New Transit Data Makes DFW Look Extra Bad, Until You Realize It Includes Arlington

Categories: Transportation

Thumbnail image for dartrailccar1.jpg
Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Not available in Arlington.

In honor of the opening of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit's new Silver Line, which connects previously unserved areas of Northern Virginia to the capital's sprawling public transportation network, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight data journalism project has released an interactive chart of per capita public transit use in American metro areas with populations of more than 65,000.

Leading the way, as you might expect, is New York City, where residents of the metro area average about 230 trips per year. Rounding out the top are the Bay Area, Washington, Athens, Georgia, and Boston, all of which average between about 100 and about 130 trips per person each year.

To find the Dallas area, you have to venture way down the list, past San Antonio (56th on the list) Austin (58th), El Paso (67th) and Houston (91st). You even have to look past Lubbock, which comes in at No. 92, just after Houston.

With a paltry 14.7 rides for each resident, DFW hits the list at No. 102, one spot behind Binghampton, New York. Perhaps though, the news isn't as dire for Dallas and its public transit as it first appears.

To get its numbers, FiveThirtyEight divided the number of trips reported in monthly ridership data to the National Transit Database by the number of residents in each metro area as defined by the U.S. Census Department's American Cities Survey. In defining the Dallas region, that survey includes areas that opted out of public transit, like Arlington, which has but for a solitary bus route in Arlington's case.

"If you're in the New York metro area, yeah, you've got access to it," Morgan Lyons, DART's assistant vice president for communications, says. "If you're in the Washington metro area, Chicago, mmhmm, you do, but here we have substantial places that have made other choices."

Combined with the fact that DART is just 30 years old -- much younger than many of the highest ranked systems -- including large areas that the agency can't serve isn't really fair to the agency. The data is an indictment of the attitudes that keep public transit out of some DFW suburbs, perhaps, more than the agency itself.

That's not to say the agency can't do better.

"There's lots of stuff to chew on, absolutely, but our thing is can we continue to build a system that we can get people on and continue to grow some ridership," Lyons says.

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45 comments
WaitWhat
WaitWhat

They could get lots of riders on weekends between 2am and 3am, if they wanted to.

hwy77
hwy77

Dallas is situated in the middle of about 25,000 square miles of rolling prairie. Sprawl was inevitable from the city's beginnings in 1841, but certainly after the automobile arrived. There was never any sustained commitment to urban density and attendant mass transit options. So, rail - light or otherwise, above or below ground - was a retrofit from the first days of DART, and its slow pace of ridership growth is not  surprising.


Today we compare the DART option to the flexibility of personal vehicle use. But this will be undone by the costs and unrelieved congestion of continuous roadway building and maintenance along with the next five or ten or twenty spikes in fuel costs, which are inevitable. The region's long range transportation needs will require all the mass transit that can be put in place - along with other changes including increased density (already occurring to some degree) and greatly expanded taxi options. (Why can't I just flag down a taxi on any major street in Dallas?) Improvements will have to be demanded and realized in DART's timeliness, routes covered, security, and interconnectivity between rail and bus components.  

Mervis
Mervis

We don't need public transportation out here in NE Tarrant County. We're all too busy driving on Ross Perot Jr's new roads that are all around us.

Life is good, thanks Dallas!!!

animas
animas

"Growing some ridership" depends upon public  safety , transit time consistency, as well as reasonable public transit system  sanitation.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Arlington won't vote for public transportation because the residents don't want "riff-raff" coming into the city.  

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

What a lame excuse.  The metro area has 5.12 mm people in it and Arlington has 375,000.  Removing Arlington and assuming no one in Arlington ever rides transit raises score 8%.  Wow!!  14.7 becomes 15.9.  Break out the party favors!  We are #94 beating out Rochester.  Not Rochester NY, but Rochester MN, home of Mayo Clinic.


