Sasaki provided the urban design framework and the landscape architecture for the mile-long Central Business District (CBD) transitway mall—a key part of the first phase of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system opened in summer 1996. Originally, the DART system was considered an admirable undertaking by the automobile-centric city, perhaps appealing to tourists and conventioneers, but one that would hardly have a sizable impact on a booming and vast metropolitan area. Defying naysayers, DART and the City of Dallas moved ahead with their forward-thinking approach. Sasaki worked with the client and multiple user groups like abutting property owners and community organizations to create a vibrant urban landscape that have become an iconic part of Dallas's urban character. DART has gone from carrying 1.4 million passengers in 1996 to 17.8 million passengers in 2010.
This first phase of DART links several districts with the downtown core and forms a major open space corridor. Sasaki conceived of the transitway mall as a "Ramblas of the Southwest," referring to the famous linear park in Barcelona. The entire length of the mall is unified with street trees, unique streetscape features, and dynamic public art works, such as clock towers and 3-D area maps. Public squares identify each transit station, while the blocks between stations are designed to clearly define the transitway, local access, and pedestrian zones. These elements support the development of ground-level retail uses, animate the street, and provide a safe environment during off-peak hours.
Sasaki coordinated a team of sub-consultants including architects, artists, lighting designers, and civil, structural, mechanical/electrical, and plumbing engineers. Sasaki's interdisciplinary approach and innovative construction phasing plan ensured implementation of a collaborative public art design process and minimized any adverse impacts to local merchants.
Dallas is now reaping a big payoff from its investment. DART is now one of the largest and most successful light rails in the nation.