DART Still Badly Aimed

Categories: Schutze

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The longer the Dallas-area light rail system is around, the less of a habit it becomes, according to a story in this morning's Dallas Morning News. The trend over the years has been for ridership to diminish at many stations after people get over the novelty of a train station nearby.

In Michael A. Lindenberger's story, a DART executive and a former board chairman are quoted saying they think the solution is for the agency to keep doing what it's doing -- but even more consistently -- and for riders to get to know them better. That, and they're probably going to raise fares.

The main thing, they tell Lindenberger, is just to keep a steady course. "... we are moving into a period of system stability," says DART CFO David Leininger, " and we should begin having a better line of sight on ridership."

Interesting. Over a period of 30 years, the most consistent message from the market is, "We don't like this. We won't use it. It doesn't do anything for us." And DART's response is a strategy of full-steam ahead.

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A human tidal wave of commuter surges off a DART train.
Because, how much harm can DART suffer from a little thing like consistent overwhelming bad market response? After all, they've got a fat juicy revenue stream from a regional sales tax to keep them dry.

It puts me in mind of one of my own favorite chief executives in history, Ed Smith, the commercial ship's captain who famously said in 1907 that he could not "imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that." Ed, of course, went on to become the captain of the Titanic.

So here in this morning's newspaper, accompanying this sad tale of consistent failure, is a map of all the light rail lines we've built at enormous expense over the last three decades, trailing out over the vast suburban tundra like untied shoelaces, and nobody -- not the DART people, not Lindenderger -- asks what might otherwise seem to be the unavoidable question: Is there something fundamentally wrong with the system?

Maybe nobody remembers that back at the very beginning of DART, a few prescient board members -- Adlene Harrison and John Tatum, in particular -- begged their colleagues not to throw all that money down on spindly little rail lines into a low-density land of sprawl that had no inkling of a connection to mass transit.

Harrison and Tatum urged the board to forgo the suburban sales tax money -- don't take their money, don't get married to them, go it alone -- and build instead a tunneled heavy rail system in the center of downtown.

The idea was to use rail to enable a new way of life -- life without cars, a life of walking and train-hopping -- developed in the disused office towers of downtown. Then, if and when that center of gravity took on proper momentum, it would become the hub for radial light-rail collector routes spun out into the rest of Dallas proper.

But DART couldn't turn away from the lure of that suburban sales tax money. So they brought the 'burbs in, took their money and eventually lost control of the agency to them. Since then, the suburbs have used DART as a kind of novelty attraction to boost development, on a par with those flailing tubular air-inflated figures you see out in front of car dealerships and furniture stores advertising a sale.

The outcome over time is plain to see. The mayor of Plano is quoted in Lindenberger's piece bragging about how much new development has taken place near the downtown Plano DART station. But the station itself has attracted anemic and dwindling ridership numbers over the years.

One assumes rents at the new Plano developments near the unused DART stop will begin to fade over time as the novelty wears off; the developers will look for new green fields to develop even farther out; and maybe this time instead of a DART station to draw attention they'll erect the world's biggest ball of string.

The bottom line is that DART is a failing agency. It is not bulletproof against market pressure, because at some point we're all going to get sick of feeding it every time we buy a candy bar. The political market will be its iceberg.

Maybe the dream of building heavy rail downtown to foster downtown living was a little too out over the ends of our skis, a bit too heavy on the social engineering. Maybe what we really need to do now is wait until tons and tons of people are packed into downtown, bitching about the lack of subways and waving $10 bills at us.

In the meantime, however, there is a short-range strategy that could pave the way for a smarter future. We still need to build a second rail line downtown. Everyone seems to have forgotten that.

When we do remember, we should also think about using the second downtown line as training wheels for the walkable, bike-able future of urban living. We need to jam it right up close to the existing line, no more than two blocks away, in order to create a compact district where people can hop trains in every direction quickly and safely.

We need a downtown in which residential towers can be built without car parking. That's what will get the rents down and the downtown population up.

As for the idea that DART should keep doing exactly what it's been doing and we riders should get to know DART better? It seems to me I've heard that notion somewhere before as a market strategy.

Somewhere very close to me. Where was it? Oh, yeah! Back in the '90s, people were saying the same thing in the daily newspaper business. How's that one working out, I wonder?

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16 comments
anonorob
anonorob

You are an obstruction to progress. Also, your mom

JimSchitzeWhiteGuilt
JimSchitzeWhiteGuilt

Why don't those evil suburban assholes want to ride DART?  White-guilt libtard non-DART riders like Jim Schitze just can't figure it out!!!! Dallas transit agency sees thefts, robberies nearly double in 2011 http://www.dallasnews*com/news/local-news/20111208-dallas-transit-agency-sees-thefts-robberies-nearly-double-in-2011.ece

TheDoctorIsIn
TheDoctorIsIn

And now I will give you the psychoanalysis treatment, Shitze. Turnabout is fair play after all. The reason you write so many stupid white-guilt libtard articles is because you are afflicted with a huge amount of pathetic white-guilt due to your having white-fled from Detroit.

