With summer coming, why not take the kids for a ride on the McKinney Avenue Trolley. The vintage streetcars service downtown Dallas, connecting Uptown to the Dallas Arts District.
Mules powered the first Dallas streetcars. In the early 1900s, electricity replaced the mules. The streetcars used today also employ electricity, with a trolley pole connecting the cars to their power source. Trolleys continued servicing Dallas until the mid-1950s. But the trolleys couldn’t compete with modern gasoline-powered buses, and, viewed as obsolete, streetcars disappeared from the Dallas scene.
Decades later, in 1989, the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority (MATA) returned vintage streetcars to Dallas. Today, we benefit from two decades of MATA expansion, with the trolleys running along McKinney Avenue, past Klyde Warren Park, and into the Dallas Arts District.
MATA operates six streetcars, all with whimsical names like Rosie, Petunia, Matilda, and, my favorite, Green Dragon. Each of the trolleys has a unique story and history. Matilda ran for years in Australia before MATA purchased her. The Green Dragon once operated in Dallas and then served as a hay barn before its restoration. Riding these fanciful streetcars sure bets taking the bus! My family rode on Betty, an original Dallas streetcar retired from service in 1956. Betty had been used for a playhouse until she was donated to MATA.
Riding with Kids
To find a trolley stop, look for the brown circle, M-Line sign. With no set timetable, you can expect a streetcar to stop about every 15 to 20 minutes. Step back in time as you enter the car. Lovingly restored, varnished wooden seats and floors; hand-straps hanging from the ceiling; and an antique fare box add to the classic ambiance. Kids love it!
The motorman (driver) operates the streetcar similarly to a car. The trolley even has turn signals! The trolley’s steel wheels run along rails set into the street and a trolley pole connects to the wire above it, powering the car. If you ride the M-Line trolley through its entire route, you’ll have automobiles in front and behind you, which brings up a safety note. Some trolley stops require riders to cross traffic lanes. Before entering or departing the trolley, be sure to look carefully for autos alongside.
When you go. MATA operates the M-Line trolleys seven days a week. During the week, M-line operations begin at 7 a.m., and on weekends, the trolleys start running at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights, the streetcars run until midnight, and all other days, until 10 p.m. I suggest boarding the trolley at either its Uptown stop (co-located with the CityPlace DART stop), or at the Dallas Museum of Art (St Paul Street). The trolley ride is free, but donations are always welcome. The trolleys are not handicap accessible. Be aware, some may not be able to accommodate large strollers.
For a full day of fun, pair your trolley ride with a trip to the Dallas Museum of Art or a picnic in Klyde Warren Park.