The First Streetcar Era
Dallas’ first streetcar company opened in 1872, running along Main Street to connect Downtown to the newly opened Houston & Texas Central Rail depot. Mules pulled the cars, much like a horse and buggy, until electric streetcars were introduced in 1890.
At the height of the era, streetcar service in Dallas covered almost 200 miles of tracks with a fleet of nearly 400 streetcars. Although Dallas enthusiastically adopted the automobile, streetcar service remained an important transportation mode for decades. Nevertheless, as automobiles gained in popularity and suburban growth continued migrating away from the city center, ridership declined. Service finally ended in 1956 after serving Dallas for more than seven decades.
The McKinney Avenue Transit Authority (MATA) was founded in 1983 to return heritage streetcars to the urban fabric of Dallas. Two Dallas residents, Phil Cobb and Ed Landrum, began championing the idea after discovering tracks on McKinney Avenue that had been paved over and forgotten. In 1989, the McKinney Avenue Trolley celebrated the grand opening of its 2.8-mile route at an event that was attended by thousands of Dallas locals.
The M-LINE has expanded several times to now serve a 4.6-mile route with seven vintage cars. The first expansion opened in 2002, extending the route north to connect to DART’s CityPlace/Uptown light rail station, followed by the construction of a turntable in 2011. The second expansion opened in 2015, creating the southern loop in Downtown that connects riders to DART’s St Paul light rail station.
Today, the M-LINE serves over 600,000 riders per year.
After more than 30 years, MATA has grown to become a critical component of the city’s transportation network as well as a treasured amenity of Dallas.