God help you if you rely on these to get through life. (photo by Ethene Lin/Flickr)

Transportation

Doesn’t Anyone at DART Realize How Terrible Riding DART Actually Is?

To ride Dallas' public transit is to suffer daily indignities. That won't change until DART decides it is a transit system and not an economic development tool.

Yesterday afternoon, I drove up Cockrell Hill Road near Davis Street and saw about a dozen or so people sitting in the grass by the side of the road. There was no clear reason for them to be there. There were no benches or chairs, no source of shade. There wasn’t a pocket park or any other sort of urban amenity that might draw people to this random spot of grass bordered by a parking lot and a six-lane divided boulevard. They also weren’t vagrants or homeless, though at a glance you might wonder. The only indication of why so many people would have taken up residence on this perfectly manicured strip of lawn was a small rectangular yellow sign with the number 549 printed on its face. It took me a second to spot it. The bus stop sign was attached to a steel pole that had sunk so deeply into the relatively newly laid sod so that the sign stood barely four feet off the ground.

I sat in my air-conditioned car waiting for the red light to turn and watched the scene. I felt like a prince of capitalism, mounted in my oil-guzzling, carbon-emitting, foreign-made, bank-financed chariot of privilege which had managed to speed me from my office downtown to my afternoon appointment near this location out here on the fringes of Oak Cliff in a few minutes. Meanwhile, there was no telling how long these people — men and women, some who looked as young as 20 and others who were looked to be in their 50s or older, mostly black or Hispanic — had been waiting, or, more importantly, how much more time they would spend waiting at intersections like this one before they got to their destinations.

Actually, there was a way to estimate their wait time. Their bus, the 549, only comes every half hour. It travels a simple north-south route, towards the Cockrell Hill Transfer Station and then on to the Westmoreland light-rail station. Unless these people had the good fortune of living along the five or six blocks between this spot and the transfer station (in which case, it might be faster to walk than to wait for the bus), they were likely waiting on a bus that would take them to a spot where they could then wait, perhaps for another half hour, for another bus.

And even though they were sitting less than 50 meters from Davis Street, a major east-west thoroughfare — the old U.S. Highway 80 — which runs from Dallas to Fort Worth and intersects with every major north-south thoroughfare west of the Trinity River on its way toward downtown, they couldn’t walk up to the corner and catch the Davis Street bus. That’s because, rather than connect the many neighborhoods of northern and western Oak Cliff to this rapidly expanding warehouse district job center, the Davis Street bus veers southward a few miles before it gets here, snaking its way through side streets toward the Cockrell Hill Transfer Station.

And so, if anyone has a job at Pinnacle Park’s warehouses and wants or needs to take the bus, they must take two or more buses, and maybe the train as well, which means plenty of time to wait on the side of the road, watching the cars that drive by watching them.

Encountering this scene yesterday, I remembered something I wrote a week or so ago about DART: that having to rely on riding DART means having to suffer a daily indignity.

I remember the feeling from the many times I have relied on public transit while living in Dallas — a total of almost five years during the 12 years or so that I’ve lived here. One time was involuntary. My car broke down, and I couldn’t afford to fix it. That led to my first encounter with the winding, incomprehensible, Medusa-hair routes that pass for a bus system in Dallas. Another time came during a three-year stint when I had a job that was near (relatively) a light-rail station when I lived (fortunately) a few blocks from another one. I remember traipsing across parking lots in the summer heat, overcrowded trains with broken doors on some of the cars, long transfers for buses whenever the needs of the day veered from a single straight line shot from home to office, missed appointments, blown plans, and suffering all the other little daily nuisances that riding public transit in Dallas entails.

Public transit does not have to be this way. I’ve lived in New York, Chicago, Munich, and Rome, and I’ve visited many, many other cities in which riding transit is hardly a thing you think about. Yes, there are annoyances and delays, just as there are annoyances and delays when driving. Yes, many of these cities are older, more mature, are working with denser street grids, but some are not, and some faced other unique challenges. But nothing — nothing — compares to the experience of riding DART. That’s because riding DART is more than an annoyance. Rather, Dallas’ public transit system provides a constant reminder that the fact that you must rely on public transit is a statement of your own lowly status as a human being who has somehow found his or herself in the unfortunate situation of having to rely on a transit system. It is a system designed to function like mobility welfare — not to efficiently move people around, but to offer a bare minimum of mobility to people who have no other choice in the matter. The long waits, transfer times, inadequate service can feel like punishment for not being a member of the car-having classes.

