If you’ve ever had your life sucked away by I-35, you’re probably open to alternatives.
Desperate for a solution for my commute from Dallas to Denton, I turned to the DART. And after a few weeks of intermittent transit commuting, there have been plenty of upsides.
Relaxing on a 45-minute train ride is a huge improvement from stop-and-go traffic. Being able to sit back and read or listen to music does wonders for your state of mind. It’s even given me a better appreciation for the cities along the way when they’d usually just be background on my drives.
But ultimately, the DART’s shortcomings still prevent it from being a commuter-friendly option. If DART can appeal to more commuters, they’ll clear up the highways too. So with Christmas (sort of) on the horizon, we made a wishlist for the folks over at Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
If you use the DART to go to the State Fair or the Dallas Zoo once a year, you won’t notice the fee. But if you’re using it twice a day to commute, it adds up quickly.
Day passes cost $5 to travel within Dallas and $10 to include Denton and Fort Worth services. For my commute between Denton and Dallas, it costs $10 a day, five days a week.
That’s $200 a month, and even paying that much I still have to get a ride from someone to the Denton transit center. And I have to leave my car permanently parked at the closest Dallas station to my job.
Even more confusing, it’s actually cheaper to buy a local ticket from DART and then buy a separate ticket from DCTA. Which means you have to make two payments to two services to make one commute, twice a day.
There is a monthly pass for $160, but that isn’t much of a discount. And it’s wasteful because it includes weekend rides that commuters won’t usually use.
To supplement monthly passes, DART should offer a commuter pass. For $100 a month, you’re able to use the regional service twice a day, Monday through Friday. This would not only entice more commuters, but also prevent overcrowding during non-commuting hours.
I’ve hinted at this already, but there’s an even worse problem with getting to and from stations. Due to the infrastructure complications of rail lines, the Denton station is in the middle of exactly nowhere. Denton does have a decent bus service, but the one route that would get me there only runs once every 40 minutes.
But it’s even worse once you get downtown. If you’re trying to get to a job in Northeast Dallas, you’re forced to make a huge detour downtown. You can take the bus along Loop 12, but it’ll add likely time to your commute as you wait 33 stops. Even then, you’ll end up at a DART station that is almost definitely not within walking distance of your job.
Improving bus routes is the easiest, cheapest way the DART can improve transit connections. You don’t need to build rails or stations for buses, just put up signs at stops.
Find the biggest office parks in Dallas and make new routes between them and the nearest DART station. Service the highest volume of commuters and the DART becomes a viable commuting option. You wouldn’t even need to run these bus routes on weekends, saving even more money.
This suggestion would have to come after the first two. But once you’ve made a more commuter-friendly service, you need to sell it as one. There’s a huge market of commuters who hate Texas rush hour more than anything on this Earth. If you can appeal to them and show them that the DART is more affordable and convenient, it’s an easy sell.
Make a campaign focusing on making commutes less stressful, which every human being wants. Emphasize that it means saving on gas, relaxing on the train, spending more time with family. If those three things don’t appeal to Texas commuters, nothing will.