JimSchitzeWhiteGuilt
JimSchitzeWhiteGuilt

Jim Shitze: you are the author of at least four true-crime books. Therefore, according to your very own libtard "logic", YOU are a screwed-up Highland Park adolescent or a grandma in Bedford. You, according to your own libtard "logic", are a perv with sick erotic fantasies. Do you even think about your brain-fart "zingers" before you bleat them out for everyone to see? How much does the Observer waste on your salary? How much of their money is spent to give you the platform from which to fart out your pathetic naive white-guilt reality-ignoring horse-shit?

JimShitzeSenileNaiveWhiteGuilt
JimShitzeSenileNaiveWhiteGuilt

Here's a little refresher for your reality-denying senile white-guilt libtard brain, Shitze. http://www.wfaa*com/news/crime/Dallas-police-release-sketch-of-man-suspected-in-2-sexual-assaults-158559625.html Dallas police release sketch of man suspected in 2 sexual assaults WFAA Posted on June 12, 2012 at 8:29 AM Updated yesterday at 6:01 PM DALLAS - Dallas police say the same man is connected to at least two sexual assaults, both of which happened on Tuesdays. The first incident was reported on May 29, and the second on June 5, read a statement released Tuesday morning by the Dallas Police Department. In both cases, the women reported that a black male who appeared to be in his early 20s approached them near a bus stop at Walnut Street and Audelia Road. "The young ladies were walking to the bus stop and he just walked up behind them and pointed the gun at them," said Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott, Dallas Police Department. Police said the man used a gun to get the women to a secluded area, where he sexually assaulted them and then robbed them of their cash, phones and identification cards. The women said the man was about 5'6 to 5'8, weighs 150 pounds, has a medium complexion and a deep, raspy voice. In one attack he wore a hat and in the other he wore a bandanna. Police said they have no suspect vehicle and few other details to release.  

JimSchitzeWhiteGuilt
JimSchitzeWhiteGuilt

Hey Shitze have they caught the black rapist who raped those 2 women at a bus stop on Audelia yet????? Naive white-guilt libtard jackass.

JimShitzeWhiteGuilt
JimShitzeWhiteGuilt

Hey Shitze have they caught the black rapist who raped those 2 women at a bus stop on Audelia yet????? Libtard jackass.

watchingsouthdetroit
watchingsouthdetroit

The one obvious thing DART could do is to install turnstiles instead of relying on the honor system to collect fares.  Too many people are riding for free.  Other riders and taxpayers are paying for them. The other thing is for DART board members to actually RIDE THE DART TRAINS AND BUSES.  How are these people making decisions on how to increase ridership when they never or rarely use the system?  How do they even know what they talk about?  They claim they are to busy to use the system.  What a crock.

A third type of rebuttal
A third type of rebuttal

How would the express trains pass the non-express trains in front of them? Yes, there are switches along the lines to allow travel on the opposite track, but there would also be trains on that track traveling in the opposite direction. DART currently doesn't have the rail capacity to do what you're suggesting.

Bob
Bob

And if you take away the governmental subsidies for highways and streets, how much would toll roads charge you to commute to work, to the grocery store, wherever you want to go in your single-passenger vehicle (car, truck, SUV)?  You think your gas tax dollars pay for those? They don't.  Everyone who pays property taxes and sales taxes and income taxes to the City of Dallas, County of Dallas, State of Texas, and the United States of America subsidizes those asphalt and concrete ribbons that they drive on every day.  Why not privatize all streets and highways and traffic control devices?  We don't because it's a "public good" providing benefit to the taxpaying public at large.  Subsidizing alternative forms of public transportation modes is equivalent to subsidizing public roads. By paying for roads AND public transit, we benefit the community at large, not just automobile and truck owners.

lorlee
lorlee

And the people of Forest Hills killed the chance for service to most of East Dallas.  Look at the map -- the routes to the Eastern suburbs go to Mockingbird and then over East when the logical route was the Santa Fe tracks.  I guess that bike trail serves lots of commuters. 

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

As someone who has tried going from suburb to suburb on DART's bus routes, no thank you. I got tired of being left in the rain and heat because the DART driver was running late and didn't want to stop at the bus stop with 20 people waiting for the bus.  The bus routes are one of the worst parts of depending on DART. I and every person I know who depends on it have ended up having to either call friends or call a Taxi because a bus has just no shown up or not bothered to stop to pick them up. And, when you call DART to complain, they make excuses. At least with rail, the train stops at every place it is supposed to stop.

fur flying
fur flying

I'm talking about the reduced fare riders - students, Lone Star card crowd, etc.

Disgusted
Disgusted

It's the same ol' story about DART that I heard when I was at SMU in the 1970's - everything goes downtown. Well, guess what? Not everybody wants to go downtown before going to their final destination. Back then there were no east-west bus lines, today there are no east-west bus lines or rail lines. People in the suburbs don't all want to go downtown. Instead of putting toll lanes on 635, use one or two lanes for a rail system. Now that would increase ridership, plus help the air quality. 

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

The success of rail is a pure density issue.  We don't have anything close to sufficient density in Dallas to make it worthwhile even downtown.  You might, maybe be able to argue that a focused, centrally located system could promote such density, but you'd still only be placing a bet.

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

Only in Dallas the "Love Field station" is located 3 miles away and you need a "people mover" to get to the airport. Only in Dallas, the 635 project included NO MASS Transit component. Now we will be stuck with a variable toll road that can reach $11 at peak hours. Also, a prime area for a horizontal rail line is Loop 12. But I am sure, it will never happens because it makes sense.

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