Then there is the actual experience of riding DART. People often talk about safety concerns on DART. I have had experiences on DART that I can only compare to the feeling of riding the NYC subways in the late 1980s, early 1990s. I can only imagine — though I have heard many stories — about how the feeling of vulnerability is heightened if you are a woman, and in particular, a woman traveling by herself.

That said, I think some of the perceptions of safety are rooted to another ugly reality when it comes to DART. Poor people ride DART. The people who prey on the poor ride DART. The mentally ill ride DART. Most anyone who can afford not to ride on DART doesn’t ride DART. And it is no secret that in a segregated, inequitable city like Dallas, DART can feel like the conduit through which moves the oft-unseen inhabitants of our secret southern sister city of color.

What often strikes me about these stories about dangerous or bad DART experiences — the fights, threats, public urination, groping, harassment, theft, etc. — is that they are a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy of perception generated by a system that is designed in a way that concentrates its ridership flow into single locations. Take the often complained-about West End Transfer Station. The entire ineptitude of DART’s system comes to a boil at this spot. It is the place in which the greatest number of bus and rail lines come together as part of its hub-and-spoke design. The streetscape is poorly designed, dangerous, with little natural connectivity or flow between the rail and bus centers. There is nothing to do or buy or visit outside of a liquor store and a McDonald’s — you can’t even buy a ticket at the bus station.

The result: everyone sits around waiting — tons of people waiting for their buses with nothing to do. People with nothing to do but look for places to hang around with other people with nothing to do; people looking to steal or harasses or bum a buck. Where else would they go? The bus and train takes them right there. And the result is crime. It’s like standing water and mosquitoes — you have one, and it attracts the other.

But while we often hear about calls to clamp down on security and police presence in the area — calls which intensify around events that draw non-typical DART riders to the area — we rarely hear anyone suggest that DART has created the problem, not because DART is public transit, but because DART has created an idiotic design of its public transit system.

And the indignity of having to rely on DART extends beyond the actual rail and bus system. A few months ago, while working on a story about the history of Dallas’ Negro parks, I had the privilege of spending a few hours with a woman who grew up in one of those parks at a time when African-Americans had to ride in the back of the bus on their way to sports tournaments and dance classes in this city’s few designated “Negro Parks.”

Felicia Agent has become a caretaker of much of that history, a history that she lived and which she fought to change, in both her public and private lives. In addition to serving on numerous park and community boards, she once ran for county commissioner against John Wiley Price. Ms. Agent also raised two children in Dallas. To get them a decent education, she drove her children for hours each way every day from her home in South Dallas to nice private schools in North Dallas where they had earned scholarships. Ms. Agent spent years in the car in an effort to provide her children a decent education. After her children graduated college, they left Dallas for good corporate jobs in cities on the East Coast. Given their experience of Dallas, can you blame them?

The first time I tried to interview Ms. Agent, she had to cancel our appointment. That morning she had taken DART paratransit to her regular kidney dialysis treatment. In the afternoon, however, her DART bus never showed. So she waited in her wheelchair on the side of the street for hours before finally giving up and calling a cab to take her a few miles to her home in Buckner Terrace. A simple, routine doctor’s appointment ended up costing the 69-year-old an entire day of her life which she spent waiting for a DART paratransit bus.

After hearing Agent’s story, I looked at DART’s internal reporting on its paratransit service. According to DART’s numbers, all looks swell. The number of complaints trend down, as do the number of missed rides, and travel times appear reasonable and reliable. And yet, when I asked Ms. Agent if she complained about her missed rides, she said she had stopped calling them in. What was the point? Nothing ever changes.

