DART Scales Back Expansion Plans in Hopes of Improving Current System, Upping Ridership

Categories: Transportation

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DART
When DART last sat down to update its long-range plan in 2006, the agency was thinking big. With the recession still beyond the horizon, planners envisioned 86 additional miles of rail and 121 miles of new bus routes.

Since then, the agency has added the bus routes, opened up the Green Line (making it the longest light rail system in the world), opened the Orange Line and begun work extending the Blue Line to South Oak Cliff for good measure, all the while racking up some $3.5 billion in debt, according to the Comptroller's Office.

As huge as the expansion was, it wasn't as big as it could have been had the economy not gotten in the way. DART was forced to shelve $1 billion in rail expansion -- fully half of the 86 miles originally planned -- for lack of funding.

Now, as DART begins work on its 2035 Transportation System Plan, the agency is scaling back its ambitions. The focus now, according to a presentation delivered Tuesday to the DART Planning Committee, is on strengthening what's already in place.

That includes a focus on increasing ridership, improving pedestrian and bicycle linkages, fostering transit-oriented development and improving the speed and connectivity of the bus system. Major initiatives DART has a hand in, like the Cotton Belt and downtown streetcar expansion, are being led and largely funded by other agencies.

"The emphasis now, with our rail system close to completion, is on reviewing and improving our bus system to help both systems be successful," DART spokesman Mark Ball wrote in an email.

The 2035 plan is still in its early stages, so details are scarce. It's not clear, for example, if this represents merely a response to a starker economic picture or the beginning of a more fundamental rethink of the sprawling, hub-and-spoke system for which it has sometimes been criticized.

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17 comments
MikeDunlap
MikeDunlap

I find most of the people who complain about DART (and, more comically, talk about how "scary" it is) are people who wouldn't give up their SUV drives for a wait at a bus or train stop even if every single thing they complain about were fixed.  

The dozens of people I know who ride DART every day have none of these complaints or fears.  Then again, most of these people are people who have lived in truly urban cities at some point and thus know that transit systems often involve inconvenience.  They also know transit systems rarely have officers on every train to hold people's hands, make "scary" people pull their pants up, or prevent whatever else white suburbanites say keeps them from taking public transportation.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

DART needs to start educating public on its finances and how, except over a very narrow range, increasing ridership has an adverse impact on them.  DART depends on economic activity within its jurisdictions, not on ridership.  To date it has been losing that battle with suburbs outside its jurisdiction.  Hopefully increasing ridership and other steps enhance a competive advantage for its jurisdiction that leads to greater sales activity.

DART's future depends on focusing on how they can improve sales activity, not on ridership per se.  If they double riders and the sales activity remains the same, we are on our way to the poor house.  That recognition at least communicates that DART understands the problem.  Will we see it?  Probably not. 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

DART should have family rates.  My kids would love to ride the train everywhere they go, but it's frankly absurd to pay $20 or more to take the family out.  Perhaps they could limit cheaper rates to non-rush hours.  But, it can't cost much more to take me individually or my whole family.  Per person fees may not be the most equitable way to go for everyone. 

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Only DART would be pleased with a hub and spoke system in a metro area that most definitely is not hub and spoke with where people live and work. Especially when the hub has serious bottleneck issues. While I realize a ring route would be expensive they need to have plans for one.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Lately, riding the DART trains has been a less than elegant experience, I want you to know.  Gradually, smoking on the platform has returned, with the guards saying nothing to the people smoking, even at the Akard station in front of DART headquarters.  Eating, drinking, and the depositing of trash and partially eaten food on the seats and floors is the rule now.  Earpieces turned up full blast is annoying, and crazies accosting riders is scary.  What the hell happened over the past few months at DART to let bad behavior get out of hand?

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

Can't remember the last time I saw a full DART bus/train/water-powered-solar-taxi...  Good idea to actually focus on strengthening ridership rather than sprawl out further (both in mileage and in money).

animas
animas

That would involve reducing criminal behavior inside and immediately outside the DART station locations.  Good luck with that!

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz If it's an outdoor platform (ie not Cityplace) i'll smoke whenever I damn well please.

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Probably need another rash of shootings like we had 6 months ago to get DART's attention and actually put some security back on the trains.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@SuperfuzzBigmuff Well, when they have to chop half your face off to cut out the cancer, then come back and comment.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@CrackerDaddy I've actually stepped in a half-eaten ripe banana when I sat down. Another time there were sunflower seed shells all over the floor in the back of one car, and spilled beverages "stickying" up the floor, among other distasteful things left behind by people that must live like pigs.  And let's not talk about the ones that prop their filthy shoes up on the next seat.

gosspl
gosspl

@SuperfuzzBigmuff No - not when there are signs posted on EVERY station saying that there is no smoking allowed on Dart property - which would include outdoor stations. 

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz That's really my business though and not your. I'm not asking you to sit in a confined space with me while I smoke, and I've accepted that you've kicked smokers out of bars, trains, restaurants, etc. But if I'm outdoors and want a cigarette, I'm going to have one. The anti-smoking brigade asked us smokers to walk outside, I think you can handle walking five feet down the platform if it bothers you.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz you said "every tourist" and I said not every. "everyone" doesn't care about going to DP.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Sharon_Moreanus You've never heard of anything; like the other day when you never heard of tourists wanting to go to Dealey Plaza.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz never heard of a smoker who had 1/2 their face chopped off for cancer

JoshvanHulst
JoshvanHulst

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Ugh I know what you mean! I hate when people put their shoes up on the seats and never consider that people would like to sit on it.

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