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As part of DART’s new bus plan, some passengers face difficult journeys between stops

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If we weren’t in Dallas, the phrase “walk a little further” might not produce any additional stress for residents who use public transportation every day.

As part of its new bus network plan, DART calculates that up to 75 percent of people in DART’s service area will be within walking distance of a bus stop, an increase of about 6 percent. cent from the current arrangement. The agency surveyed North Texans who live in the agency’s service area and found that most people would prefer to walk a longer distance to a bus stop if that means the buses will run more frequently. DART’s new plan is refocusing its buses on major high-frequency routes, which it says will be more reliable but sometimes require a longer walk after a transfer.

But in a city as hostile to pedestrians as Dallas, what does a 10 minute walk really mean, especially for someone taking their elderly mother to the doctor? What about someone who is already instructed to cross to the stop in front of them? What does it mean to walk a little further in a city where even the most expensive and developed neighborhoods are strewn with pedestrian hazards?

For Barbara Jordan, 64, that means more time in the dark in the morning as she takes the bus to work at 7 a.m. She wrote to DART, pleading her case to save the current 541 next to her apartment in South Oak Cliff. “Please don’t make me walk three blocks to catch a bus,” she wrote.

And for Christopher Long, who uses a wheelchair and lives with severe pain, the disappearance of the 542 would force him to use the agency’s paratransit service more often, which he said would have an impact on his capacity. to move. DART’s planning system requires paratransit riders to make their arrangements by 5:00 p.m. the day before their planned trip, but they can also book up to four days in advance. Long said that would limit his flexibility.

As we move closer to January 24, 2022 – the day the new route changes take effect – more and more people are reaching out to DART executives to try to figure out how their lives will change. What might not be obvious from the statistics and the official framing of the changes is clear when you talk to some everyday bus riders: the extra distance won’t be that easy for everyone.

Decisions about where to live often factor in the convenience of getting to work, what kind of retail is accessible, and where you’ll go for a night out. For people without a car or those who cannot drive, a reliable public transportation system is essential if they truly want to live in a big city. Many people already organize their lives around public transit, and DART hopes that by making these changes, more people will end up centering DART on how they get around. It is a bet that the authorities are making for the future of public transport in one of the largest cities in the country.

To be clear, DART and its consultants have tried to keep in mind that removing bus stops and telling customers to walk a few more blocks would affect people who have difficulty navigating this area. city. Jarrett Walker, the international consultant set up to basically save the inefficient DART bus system, proposed removing bus stops and bypassing routes in many cities that had to prioritize scarce resources. DART is crippled in some ways because the overhaul was to be budget neutral. The agency included in its posts a reminder that what you see now may not be what the system will look like in five or 10 years.

“Please don’t make me walk three blocks to catch a bus. “

DART rider Barbara Jordan

He said there are still people who are rightly concerned about the route changes, but he assures concerned Dallas residents that the new plan was built with them in mind.

“One of the common perceptions of people with disabilities is that they are not in a rush, and I think this is evident from what we hear from many retirees, who will often say that they are less of a rush than people who are understandably work, so they’re getting less benefit from the kind of travel time improvement we’re trying to provide for everyone, ”Walker said last week. “But I don’t think that’s the case for people with disabilities and even people using mobility devices. A lot of them are going to work, a lot of them have a busy life, a lot of them are in as much of a hurry as anyone else, that is, a lot of them are going benefit from these changes.

There is good news for riders who may be living with a disability and who are eligible for use paratransit. Although some bus routes are changed and in some cases disappear, the service areas for paratransit will not change, said Rob Smith, acting vice president for planning and scheduling of services at DART. The agency’s planners and stakeholders have made a conscious decision not to change paratransit. “There are no direct effects on the paratransit service,” he said. “It’s sort of a fundamental service that we provide. “

Some people live with a disability but are not eligible for paratransit service. There is an application and review process as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act that must take place before you can use the service. In these cases, Smith says people should also consider using the GoLink service, which will be a crucial part of DART’s new service plan. DART has expanded the coverage areas of GoLink, the fast on-demand service that people can pay to be picked up and dropped off in specified areas. “In fact, in most cases you will be able to be picked up from your home, so you won’t necessarily have to walk to the bus stop,” Smith said. “We will take you anywhere within this designation area or the nearest transfer point.”

He said one of the most common questions people ask themselves right now is how to use GoLink. DART has decided to start operating the new GoLink areas in early December, so people will be more accustomed to using the on-demand service when the larger network changes take effect in January. (He also urged the bikers to continue to share their concerns by sending an email [email protected].)

Speaking to bus riders, hardly anyone told me that more buses running more frequently could attract and keep more passengers. It makes sense even for people outside of urban design and transit circles that this new plan could lead to a brighter future. But such an important part of a healthy transit system is the infrastructure that supports (or doesn’t support) how passengers find their way to and from a bus stop.

Part of creating that brighter future is recognizing how problematic it can be to get around on foot here. Patrick Kennedy, who represents Dallas on the DART board, says the new plan should help member cities identify infrastructure fixes that need to be funded. Broken or cracked sidewalks, dangerous intersections and non-ADA-compliant spaces should be highlighted more as DART and its cities monitor commuting behaviors under the new plan.

“Even in highly developed areas like Uptown, there are sidewalks, curbs, and corners that don’t have ADA access everywhere, so we have a lot of work to do,” Kennedy said. “But all we can do is expose the problem, start solving it, and create the way to improve it slowly but surely and gradually. And I think we are on the right track.

The 6600 block of Santa Fe Ave., where a risky sidewalk disappears.

Kennedy hopes the new bus system will create a path for the city to improve its infrastructure, especially along transfer routes that connect with higher frequency buses.

Rick Grunbaum, 79, went legally blind about 20 years ago. He has used public transportation all his life, in places like New York and Vienna, Austria. For 45 years, he has been in Dallas. Getting on and off a bus isn’t a challenge for him – it’s the way he gets to his destination after the bus stop that sets Dallas apart from the transit-friendly cities of its past.

He takes Route 19 along Gaston Avenue and urged DART to extend the line to Garland Road instead of stopping at Lakewood, which would allow him access to his favorite stores. While he believes the new plan is a step in the right direction, his use of DART, in terms of access, is not changing. “This [still] does not meet my needs, ”he said.

Before the new network, Kristina Parsadanova already moved her elderly mother to her brother’s house as it became too painful to use the DART buses to get to doctor’s visits. She’s relied on Uber a lot more lately, a much more expensive mode of travel. She is supporting efforts to improve the DART bus network even as she is on the verge of losing 362, which currently passes by her apartment near the University of Texas at Dallas. The new network means either an additional 10 or 15 minutes of walking through an open field at the corner of Coit Road and McCallum Boulevard to reach a bus stop, or more connections, to get to work in Addison.

“I’m going to have to buy a car, which is going to be difficult,” she said.

DART has already hired Walker’s firm to conduct a five-year study of how the new bus network plays into the lives of its users. Walker and DART officials say this is just the start of the process and changes will be made along the way.

The agency encourages riders to share with DART and member cities anything they encounter under the new plan, from inefficient bus routes to inaccessible sidewalks.


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