Last night we found out that when it comes to DART, nothing ever changes. The transit system’s board approved a 20-year financial plan that, on the surface, looked like a win-win. DART would build a second downtown light-rail line, which is necessary to allow the transit agency to increase capacity on its maxed-out, bottlenecked light rail system, as a subway. Dallas officials and stakeholders have advocated for the subway because the cheaper at-grade option, which DART officials tried to ram through approvals late last year, would greatly disrupt street connectivity and the development potential of downtown.

The 20-year financial plan also included the plan to sink a billion in debt in order to build a skimpy version of the Cotton Belt line, an east-west light rail connector through the northern suburbs. Ridership projections for the Cotton Belt have been low, its potential development impact minimal, and many neighbors along the route don’t want it. In addition, the level of debt needed to build out the project would weaken DART’s financial position, potentially putting a federal grant application for the D2 line in jeopardy. For those reasons, the Cotton Belt line was deliberately omitted from a Dallas City Council resolution passed earlier this month which advanced the city’s preference for the D2 subway, as well as a downtown streetcar and improved bus service.

And yet, last night, all but three of Dallas’ appointed DART board members voted for the Cotton Belt.

Think about that for a second. The elected representative body of a major American city passes a formal resolution endorsing a specific transportation policy it would like to pursue, and then five of the eight board members it appoints (one in partnership with the tiny town of Cockrell Hill) vote against the will of the council. How is that even possible?

Wait. It’s even worse than that. Over 30 years, DART has built the most expensive to operate, inefficient transit system in the country. To this end, it has invested billions of taxpayer dollars, building rail lines justified as highway traffic relievers and economic development incubators that have shown little substantiated impact in contributing to either at a level or rate that justifies the investment of capital. Meanwhile, it continues to direct attention away from — as it did last night —the kinds of projects like the downtown streetcar and revamped bus networks its peer cities have long had (Chicago) or recently adopted (Houston), systems that would actual help DART deliver on providing real mobility.

DART has failed to decrease the number of cars on North Texas roads and failed to deliver on the promise of offering a transit option that could impact air quality and decrease automobile carbon emissions. And its failure to provide an efficient means of transportation has greatly impacted the economic opportunity of countless people, like those bus riders in Cockrell Hill, who are forced to waste hours each day waiting on buses and bus transfers — hours they could spend at second jobs, at home helping children with homework, or pursuing any of the things we all take for granted in our daily lives.

In any normal boardroom in any normal corporation throughout the world, the failure to deliver on so many of the basic services most cities routinely expect from their public transit systems would spark an all-out board revolt. Instead, in Dallas, the council passes a resolution asking DART to finally focus on mobility, and the council’s DART board appointees turn against them.

It seems nuts. There is really only one way to really wrap your head around this, and that is to face the reality that Dallas doesn’t really have a transit system. Sure, there are buses and trains running about this way and that, but what Dallas — and the region — really has is an agency that runs an economic development subsidy scheme that routes massive quantities of public dollars through large-scale infrastructure projects that benefit, cursorily, a handful of development sites scattered throughout the region.

Some people in Dallas may want DART to be a public-transit system. They have been showing up at board meetings and council meetings. Sometimes they wear matching shirts, sometimes they make noise on social media or share dreams of someday living in city that, like so many cities around the world, has figured out how to provide its constituents what most places consider the most basic of city services. Maybe — maybe— if they can build the right political inertia, they will be able to realize their dreams someday.

But for now, DART is still DART. And we were reminded last night that, whether it comes to pushing for political change or catching a bus on Cockrell Hill Road, DART wins by making us wait.

Comments

  • Cristine

    Peter,
    You are on target with this article.
    Unfortunately, for public transit users and Dallas tax payers, DART just doesn’t get it.
    The sad part is, we could have today, with all the money spent, a rocking public transit system. Instead we have an inefficient, very expensive, DART. We are not only waiting for the bus to show up, but we are waiting for someone to triple-dog dare DART to change.
    So, I triple-dog dare DART to take aim and actually become the quality public transit you claim to be. Not only is it possible (there is always hope – yes?) but you have the responsibility as a service provider to provide an efficient service.

  • Goodness Grapes

    Also the light rail car I’m on smells like farts. Can they work on that too?

  • theoryNine

    This article is spot on. Thank you. I wish DART paid any attention to what it was like to use DART.

