Who the Katy Trail is named after and why it could have only happened in Dallas

The Katy Trail feels so very un-Dallas, I mean who is Katy and what did she do to make such an awesome thing in the middle of Dallas?  JJ

I’m paraphrasing this question a little, really it came from a conversion with a young lady about how the Katy Trail  seems so very un-Dallas (read Austin) and who it’s named after.  In short it’s not named after any person, but also the Katy Trail is actually a very uniquely Dallas creation, one that wouldn’t have happened in Austin, Portland or Seattle.

See the trail is not named after some rich lady in Highland Park, or a biking enthusiast in East Dallas.  It’s named after Kansas and Texas.  Don’t follow?  Okay think about the Katy Trail, it’s flat, extremely straight, above grade(elevated above roadways) and shielded from many surrounding buildings by tall mature trees.  What else has those characteristics?

katytrail                        knox

The Katy Trail Now                                                                           The Katy Trail 50 years ago

That’s right, railroads.  Now the path that the Katy Trail follows used to be a rail line for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad.  Or the MKT for short, or the KT for even shorter.  Or the Katy, for the spelled out version.  Hence the trail is named after the Kansas and Texas part of the name of the railroad that used to own the line, much like the Santa Fe Trail is named after the Santa Fe railroad and the SoPac Trail is named after the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Also, Katy Texas is named after the MKT railroad.

KATY MKT MISSOURI KANSAS TEXAS RAILROAD The KATY Line Railway MO_ KS_ TX_, The  Katy Girl Magazine Ad Advertising

Be proud of your namesake, Katy, Texas

So why is the Katy Trail, a uniquely Dallas creation, one that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else? Well, by the 1980’s the rail line had lost much of its use for freight railroads.  However at the same time, Dallas, under the direction of the public transit agency DART, was beginning the process of acquiring rail lines to build a passenger light rail system.  Back then, DART thought that the Katy line would be a perfect line because it ran out of downtown connecting to north Dallas, Richardson, Plano and all the way to Oklahoma (not that anyone actually wants to go to Oklahoma.)  But DART ran into a problem…rich people who don’t like public transit and poor people, at least not in their back yard.


Not fans of public transit, unless of course they’re hop-ons(Couldn’t find a clip of hop-ons, so here’s Bust and Gob doing Godzilla)

In this case it was rich people in the Park Cities where the line briefly ran through.  These rich people said no, we don’t want public transit, and a passenger train line running through our city and neighborhood.  I’d imagine the conversation went something like this;

DART: Well the only other possibility to run a light rail line north to Mockingbird is to somehow tunnel beneath Central Expressway for several miles.

Parkies:  And?

DART:  Its cost prohibitive, it literally costs hundreds of millions of dollars that DART doesn’t have.

Parkies:  Then we will completely fund and help to run the campaign for the bond election to ensure you receive the money.

DART:  But really, it would be much easily if we just…

Parkies: Sorry the matter is settled.

So, Dallas got the subway part of the light line system that runs from downtown beneath central and connects back to the Katy rail line at Mockingbird.


The City Place Station under Central

Now it’s at this moment that Dallas’s yin and yang, our rich businessmen and our progressive urbanites can be seen.  See instead of having the land that the Katy Trail currently sits on be gobbled up by those same rich people, some smart people at City Hall, some advocates in the community, and some very very smart people at DART arranged for the remaining part of the Katy rail line not used for light rail or freight rail, but instead to be donated and turned into a hike and bike trail.

Katy Trail  2005  Dahlia Woods

Much prettier then that train station picture

See, that never would have happened in Austin, or many other places either.  Some cities just don’t have the rich people with their nimby concerns, others might have the rich people, but lack the rich people with the wherewithal, the connections and the political structure in place to fund alternates.   And even fewer also have the rich connected people, AND enough smart, committed, community driven, quasi-hippies to ensure that those rich white people didn’t just annex that land onto their back yards.

Dallas’s unique blend of boss-man suits and tree-hugging granolas made the Katy Trail happen.  Both our Ross Perots and our Stoney Burns; our Tom Lepperts and our Angela Hunts.  So next time you’re running down the Katy Trail or at the Ice House be sure to thank that 40 something on the $5,000 dollar bike barking into his Bluetooth and crushing it; but also thank the heavily tatted guy on a unicycle eating homemade pickles and wearing ironic shades; because that combination made the Katy Trail.

cycling-21          DSC02410

Crushes business                                                Crushes granola

One thought on “Who the Katy Trail is named after and why it could have only happened in Dallas

  1. Pingback: The origin of Lakewood and why it’s become Highland Park East all of a sudden. | The Dallas Whisperer

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