FAQ

How do I stay involved in this process? Is there a cut-off date for comments?

Input for the first phase was downloaded from the online survey on June 15. People can still take the survey, and input from after June 15 may be downloaded later, but not in time to inform the Board’s decision in Summer 2020 about how to balance ridership and coverage goals in the Draft Network Plan.

There are other ways to stay involved. You can join the project email list (see the bottom of the project webpage https://dartzoom.dart.org/) for regular updates and an invitation to any future surveys. You may also request special briefings for your neighborhood organization, or other interested groups throughout the duration of the project, by contacting [email protected] or 214-749-2790.

What can DART do to reduce the distance people have to walk to get to a bus stop or their destination?

To address this question, DART is examining the walking distance to bus stops and destinations as part of the bus redesign analysis. Research shows that people are generally willing to walk farther to transit that gets them to their destination sooner, whether because it gives them a shorter wait or a faster ride. Also, the walk has to be easy and safe, and it helps if the walk takes them near other destinations (such as a store). The quality of the waiting environment at the bus stop and next to the street can play a role in someone’s willingness to walk (and their willingness to wait there). The DART bus network redesign will examine the topic of walkability for each route in the system.

If DART designs a network for higher ridership, then in some places a walk to the nearest bus stop may be longer, but the wait for that bus service will be shorter. Most people are willing to walk farther to a bus stop if they can get a shorter wait for the bus – and by asking people to walk a little farther in certain places, a transit agency can actually provide higher frequencies (or more night and weekend service) at that stop.

But walkability has to be considered very locally. Wide uncrossable roads, freeways, railroads, large fenced properties, walls around subdivisions, and other big barriers can keep people from walking to a seemingly-nearby bus stop. Darkness, lack of sidewalks, dogs, and other sources of personal danger can also keep people from walking to nearby stops. DART will look at all of these factors when making decisions about the spacing of routes, where routes run and where bus stops are placed in the Draft Network Plan.

Cities are important partners in decisions about walking distance to/from stops, as they make decisions about land use, road and sidewalk infrastructure and capital improvements (such as cross-walks, protected street crossing signals.) Where bus stops are not reachable by people who are nearby, the best solution is often a capital investment in pedestrian improvements, which are almost decided by the city, not the transit agency.

Overall, how can this plan improve the rider experience?

The DARTZoom bus redesign may improve passenger wait times for buses, provide passengers with better access to bus stops, improve access to bus transfer hubs, provide quicker more efficient trips for passengers in some areas and expand coverage in other areas in the bus network.

The DARTZoom bus redesign will analyze connections between bus lines and access to light-rail, as well expanded (on-call) DART Go-Link service to areas where it is most appropriate.
How will this redesign help the reliability of the system, that is, the ability of the buses to stay on schedule?

The reliability of DART’s existing services is already quite good, when compared to the reliability of driving in the North Texas area. It is unreasonable to expect buses to be more on-time than private cars, and private car trips are often delayed due to congestion, construction or crashes. Given how unreliable the roads are, and that buses are not protected from congestion on those roads, DART buses are fairly reliable. 

That reliability has been improved over the past five years thanks to extensive work to rewrite schedules and add time on the most problematic routes.

But improved reliability has come at the cost of reduced speeds. In order to fix reliability, DART wrote the schedules so that the buses can take longer to get somewhere. This means the buses are more often on time, but they’re also slower, and peoples’ trips take longer. Leadership from the Cities and the State can help make transit more reliable and faster, which also allows DART to spend more of its resources running higher frequencies and better service rather than spending resources to keep slow routes running on time.
How could the network redesign help reduce travel times?

There are opportunities to reduce travel times by providing more direct, linear routes in the system; offering more frequent service (to shorten waits); moving some routes to get closer to where very large numbers of people are; and making transfers between transit lines faster.

Speeding up buses is also a way to reduce travel times. DART has made an effort to shift people to paying their fares electronically, which speeds up buses. DART has also rebalanced its bus stops, so that bus stops are consistently spaced from one another – having numerous bus stops very close to one another slows down transit service. More can be done to speed up buses when Cities and the State take the lead, by offering transit priority on streets and at intersections. DART plans to soon introduce traffic signal priority technology as a part of a pilot program for up to five routes.
How soon would DART begin implementing the new plan?
The intention for this project has been to implement the network in Early 2022. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could result in some changes happening sooner or later than that – the exact timing is hard to predict precisely because of the uncertainty of the health situation.
How are you getting input from lower-income riders and refugee/ immigrant communities who would benefit from a better bus network?

The DART Team is conducting outreach specifically to immigrant communities with high ridership on DART buses, as best they can given the current pandemic and peoples’ technology limitations. This has included direct phone calls, advertising in local publications and websites, postings in newsletters and on social media, all targeted at current riders, lower-income people and people of color.

