Census Report on Transit Use Puts Dallas Area Near the Bottom of List. DART Explains Why.

Categories: Transportation
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The Census Bureau released a lot of data this morning, including the 2010 American Community Survey Single Year Estimates; we'll get to that once we look over the charts and graphs -- fun! But among the docs dumped is Commuting in the United States: 2009, which says, among other things, it takes forever to drive to work, or close to. No surprise there.

Also not surprising: the chart on Page 8 that has Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington close to the bottom of the list of major metros where folks use public transportation. The D-FW-A comes in at No. 39, between the Detroit and Memphis areas, with around 3 percent of the region's residents using mass transit.

But DART officials will tell you there are numerous reasons for that low ranking, chief among them: It includes Arlington, for starters, which has no public transportation. And since the figures are for '09, well, that doesn't include the Green Line. And, DART spokesman Morgan Lyons tells us this morning, "the region they're looking at spans 150 miles from east to west, from Weatherford to Delta County, and then north to Denton."

Says Lyons, "Any time Census data is used when you're talking about DART or The T, you're skewed in looking at the large regional data because it's such a large geographical area not served by any transit agency We usually hear: 'That mean's DART's not doing its job.' Well, we don't go to to Cooper or Frisco."

Lyons says that around 81,000 ride DART daily, and that "75 percent of our trips are work-related -- at least that." Which, of course, is still a fraction of a fraction of those who could be riding the rails or buses.

"The challenge for us, or any transit agency working in this part of the world, is: This has been a jobless recovery," says Lyons, meaning there aren't new bodies going in those trains or buses. "Most trips on DART are work-related. That's true on any transit system and is especially true here, given the way the region's grown and the sprawl. The Census data gives you a good snapshot of the region but doesn't tell you a whole lot about the transit agency because of the way the region's drawn.

"It's the same with that Brookings study about transit access being limited. That's what makes the desire of Mesquite and Frisco and Allen to have access to DART even more important. Twenty years ago it wasn't an issue. Arlington 20 years ago had a population of 200,000, now it's pushing 400,000, and there's no transit there. And that can affect the data."
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Amy Shelby Phillips
Amy Shelby Phillips

I ACTUALLY LIVE IN COOPER TEXAS...DELTA COUNTY.  ILL BETCHA A DOLLAR TO A DONUT WE NEVER SEE DART HERE!!   LOL

Stan
Stan

Part of the decline of ridership in recent years is due to the reduced frequency of trains & buses at Rush hour.    Fewer vehicles mean fewer seats and fewer riders.   Plus, the growth in recent years have been in non DART cities.   However, those cities will wish they had DART when gas goes back over $4 or more per gallon and people can't afford to drive to work or shop.

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

I ride DART every day but it's horribly mismanaged.

The trains are crowded, most of the buses are empty yet Dart chooses to reduce the number of rush hour trains to cut costs.  Obviously the variable cost of running more trains is much less then the variable cost of running buses but no one at DART understands seems to understand economics.

Walk through downtown on Commerce.  An empty  bus passes every thirty seconds.  There's one stop on Commerce that serves 17 routes,  How does that make sense? 

BTS
BTS

Dart is I think within a year is going to be running smaller buses on those routes that have low ridership.

BTS
BTS

Once the Green line open Dart did increase the number of trains running on the Red line.Dart was short sighted when they didn't fully raise the boarding platforms and only added those humps. Until Dart raises all of the boarding platform those stations will be limited to two car trains. The main advantage of trains is to be able to add capacity by adding cars when needed, but the humps on the platforms defeat that.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Be patient.  The next 20 years of urban densification, and $10 gasoline, will work wonders for transit ridership.

Ron Kerns
Ron Kerns

Another thing to remember....DART only serves a small fraction of commuters (who are lucky enough to live AND work very close to rail stations or DART stops)...they primarily serve the "suburbs to downtown" folks. In previous jobs, my commutes have been "Carrollton to Far North Fort Worth"= not possible to use transit. Same with Carrollton to Garland....it's just not feasible. And, then commutes such as Mckinney into the Legacy area of Plano....or down into Addison. "Mass Transit" is only feasible for a small amount of the population. I would use it....if I worked downtown! But, I don't...and, transit just isn't possible for my commute (and same goes for most other people).

TimCov
TimCov

I completely concur with Ron. Due to the nature of employment in my career field, I work contracts. So, I can not choose to live close to my job, it just changes to often. The best I can do is live where it is easy for me to drop off my wife on my way to work (since she doesn't drive). If I wanted to ride DART to my current work location, it would be over an 1.5 hours for me to get there. Or, I can drive there in 30 minutes (including traffic on 635).DART needs to realize that people need to travel from suburb to suburb. Instead, its route planning tries to funnel everyone to and from downtown.

Rangers100
Rangers100

"who are lucky enough to live AND work very close to rail stations or DART stops"

Or, who intentionally choose to live in such places.

elbueno
elbueno

exactly. Some of us put a priority on these things.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Did Lyons really just blame the jobless recovery?  So, using census data is wrong because it includes areas DART doesn't serve, but using national employment data is OK even though it ignores employment figures in the area DART serves?  I'd like to vote against DART.  When do I get to do that?

I suppose I should cut them some slack for saying dumb stuff.  They're on a fool's errand trying to impose mass transit on an area of low population density.  I do wish we could just spend all that DART money on roads, though.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I noticed the same thing-- Lyons blames the "jobless recovery," notwithstanding the fact that jobs have continued to be added in the DART service area throughout the last several years (with limited exceptions).  He also blames the fact that DART doesn't serve the entire area-- which is no different from many other transit systems throughout the country.

It increasingly seems like the only thing DART is good at is avoiding taking responsibility for their own shortcomings.

Rangers100
Rangers100

Some people actually would like Dallas to be a real city, not some thoughtless collection of burbs.

I know... crazy.

elbueno
elbueno

"I do wish we could just spend all that DART money on roads, though."

Horrible, horrible idea. The solution is not to move in the opposite direction. The solution is to make public transit a priority investment. 

While DART is by no means the most efficient and practical public transit system, it is all we have. The fact that a huge percentage of the population lives in areas not served by DART IS a significant disadvantage. 

Of course, its going to take much more than expanding the system and adding components (like streetcars) to create a successful system. We need the density. We need the majority of jobs and other economic growth to move in and around downtown. We need streetcars because they are the best and most practical solution for connecting our central neighborhoods. They never should have been taken out.

The streetcars were removed because of false hopes and investments in the auto industry. Its clearly failed us.

Building new roads to decrease traffic is akin to creating a new wound to stop an existing one from bleeding.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Seems like you're making some value judgments that I just don't share.  Building roads decreases congestion and travel times.  I like that.  I also hate trains and buses and any other form of transportation that doesn't go where I tell it to go when I tell it to go there.

You like mass transit?  Fine.  You think we "need" it for whatever reason you care to name?  It's a free country.  But don't assume your values are widely shared or self-evident.

GetOnDaBus
GetOnDaBus

It isn't all DART's fault. Just mostly since they serve the most people in North Texas. And 75% of the trips on DART are work related because that is the only places they tend to serve. All mass transit around here seems to be oritented to the commuter and not the every day person. So we will continue to have traffic and mass transit issues until that mindset in planning is changed.

Rangers100
Rangers100

DART isn't the problem.  They work with what they're given by this culture of city-phobic, suburb-idolizing people.

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