    • Cristine

      Exactly.

  • trek1red

    They way to make DART require DART board members to use DART at least once a week while serving on the board. DART could be so much better.

  • DubiousBrother

    I have been a DART user in the recent past but not currently on a regular basis. There are those that may argue with me about this but I don’t consider myself mentally ill or poor and I do not prey on the poor.
    I have had extremely poor service from DART as well as regular service that I could count on, depending on which route I was using. When I needed to use DART due to no car, I chose to live where it was easiest to use DART to get to my essential destinations.
    The best part about DART was I could ride it as much as I wanted for $65 per month which is now $80 per month unless you are over 65 like me and then it is $40 per month. Sometimes the worst part of it was the schedule.
    DART buses did get me to DFW in time to catch my plane by about 10 minutes after an ice storm a few years ago when the orange line was shut down due to ice and the freeways were jammed with cars sliding and stuck.
    To compare DART to other cities is unfair – Dallas is 386 square miles, Chicago is 227 square miles, Munich 119 square miles and Manhattan Island is 23 square miles. The best transit system I ever experienced was in Zurich Switzerland which is 34 square miles and over 50% of the people use the transit system and it is a wealthy city.
    Mass transit in Brooklyn is not as convenient as it is in Manhattan and when you get to the Chicago suburbs it is easy getting to the city on the train but impossible to get around in the suburb on mass transit and the hard part is getting to and from the train station.
    I don’t think DART has been built or funded as it was supposed to be when it was originally sold to the voters. A check of the archives would be interesting. They have built out and operated to please the politicians and not the end users especially in Dallas or to attract a larger end user base.
    It is not an easy job with a city as spread out as Dallas but the mistakes made in the past continue to be burdensome today.

  • mrEmannE

    This brilliantly and beautifully written piece clearly defines and delineates what I have said eppigrammaticly for years and years, and I will repeat it one more time:
    With DART, the name of the game is “Less Service”.
    What we must remember is that DART’s service failures are NOT failures in the true meaning of the word-because they are intentional. They are in fact designed into a system that is programmed to appear to be a service, but in reality is merely a false front that exists only so that DART can continue to bamboozle federal agencies out of grant money to service the mounting debt structure that DART calls a budget. DART has no interest whatsoever in increasing the quality OR quantity of its ridership. Riiders are just “loss-leaders”. DART would run empty trains and busses all day long if it could get away with it. What DART really wants is the same thing most-hell, ALL-government agencies want: an unlimited source of revenue that maintains a system that produces the least amount of service for the least amount of effort.
    DART is in the grant-writing business, not the transportation business. If you want or need to get somewhere, you know what you need to do:
    #BuyACar.

  • Adi

    I came from DC where I didn’t own a car. In DFW, I tried DART once and after that I was forced to buy a car. DART is absolutely pathetic Public transportation. Don’t know why do the exist!?

  • Alex

    I agreed with this article all the way until it blames the Cotton Belt. DART is going to suck delivering a good product regardless of whether or not they build the Cotton Belt. DART is going to suck in regards to bus service regardless of whether or not they build the Cotton Belt.

    The Cotton Belt is one of the best things DART will ever build and here is why. It turns downtown Carrollton into a massive Transit hub. It directly connects the Northern Surburbs to Carrollton, DFW Airport, Fort Worth, and the Denton A Train, and creates its first cross town connection.

    Most importantly it keeps the 13 member cities together. Without it, the first link in the chain gives way and the whole system could begin to fall down. Addison goes, you can bet Plano eventually decides to bail too.

    I agree DART needs to revamp their business model and revamp their bus network but to blame these deficiencies on a straw man like the Cotton Belt is disingenous at best

    • C P

      Unbelievable. Did you read the article? I’m guessing you didn’t read the article. The insanity of DART needs to stop. Nobody is going to use the Cotton Line. The fatal flaw in your argument is failing to acknowledge that everyone in the suburbs has a car that takes them from the garage of their air conditioned house to the garage of their workplace without dealing with the elements, bums, or risking being groped on a train. Having a car is a prerequisite for living in the suburbs. It won’t remove a single car from the freeways. From the article, the entire DART network is already the least efficient / highest cost transit system in America — before you build the train to nowhere. How does building a rail line that would make ridership on the existing DART lines look like a packed boat heading to Ellis Island a century ago move public transportation in Dallas the right direction?

      Building a train to Addison just because Plano has a train is like a kid asking for a TV in his room because his brother has a TV in his room. That’s not a valid reason.

  • Bob Dobbins

    I like DART and have used it successfully for years. Like any other city, it helps to talk to your seatmates and find out the tips and tricks….the routes that run close etc.

    I was going to write a compare and contrast…like I guarantee there are places in NYC that require as many changes and as much time as Cockrell Hill….but that really isn’t the issue. The cities involved…not DART….went for a low marginal cost model that chose light rail over subways and new heavy rail lines. That was a voted decision and it has consequences like high operating costs and increased ridership time. For example, heavy rail on dedicated tracks would allow a full train in Richardson to go express to downtown.

    If you want a better transit system, you have to go back to the voters for the bond money to fund those things that make other systems click.

    Don’t blame it on DART. But I would appreciate it if they could hire some fashion models to ride and maybe install some flat screen TVS like Virgin Air. An on-board concierge and hotel quality cleaning service would be nice too. While we are at it.

    You may want it cheap, fast and good but you don’t get all three.

  • Bob Dobbins

    DART shouldn’t be expensive to run. It should be real cheap. And there should be plenty of capacity at all times. And it should run like a clock. And I shouldn’t have to walk more than a couple of blocks to board it. And I shouldn’t have to connect more than once. And the grid should be great….from Rockwall to Cedar Hill, Carrolton to Glenn Heights. Even Balch Springs needs some love. And the board members should all be giants of business, finance and politics. They should cut through red tape with a fiery sword and inspire member cities to up their sales tax support. Their obvious genius should convince Texans to abandon their cars in droves. My name is Donald Trump and I approve this message.

    Seriously, DART is you and me. This what we voted for (low start-up cost light rail) and we live in a sprawling metroplex. Your TXDOT tab for Plano is probably $150 a month, and for that, you get to sit in a parking lot. Now tell me who is the better manager?

  • Eric Foster

    There are frightening similarities between this story and the Fair Park one. Are there any Riders on the Dart Board?
    DART PRIORITIES
    1. Executive Compensation
    2. Board Member reimbursement
    3. Moving North Dallas domestic employees from South Dallas and back efficiently.
    4. Moving Plano workers to downtown efficiently and back

  • Wylie H Dallas
    • Bob Dobbins

      My prediction – 12 years from now, when gridlock dominates east/west traffic along the Dallas/Carrolton/Irving corridor (okay, it may already)…a D Magazine column will write “why didn’t DART have the foresight to build a rail line here. Any moron could have seen this coming”.

  • Brandon Snook

    Great article. Hard facts obvioisly do not matter to the powers that be at DART, so we need more anecdotal evidence of how DART fails people. It is absurd and embarrassing. NYC transports just as many people on their subways as they do on their buses, and the MTA acknowledges that both are equally vital to the city. As an earlier commenter said, it is unfair to compare Dallas to NYC. Sure, NYC has has mass transit 100 years longer than Dallas. But a bus is a bus, and a grid is a grid.

  • Matthew Kim Amyx

    DART quite obviously has no QC department to monitor routes to adjust for need. Nor do they monitor drivers or passenger comfort (if it’s cloudy, they run the heat…if it’s sunny, they run the A/C…regardless of actual outside temperature.) There are some really great drivers, which, unfortunately have to be shuffled every 6 months so, if you are long term in the DART world, it’s hit or miss as to how bad your rides will be every half year. As someone who commutes an hour in the morning and an hour and a half in the evenings, transfers are my biggest problem. the slightest delay or missed bus, can result in commute time doubling…and the drivers are not instructed to give even a 30-second grace period, so often, riders miss the bus or train by a matter of seconds with a driver or operator looking them in the eye as they leave them behind. When I’ve called on this, in the past, I was met with hostility, to which I inquired if they knew exactly in how much higher regard DART would held if they held their drivers accountable? Instead of correcting existing problems, they are concentrating only on expansion which helps none of us on existing routes. I applaud Peter Simek for this article, not only for exposing DART for it’s many shortcomings, but for making me feel like I’m not alone in my sour feelings toward an entity that doesn’t seem to care.

