Editor’s Note: This article also appears in the January 2014 issue of DART’s stakeholder newsletter, Inmotion.
With the arrival of modern vehicles and the introduction of new services, buses are becoming more attractive and enjoyable to both current and prospective riders.
Thinking Smaller, Serving Locally
DART first challenged convention in the 1990s when the agency introduced the aptly named Innovative Services, which includes DART On-Call and Flex routes. Utilizing smaller buses, these services connect neighborhoods that don’t warrant full fixed-route service to public transportation.
A DART On-Call bus anchors at a transit center or rail station and picks up or drops off passengers anywhere in the geographic on-call zone. By contrast, Flex service runs on a fixed route, but can deviate up to a quarter mile to reach customers.
“Smaller buses and on-demand service mean DART can reach people in neighborhoods where a big 40-foot bus doesn’t make sense,” said Tim Newby, vice president of transportation.
DART outsourced the Flex and On-Call services to Veolia Transportation for many years. In October 2012, the agency assumed operation of Flex service using its new 26-foot ARBOC vehicles, while paratransit contractor MV Transportation now operates the DART On-Call service.
Recently, the agency introduced its newest On-Call route, based at Mockingbird Station and serving Highland Park, University Park and parts of Dallas near the Inwood Village shopping center.
Adapting to Customer Needs
In November, DART initiated the first 24/7 service on the high-volume Parkland Shuttle Route 703. Medical professionals and patients, who often need to travel between buildings at all hours, can catch a bus every 15 minutes between Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station and stops near the numerous hospitals, clinics and professional buildings.
DART also added a new stop to, and extended the hours of, the Metro ArlingtonXpress (MAX), the express bus route connecting The University of Texas at Arlington with the Trinity Railway Express’ CentrePort/DFW Airport Station. Passengers now can access the bus at the intersection of North Collins and Andrews streets, near the Lincoln Square shopping center. MAX runs approximately 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., weekdays.
“Unlike a train, you can add a stop or change the route of a bus fairly easily,” Newby said.