This is the first in an ongoing series to help keep you in the know of the goings-on, not only at DART, but throughout the transit industry. Hopefully, it will provide little perspective on the larger environment in which DART operates. An informed rider is a good rider!
Not surprisingly, much of the current buzz in the transit industry revolves around COVID-19 – ways to create safer onboard environments, how to provide good service amid funding shortfalls and what next steps to take after the pandemic subsides.
Keeping it clean
In “A Tried-and-True Solution Makes its Debut in the Public Transit Industry,” Mass Transit magazine reports an industrywide interest in state-of-the-art air-purification systems; The article states these have been used for some time in hospitals and on airplanes, but they’re a new thing for buses and trains. You can find a general, not-too-technical primer on these cleaning technologies here.
As for DART, almost 85% of the DART bus fleet is currently equipped with an electronic air purification and disinfection technology system (either ultraviolet or ionization technology) to kill airborne viruses as air is recirculated throughout the bus.
The article upshot: “The application of this technology on transit vehicles is just now starting to be explored as transit agencies search for new solutions.”
Wired reports on the critical role microtransit has played in providing mobility during the pandemic. What’s microtransit, you ask? It’s a new model of service delivery that combines aspects of traditional transit with the conveniences of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. If you’ve ever used DART’s GoLink or Uber Pool, you’re on the cutting edge!
The article notes: “One of the more controversial functions some microtransit companies are considering in the wake of Covid-19 is contact tracing. … Users who fall ill report it through an app on their phone, which in turn notifies anyone they had been in close contact with of the risk.”
Maintaining an essential service
Bloomberg details some of the challenges the transit industry faces in a post-COVID environment. That is to say: Ridership is down in transit systems throughout the country, but, paradoxically, the pandemic has proven how indispensable a well-functioning transit system truly is. The takeaway? “The coronavirus pandemic has shown that ridership is an imperfect measure of transit’s importance,” the article notes. “Cities cease to function if public transportation is unavailable.”
The article then goes on to cite access as a critical measure of a transit system’s success. It’s worth pointing out that DART’s service is largely back to pre-pandemic levels.
The federal government has recognized the essential nature of transit to the nation and its communities. In January, The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration announced in a press release the allocation of $14 billion in federal funding to help transit systems survive the blow from COVID-19.
The press release upshot: “’These supplemental funds will help ensure that safe transit services remain available for riders traveling to jobs, health care and other essential services in communities across America,’ said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams.”