  • Alex

    By the way, the Cotton Belt is on DART’s original plan from the 1980’s. It is the reason Addison is even a member in the first place. I’ve read here and elsewhere it’s a train to nowhere, well if that’s the case why was it included from the very beginning in DART’s Transit plan, and sold to both Plano and Addison as reason to join in the first place?

    The Cotton Belt is no more a train to nowhere than the ATrain is. The ATrain is a success, and it only takes you between Downtown Denton and Trinity Mills. That is a nowhere train, and yet it has been a success. The Cotton Belt will get people from the Northern Surburbs to DFW AIRPORT. Why is the Orange Line awesome, but the Cotton Belt stupid? Both lines get you to DFW Airport.

    The Cotton Belt has been a straw man in this argument about DART’s lack of business acumen, the bus system, and the desire for a full subway for D2. Build your subway, great. Get DART to get its crap together and design a better bus system. All for it.

    But to throw the scare tactic that none of that can happen unless you nix the Cotton Belt is shortsighted, and darn near idiotic. You will end up destroying DART if you nix the Cotton Belt, why in Pete’s name would you shoot yourself in the foot like that.

    I am glad that 5 of the DART board members weren’t idiotic enough to be swayed by Phillip Kingston’s grandstanding, and did the right thing for the agency. Now if those same 5 guys will work on DARTs crappy customer service and turn DART into more than an agency that is good at building rail lines, that would be swell….

  • Jacob

    I rode a DART bus from Junius Heights to downtown for work for years. It was not perfect but it did allow our family to get by with just one car. We were the only family we knew who only had one car.

    I agree with most of the issues that everyone has brought up – there is defiantly room for improvement especially with safety, reliability, and number of routes. However I do not agree with the comparisons to global cites or older US cities. Dallas- like most western US cities – was not planned for a reliance on public transportation. When compared to Munich and Seoul Dallas is terrible, when compared to Houston Dallas is better, when compared to Arlington and Plano Dallas is great.

    Even when Dallas gets around infrastructure problems it still faces a cultural battle of a population that doesn’t get the usefulness of public transportation. Until we convince all economic classes of the metroplex that they should ride and support buses then they will be underfunded, blocked and rerouted.

  • Aaron

    This entire piece is nothing but contempt for the poor masked as compassion/empathy

  • J Wood

    Peter,
    This article is right on point. Over $5 billion spent on rail lines already so what is another couple of billion? DART’s own study estimates that there will only be 12,682 incremental light rail boardings on the Cotton Belt, which is fewer than 6,300 users, on each average day. For $1.2 billion, that is $190,000 per user. 6,300 users are miniscule in the impact it will have on traffic. If just a portion of these funds were instead used to provide decent bus service, the impact on quality of life for DART’s users and the general public would be far greater.

    Since the launch of rail service in the mid 90’s, DART’s bus service has deteriorated and ridership has declined by over one third or 55,000 boardings per day. In fact, total ridership, including bus and rail, is only 16% greater than bus-only ridership of the early 1990’s, even as the population in DART’s service area has increased by over 40%, from 1.7 million to 2.4 million. A lower percentage of Dallas area residents are using mass transit than when DART had bus-only service. What greater evidence is needed of the failure of the investment in light rail? People think having rail makes Dallas look like a progressive city and want more, but they do not actually use it. They think another train to the airport is critical but they do not realize only 900 riders per day use the Orange line to go to DFW (even less on week-ends). What the actual users of DART want and need is reliable frequent service that efficiently gets them to their destination.

    • DubiousBrother

      In Chicago, to get to or from the suburbs to the airports via mass transit, you need to take a commuter train into the city and then walk from Union Station to the Blue Line for O’hare or the Orange line for Midway or reverse if arriving. In New York, my friend who lives in Brooklyn and takes the subway into Manhattan everyday for work, takes an Uber from her home to and from LaGuardia when she flies.
      DART needs to focus on the core city of Dallas – when the Orange line to and from DFW is packed with passengers all day they will just need to add more trains to the schedule including express trains. Express buses from the suburbs to the Orange line would be a lot cheaper than light rail and the schedule can always be enhanced based upon demand.
      I doubt this is an “if you build it they will come” situation.

