What's Wrong with DART? The Suburbs.
No, no, no -- not that same old crap again about how we need to get more suburbs to join Dallas Area Rapid Transit, our regional rail system. The suburbs are what's wrong with DART. Screw the suburbs. Dallas needs to quit DART and let the suburbs go build their own damn rail system.
There's a new push now to charge higher fares on the trains for passengers who live in suburbs that are not DART members. It's a way of blackmailing those cities into joining: Hey, if you don't join DART, we'll charge your citizens more to ride the train, and they'll get mad and vote you out of office.
There are so many problems with that reasoning. Where do I start? First of all, suburban people don't know how to vote. They don't even know that they live in municipalities. They think their subdivisions are their towns.
But worse than that, we don't want more of them to join DART anyway. They've been nothing but dead weight from the beginning.
If Dallas could toss them all out or just quit DART itself and start its own rail system, we might be able to build something worth having, instead of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood toot-toot.
The suburbs are why we've spent 28 years building a strung-out toot-toot to take you out to the boondocks instead of a heavy-rail subway system downtown that could have created a truly car-free community. People could be living the cool life downtown -- no cars, no Tea Party members, all high rises -- if we hadn't gotten drunk and married the suburbs when this whole thing started.
Here's the immediate problem with the money. The 13 cities that belong to DART collect a 1-percent sales tax that goes to DART. That money makes up more than 75 percent of DART's income.
Much of the growth in DART's ridership base is coming from people who don't live in the member cities that pay in. That's a bad thing, because it costs DART money every time a passenger gets on board -- more than four bucks.
This gets complicated.
A single-ride train fare is $1.75. But it costs DART almost seven bucks to carry a person one-way on a train. You might think that at least they're ahead a buck 75 every time a foreigner gets on board. But no, because then they have to add more trains. They need the sales tax money to cover their costs, and only member cities pay them sales tax.
But the more suburbs they add to the membership, the more pressure they have to build toot-toots out to the suburbs. I remember a serious debate in the '90s when some of the member 'burbs were threatening to pull out, and some Dallas members of the DART board were saying don't let the door hit you in the ass.
The thinking was this: If Dallas didn't have to kowtow to the 'burbies, we could keep our own damn tax money and start building something real for a change. As it is now, we just get screwed. DART has even reneged on its contractual obligation to build a second rail line downtown so they can keep building toot-toots to the boonies.
And by the way, if we quit? All of the existing lines cross through downtown Dallas. So if we did quit, we could also tell the suburbs they need to pay us a nice fat troll toll to come through downtown.
We could set up like Billy the Kid. We could stop the trains and say, "Instead of paying us a $5 subsidy, how about you just give us your watches."
We need to shake the suburbs off our asses, and DART is a good place to start.