Beginning December 12, nine of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s major bus routes will return to normal service after six months of delays. That’s big news, because those bus routes are the primary arteries to achieve the agency’s goals of increasing frequency and reliability for riders. DART rolled out its much-lauded new bus network in January 2022, and by June it was already having to walk it back because of a driver shortage.
The redesign established 22 “core frequent routes” that would come every 15 minutes during peak times and every 20 minutes afterward. The new system scrapped the former hub and spoke model for something more closely resembling a grid, increasing the chances your bus shows up on time. DART says it increased access to jobs by transit within 60 minutes by 34 percent.
The trade-off was you might have to walk a little further to your destination, or use the system’s GoLink on-demand service to replace the less popular routes that were eliminated in service of the more frequent ones.
But that only works if there are enough drivers. In June, DART told the Dallas City Council that it was down 163 drivers. Twenty-minute buses were coming every 30 minutes, 15-minute pickups ballooned to 20 and 25 minutes. As a Band-Aid, the agency delayed arrivals by 5 minutes for about 31 of its 97 bus routes, roughly a third of its entire system.
DART then got to work finding drivers. It bumped its starting wage to $21.13 an hour, about $4 higher than it had been. Rosa Maria Cristobal, the agency’s vice president for human resources, said competition from companies like Amazon and FedEx prompted the increase in starting pay as well as signing bonuses. DART launched media campaigns and hiring fairs.
The result of that “aggressive operator hiring initiative” meant that DART could return nine of its highest ridership routes to full service about a month ahead of time. The remaining 22 will return to regular service on January 23.
And then we can see how successful the redesign is. Below are the routes that will be back to normal on December 12: