.
Some frustrated riders like Ryan Allison even ditched the trains at the Baylor University Medical Center station and started walking to the game.
“Way too much time and too crammed,” he said. “I would have taken a cab, for sure.”
Trains started running at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning, but the rush began around 8 a.m. for the 11 a.m. game.
DART put extra cars on the tracks to meet the demand, with a total of 80 cars in service. Officers blocked traffic at some intersections to try and speed the rail traffic.
Crossing arms even stayed down in some areas to keep trains moving, but DART hit a problem — a mechanical issue — that halted one train on the tracks, backing up all the trains behind it.
“Part of the reason was there were so many folks on the train, the operator couldn’t get in to fix the problem,” explained DART spokesman Morgan Lyons. “So that caused a backup, a ripple effect through the system.”
But passengers told News 8 it was still stop-and-go every five minutes.
“It took way too long,” said Danny Cartwright. “The guy kept coming over the intercom telling us there were too many trains ahead of us.”
Every train was packed with passengers. Cars were so crowded that some passengers at the Deep Ellum station waited nearly 30 minutes just to climb aboard.
Tim Roberts said it was like being inside “a can of sardines. You literally cannot get on there. The last one I tried to get on, I had ten people in the back say, ‘there’s no more room.'”
DART plans to examine its special event opeations to see if any improvements are needed.
“We moved the trains as quickly as we could, put out everything possible, had extra staff out, extra volunteers out, had extra police out to try to move people as quickly as possible,” Lyons said.
After seeing the problems getting fans to the game, DART also beefed up the number of trains after the game, and added extra buses. But passengers still faced a very long ride home.
News 8 found packed train cars all along the Green Line, even an hour after the last play. Some waited in line more than 90 minutes just to get on board.
“This train system is like the BCS: It’s broken,” one frustrated passenger said.
“Next year, I’m driving again,” said another.
DART says it put all 80 of its available rail cars in service; each one can carry 150 people.
The transit agency said that in addition to the game, people traveling to the State Fair and the Miranda Lambert concert there only added to the huge post-game crowds.