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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