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FW stations not just places to catch a ride

Spending time at a train station doesn't have to be an exercise in

patience and staring at the clock.

Take the Intermodal Transportation Center in Fort Worth, for example.

The station one of two in downtown Cowtown where Trinity Railway

Express commuter trains stop mixes a touch of history and a dash of

entertainment. It's also part community gathering place.

"It's fabulous," said Grand Prairie resident JoAnn Mikeska, who was

waiting for a train so she could visit Dallas' West End. "This brings

history together. When you travel, it's most often in a commercial

environment. This connects with history. It's the best of both worlds."

When the station opened, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also

known as The T, got a pleasant surprise, said Gyna Bivens, vice

chairwoman of the agency's executive committee.

"We have a lot of people coming here. It's almost a tourist site, even

for Fort Worth natives," she said.

The intermodal center, and the nearby T&P station, serve not only as a

place to get on trains, but also as a "truly public building," Ms. Bivens

added. The T had a public hearing at the new center, and community groups

can use a meeting room on the center's upper level.

"The T&P building is one that people use already. We've had wedding

receptions there," she said. "We're still moving into the ITC building.

But it is a community building, it has a community room, and we want

people to feel welcome."

The buildings already have seen a lot of use. The rail line carried more

than 10,000 passengers in one day last month buoyed by spring break

riders. Trinity Railway commuter trains usually carry about 6,000 a day.

Similar efforts to gather people around transit areas are occurring along

the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system. Work continues on a transit museum

in DART's Monroe Shops building at the Illinois Avenue rail station. In

addition, the city of Plano has a community room in a new mixed-used

development beside its downtown light rail station.

The efforts to mix transit and community also will extend to at least one

bus stop area in downtown Dallas. DART hopes to build a small performance

stage in a transit waiting area near the West End light rail station.

For riders from Dallas who are curious about what awaits them in Fort

Worth, other diversions abound at the new Fort Worth center.

Workers just finished the station's latest feature, a public art display

titled "The Game of Artful Pondering." The work, similar to an

interactive treasure map in the pavement, incorporates brightly colored

brick paths leading to markers with Texas-related sayings.

Some of the sayings were confusing, like "Post Holin' Dust Bowlin," and

"High Lonesome." Still, the cypress trees along the walkway were

sprouting their first leaves of spring, and the pavement artwork served

its purpose of providing an entertaining diversion.

Not far away, station visitors walked by a beautiful mural that traces

the history of the station area, a former African-American commercial and

warehouse district. The artwork features carved and stained bricks,

giving observers a memorable way to learn about people such as John

Pratt, Fort Worth's first African-American businessman, and other

contemporary black leaders.

Commuter trains started running to the intermodal station in December,

but workers are completing finishing touches. They include a display area

for a trolley car from the Northern Texas Traction company, the Fort

Worth-to-Dallas commuter rail precursor that halted service in the 1930s.

The station features daily connections to other Fort Worth attractions.

Trolley buses run daily to the cultural district and on Saturday only to

the Stockyards area. And next door to the station, developers are

scheduled to open a farmers market this month.

"We're changing the way people build transit centers," Ms. Bivens said.

Tony Hartzel can be reached at [email protected] and at P.O. Box

655237, Dallas, TX 75265.

Dallas Morning News
Tony Hartzel