Transit Report Criticizes Reach of DART Service

Many jobs outside DART service area

Public transportation riders who need it the most receive poor service from Dallas Area Rapid Transit, according to a new report delivered to the Dallas City Council this week.

The report was compiled from public records by the University of Texas at Arlington Institute for Urban Studies.

It shows a large concentration of "transit dependent" people live in southern Dallas and Arlington, while heavy concentrations of low-wage jobs are now outside the DART service area in locations transit does not serve.

"So the question is how these people are going to get to the jobs," said UTA expert Shima Hamidi.

Hamidi found 65 percent of the Dallas population has access to less than 4 percent of jobs by transit.

Inside the DART service area, the research suggests service is still not convenient for riders who need it, with long commute times and multiple connections required.

Tanisha Bolden rides DART each day to and from her home near Kiest Boulevard and Interstate 35E and her job on Ross Avenue in East Dallas.

She gets up at 4:45 a.m. each morning to make her first bus for the two-hour commute.

"I have to get on that bus, then I have to get on the train, then I have to come down here and wait for another bus just to be at work at 7 o'clock," she said.

Bolden had a 30-minute wait at a downtown Dallas transfer center Tuesday afternoon for one of the connections home.

Driving would take just 28 minutes, but Bolden said saving money for a car is difficult.

Transit passenger Sheila Morton was at the same transfer station with her son Tuesday afternoon in the middle of a two-hour trip from Oak Cliff to a doctor appointment on Ross Avenue.

Morton said the family's car is broken down, and her husband cannot get to work in Frisco where there is no public transportation.

The life-long Dallas resident said North Texas has changed.

"All the jobs were closer, and now they've all spread out," Morton said.

The report reinforces census information recently that shows migration of middle income families, major employment and housing growth in northern suburbs and a widening gap between rich and poor in Dallas.

"I think it's something to be addressed by city and DART together," Hamidi said. "The city needs to bring policies, to see how they can bring jobs back."

Dallas city leaders receiving the report Monday were impatient for changes.

Councilman Tennell Atkins said he has been complaining about the issues for years.

"I am highly upset, highly upset," Atkins said.

Another challenge for the transit agency is gentrification of central Dallas neighborhoods where transit riders lived in years past, pushing those customers to more distant neighborhoods that are harder to serve with transit.

DART officials said changes are in the works to increase bus schedule frequency and to create a grid pattern for bus routes in neighborhoods instead of primarily feeding light rail stations.

"We've got several pilot programs that we're implementing," said DART General Manager Gary Thomas.

Some changes are scheduled in March 2018.

"I know it will take a while," said passenger Sheila Morton. "It's not going to happen overnight."

Booming suburbs of Frisco and McKinney are not members of DART. A new app will soon allow DART riders to make connections to ride sharing services Uber and Lyft for trips beyond DART's service area.

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