      • Bob Dobbins

        Forever at LaGuardia, you had to hop that Q10 bus to the train, and then go to Manhattan to catch whatever transit you actually need. That has been fixed finally – but it just goes to show that you just don’t snap your fingers and get what you want. There are always hubs and connectors. I always roll my eyes when someone writes with some impossibly romantic view of other cities.

        But to get to your point, one of the major problems of DART is that it isn’t Dallas, it is DALLAS AREA…the ‘burbs have to be carried along as partners or the whole financial structure falls apart. No focus for us.

      • J Wood

        Dubious Brother – I could not agree more. At least in Chicago, service is frequent. DART’s plan for the Cotton Belt is to have service once per hour at non peak periods. (Peak is only weekday rush hours). The service is further slowed and limited by the fact that it will be single track and westbound trains must wait for eastbound trains to clear and vice versa. Since there is not density on the line, most people considering taking it to the airport would have to drive to a park & ride (or spend an additional 30-60 minutes on the bus to get there. When people realize how long it takes and that park & ride lots are open air and not monitored at night, they won’t use it. Who would leave their car in an unattended lot for a week in the hot sun, rain & hail?

  • kev4321

    DART bus service is poor for one main reason: not enough buses. For the existing route structure the number of buses needs to be doubled at least and likely tripled. It is actually a network and math problem. Service will be poor unless the number of buses match the time and distance requirements. With a totally inadequate system, coupled with Dallas’ shameful treatment of homeless and mentally ill people, one should expect unpleasantness, long delays, and low morale. I agree with the comment saying the system is designed this way, but the blame lies squarely with the political establishment, the DART board is just a small part of the problem and not the main target. Check the candidates for the 24th Congressional District.

  • Bill Thompson

    Dallas has 3,600 people per square mile. Chicago has 12,000. NYC has 26,000. Spending billions on rail in cities with the low population density Dallas has is asinine.

    But not only do you have the DART budget, you have cities spending tens of millions subsidizing development around the stations. Plano has spent about $25 million giving cash to developers for developments near the 15th Street Station. If it was such a draw, having a light rail station, the developers would be competing to get in there, not having to be bribed. Indeed, if you look at Parker Road Station, also in Plano, you will see fields because the city of Plano hasn’t spent money subsidizing developments there.

    Plano has spent over $1 billion on DART since it became a DART member. It spends about $65-$90 million per year depending on the sales tax generated and the economy. The suburb DART member cities are subsidizing Dallas because they aren’t getting anywhere near their money’s worth. The entire Denton County Transportation Authority budget is about $30 million and it’s extensive. In Plano, the nearest bus stop is 3 miles from my house. Check out the DART map and you’ll see giant swaths of no man’s land.

    Cities like Allen and Frisco don’t give those tens of millions to DART. They use that penny sales tax to help fund their parks and rec, and for economic incentive. Economic incentive was used by Frisco to land the successful Stonebriar development, which Plano tried to get but failed because it couldn’t compete with Frisco’s economic incentive. That’s why Plano raised its property taxes to create its own economic incentive fund. (God forbid if a city just have a 7.25 cent sales tax rate.)

    This is like the toll roads. It’s rife with corruption. And as this article points out, it’s the poor who are getting the shaft having to rely on such a horrible public transportation system.

  • Poverty Sucks….

    • schrodie

      So does having a medical condition that makes driving unsafe and/or against the law (seizures, etc.). My neighbor is in this category and has been stuck by DART many times. Lost jobs because buses didn’t show, got stranded late at night because of buses that didn’t come or that left early before her bus made it to the transfer stop (she’s ended up walking many miles to get home on account of missed or no-show buses)… and they don’t care. DART didn’t even offer her a ride home when a no-show left her stranded 8 miles out, after midnight, no less.. And she bought an annual pass because… hmm, she’s not sure anymore, because she’s had to call cabs because the buses fail to show on time or at all.