Stop the lame excuses and look deeper, specifically the bad decision to go all in on rail and eviscerate the bus system. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

So a ride on the orange line from 635 to DFW airport is over 1.5 hrs, that doesnt make many people want to take public transportation because who really wants that long of a ride home when returning from vacation/business trip

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Athens, GA #4?

So does everyone hop in a Chrysler that's as big as a whale?

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas

Dallas was built as an automobile city, and many of our local businesses have been associated with fueling, parking, repairing, selling, lending, and restoring cars and pickup trucks.  We have neither the density nor the intense appetite for transit as a primary means of transportation, and ours certainly doesn't cover many places where people want for a destination - not to mention then having to walk several blocks in the heat or bitter cold. 


DART was sold, on its face, as a means of providing a better transportation system than Dallas Transit, and one which would grow into a mature light rail system as well as improved bus and other mass transportation services.   But, many people voted for it to get others off the streets so they could drive faster, reduce air pollution (which it somewhat does), provide an alternative means of getting around, 

But, it's not surprising that the Greater Dallas area is down on the list of usage.  People here want the freedom and convenience of using their own vehicles, and Dallas was designed and redesigned with streets and amenities to accommodate that demand. 

It's of little surprise that a broad study of transit gets it wrong on service areas; many do.  But, if you exclude those cities that have opted out of regional transit, Dallas and Ft. Worth would likely be a little higher on the list - but not much. 

 

 

animas
animas

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Arlington is the most happily blue collar city in the metroplex..  Park Cities and Fort Worth  as well as Southlake- Colleyville have "riff-raff" phobia.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

I believe those on some forms of government assistance recieve more if they live in a town with no public transit.

Ever read OK Carter's pieces on the decline of Arlington due to the overbuilding of apartments and cheap housing which attract a low tax paying demographic?

I believe the city has also enacted a minimum dwelling square footage to address the problem of "economic riff-raff". Bit late, though.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas

@MikeWestEast And, how about all the money the Mayor of Dallas has spent on expensive "take your bicycle to work" provisions and pathways that hardly anyone uses, won't use, and that are only used by occasional runners who are more afraid of being killed on streets than being bored to death on paths that look like alleys.

NakedTuna
NakedTuna

@MikeWestEast The decision to bring in all the suburbanites instead of building an inner city rail system, too.

kduble
kduble

@ScottsMerkin  Not only is your time wrong, but the Orange line doesn't serve 635.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@ScottsMerkin  It looks good to someone that does not want to pay$11-20/day for parking during a 7 day trip vs. 2.50 for a rail trip.  Personally I do not make $75/hour and if I did the marginal time saved would not likely be earning any money. 

pak152
pak152

@noblefurrtexas "Dallas was built as an automobile city" really?? apparently you haven't seen maps of the North Texas Interurban lines and the street car maps of Dallas. 

rail transit died in Dallas died because it couldn't compete against the flexibility offered by the automobile.
North Texas Interurban LInes
http://www.heartoftexastales.com/images/interurban/map-large.gif

Interurban Dallas to Fort Worth
http://www.fortwortharchitecture.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=3820

Dallas Streetcar
http://forum.dallasmetropolis.com/showthread.php/6937-Dallas-Streetcar-History/page2

if you look at the history of streetcars in Dallas you'll see they were built and developed to enhance investor's property values or to sell property. Streetcars were faster than horse and buggy and allowed for "urban sprawl", when  the auto showed up the streetcar system started a slow death

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@animas  I have noticed a definite contempt by area residents for people who ride public transportation.  It's a phenomenon peculiar to other non- Coastal cities in the US.  People of all levels of financial standing ride PT in New York, Philly, DC, London, Paris, etc., who don't give a thought to whether or not it's "déclassé".

