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After years, trainapostrophe1212s return is welcome

Imagine going to Dallas to see a basketball game and getting there without the slightest problem - no traffic, no parking lines, no hassle.

Actually, you don't have to imagine it. You can do it.

I did last Saturday.

When a friend called and offered his tickets to the Dallas Mavericks' game against Phoenix, I accepted with delight and then immediately thought of the miserable times I'd had in the past getting in and out of Reunion Arena.

I didn't expect it to be much easier at the Mavericks' new home, American Airlines Center. So, while I was eager to see the game and the new sports facility, I was already dreading the trip.

Then the light went on: "Take the train, stupid."

And that's exactly what I did.

A couple of years ago, I'd driven to Irving to catch the Trinity Railway Express into Dallas for a little excursion with my son. We changed to Dallas Area Rapid Transit at the downtown Union Station, and rode it to the Dallas Zoo.

It was a great experience, so I wasn't really worried when I considered taking the train to the basketball game - except this was going to be a special run at night, and I wondered what I'd do if I missed the return trip.

My fears were eased when I called the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T) on Saturday morning.

First of all, when I dialed and hit the telephone button for information on the TRE, a real live (and pleasant) voice came on the line.

She informed me that the train would leave the Richland Hills Station (at Texas 121 and Handley-Ederville Road) at 6:18 p.m. There would be three return trips, she said: the first one 20 minutes after the game was over; the second at 11:05 p.m.; and the final one at 12:05 a.m.

The Richland Hills Station is just five miles from my house. The train, with its striking double-decked cars, was already there when we arrived about eight minutes before departure.

We bought our $4 round-trip tickets from a machine on the platform and boarded.

It was a great ride, with a few brief stops in between. When we got off - just a few yards from the northern entrance of the American Airlines Center - it was obvious that a few hundred other people had had the same idea.

Walking with the crowd, I was thinking how amazing it was that in the heart of Texas, all of us had ridden the rails to a sporting event. What a novel but exciting idea!

After seeing what turned out to be a good game - with the Mavericks winning, 119-104 - we walked out of the AA center and saw the train pulling up to greet several hundred people waiting to board.

I checked my watch when I got home and realized that in less than five hours, I had gone to Dallas, watched an entire pro basketball game and returned safely home with absolutely no hassle.

Come Monday, the Trinity Railway Express service finally begins in downtown Fort Worth, with stops at the new Intermodal Transportation Center at Ninth and Jones streets and the historic Texas & Pacific Terminal on Lancaster Avenue.

Tuesday afternoon, as temperatures and a little freezing precipitation fell in downtown, scores of workers were busy inside and out at the Intermodal Center, trying to get it ready for Monday's inaugural. They won't quite make it.

At the T&P Building, the big lighted chandeliers in the ornate lobby could be seen for blocks as men polished the marble floor underneath.

As I watched the workers scurry about, I recalled an essay by the late James Baldwin. It was titled "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone."

The train connecting Dallas and Fort Worth has been gone too long - 67 years, to be exact.

It's great to have it back after all these years.

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


Copyright 2001 Star-Telegram, Inc.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Bob Ray Sanders