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Threeboys

I helped pay for both sports venues, never regretted it.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@TheRuddSki eh, they moved the riff raff around when the built Jerry World.  But now they are actually doing things to remove them, like shutting down shit hole apartments on Lamar for a fancy multi use project, and continue to crack down on older complexes with high crime rates by issuing tickets.  When an owner accumulates a certain level, I believe the city can file to shut the apartments down.  They are attempting to clean up North Arlington, which really went downhill the last 10 years

kduble
kduble

@noblefurrtexas  Experience throughout the country has been that paint-striped bicycle lanes are lightly used, but that lanes which incorporate some sort of a barrier, even something as minimal as flex posts, do get used.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@kduble @ScottsMerkin I also, I just mapped generic business mans trip from Lake highlands to DFW and the DART trip planner say 149 minutes which include walking to a bus, switching from bus to train...WUT?  

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@kduble @ScottsMerkin Any one who rides dart knows this, but you have to get on the Orange line to get to DFW, if you want to talk semantics instead of the real issue which is its a waste of time to catch the train when the drive take ~25 minutes, then fine.  But really I was off 13 minutes, big fugging deal

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dingo 1:17 or 1:30 is still not enough to make people switch from a 30 minute drive.  Dont get me wrong, I think its great to have DART go to DFW, but as with everything else rail, it was screwed when they set it up with downtown as the hub.  I wonder how parking is going work.  I didnt think DART allowed overnight parking in its lots?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@dingo @Montemalone Sticking with the B52's or wedging in the Georgia Satellites?

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas

@pak152 @noblefurrtexas 

I have, in fact, seen not just the maps but read the history of developing Dallas.  At one time, more people worked and shopped downtown.  But, Dallas still had roads and rights-of-way built for automobiles.  

The only way many people could get to the Interurban was in cars.  Streetcars were confined to pre-designated routes, and required expensive construction to create.  (That's one of several reasons why rubber-tire trolleys became popular. 

But, as look at the early pictures of Dallas, and you see cars all over the place.  And, if you look at a list of businesses in Dallas, you saw more and more automobile-related businesses springing up. 

I DO think the Interurban was a great idea, and it's too bad it couldn't sustain itself in many ways.  But, as more people moved to the suburbs and small towns with cheaper property, it couldn't match the competition with cars. 

The rail history of Dallas and Texas is fascinating.  In fact, the story of Jefferson, Texas, is a good example of cities rejecting the railroad. 

 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @animas If the stereotype of DART is real, is it really a stereotype?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @animas GM is a pretty large employer in Arlington.  They have a pretty big stake in the continued dominance of POV's over DART's (the Dodge and Train varieties).

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

Good luck with that.

kduble
kduble

@ScottsMerkin  Parking isn't part of the plan. There are already remote long-term lots in the vicinity of DFW, and people can catch buses to rail stations. The opportunity cost of land around rail stops is simply too high for parking. There are too many other things that could be done with the land, like multi-use development so people could actually live there.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas

@ScottsMerkin Ft. Worth had a chance to be part of the Lone Star Transportation Authority with Dallas, but voted it down.  I honestly believe Ft. Worth likes likes things the way they are, and they don't want to make it easier for people in Dallas to visit. 


Of course, many of the work in Dallas.  But, they keep forgetting that.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@kduble @ScottsMerkin what does remote long term lots at DFW have to do with taking Dart rail?  You need somewhere to park that car at the rail station.  Now if you are saying take a bus to the rail, then you are talking walking with luggage from my home to a bus stop, then taking a bus to the rail station, now my 1.5 hour ride to DFW may be under estimating the time it takes.  In the end, who wants to do all that after a 5 day business trip?  I just want to be home. 

andypandy
andypandy

@noblefurrtexas Fort Worth has hundreds of miles of shared and bike only lanes/paths, a free trolley system for the tourist spots, and a heavily utilized bike share system.  We kind of worked out some of the mass transit issues without having to resort to the added cost and general crappiness of mass transit.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@noblefurrtexas I thought people in Dallas didnt want to visit Ft Worth. DMag tells me no good Dallasite would want to go over there, Dallas is a world class city.  It's funny, Ft Worth is comfortable in its own skin, Dallas tries to change it skin with each change of the seasons

kduble
kduble

@andypandy  FW doesn't have a trolley system, unless you're talking about buses decorated to look like trolleys.

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