Spanish-speaking people have access to translated documents and DART Spanish-Speaking staff are available for on-call presentations and to answer questions throughout the project’s duration.

DART has additional staff available to discuss the project with any specific population requiring an understanding of the project as requested.
DART held a series of online webinars about this project. Where can we watch those and find other information?

Presentations and webinars and additional information for this project can be accessed via the https://dartzoom.org/en/resources on the DARTZoom.org website. The online survey is accessed at the https://dartzoom.org/en/survey link.

Are there other cities that have gone through a similar process, and what can we learn from their experiences?

Many US cities and transit agencies have redesigned their bus networks, and have debated how much they should prioritize getting high ridership rather than providing wide coverage. For example, Houston made a policy decision about this trade-off, and implemented a new network designed for higher ridership and productivity in 2015. Videos and reports from other cities are available on the project Resources page (https://dartzoom.dart.org/en/resources). 

Each region that has had this debate about the value of high ridership vs. high coverage has come to a different decisions. In some places, high ridership was critically important, and so they focused their network on frequent routes, running all week, and didn’t try to get service close to everyone. In other cities, coverage was critically important, and so they ran many routes close to everyone, but no route was very frequent and many routes shut down at night and on weekends. There is no technically-correct way to make this trade-off. Once an agency decides how to make the trade-off, and which goal is most important, an excellent bus network can be designed for that goal.
Is the first survey still open for input?

The survey is still online and can be taken (here: https://dartzoom.dart.org/en/survey), but survey input to inform the Board’s first policy decision was downloaded on June 15th. People can still take the survey, and input from after June 15th may be downloaded later, but not in time to inform the Board’s decision in Summer 2020 about how to balance ridership and coverage goals in the Draft Network Plan. Other input gathered in the survey can be useful in other ways, so anyone who hasn’t taken the survey yet should do so now.

How are you finding out what is important to individual cities and their residents?

DART held a network design workshop in January, 2020, with the public officials, planners, and transportation staff from each of DART’s 13 member cities. This is the workshop in which the two Network Concepts, illustrating the different directions DART could go, were created. 

DART is guided in this project by its Board members, representing interests within the 13-city service area.

The general public and stakeholders from all 13 cities participated in on-line webinars, a telephone townhall, and a Facebook Live events in Spring of 2020. Some cities held additional briefing events for their elected officials and stakeholders, supported by DART staff.

Public involvement will continue in this project, with a Draft Network Plan coming out for public review in Winter or Spring 2021. At that time, online and (hopefully) in-person surveys around the service area will gather opinions from riders and non-riders alike.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact DART’s redesign of its bus network?

The schedule for completing the DARTZoom: A New Bus Network redesign has been impacted slightly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DART took additional time in the public involvement phase to engage the public further and encourage more participation in the survey, and to provide more online activities. The team plans to do in-person surveying later in the project, once health conditions permit it. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changes ridership patterns on DART services, but over the long term the reasons transit exists are not expected to change, and so the goals for the design of the network can still be debated and established in 2020. 

The pandemic has affected sales tax revenues, which fund DART operations. This means that the design of a future network may be limited (based upon available revenues) to a lower amount of service than has been provided in the recent past. Redesigned service that is introduced in 2022 will be limited to funding available at that time.
Would DART consider taking a ridership focus in one city and a coverage approach in another?

Yes, DART will consider several trade-offs within the system redesign and will look at the service area as a whole and along individual routes in the various member cities. Outcomes may result in achieving both high ridership along some routes and high coverage along other routes in the same city. DART will evaluate these choices in cooperation with the member cities, the general public, and to the DART Board.

The evaluation of the system will depend on the stakeholder’s assumption that DART will be operating within its current budget to meet demands so the trade-offs between high ridership and high coverage.

What are the goals for redesigning a bus network? Do any of those goals compete?

The goals for redesigning a bus network may vary from transit agency to transit agency, but generally there are two big-picture goals that have to be balanced: 1) maximizing bus RIDERSHIP relative to cost (productivity), and 2) maximizing bus COVERAGE within the service area.

These two goals often compete with one another.

Higher ridership and productivity would be achieved by providing frequent, all-day and all-week routes close to the highest density of people and jobs. High ridership and productivity help an agency achieve other goals like increasing revenue from fares (revenue that supports more service), supporting dense and walkable development, reducing vehicle miles traveled by cars, reducing emissions by cars, and reducing congestion.

High coverage would be achieved by covering a larger portion of the service area (including suburban areas with low density), even if most people are close to a route that doesn’t come frequently or run all-day and all week. This goal prioritizes service to everyone no matter where they live in every city and district within the 13-city service area. It means that everyone is close to service in case they need it badly, but the service doesn’t come often, so most people choose not to ride.

The general public has been asked for input on how these two big goals should be balanced in the limited DART bus budget. (A survey collected input from about 600 people from April 12 through June 14.)

The DART Board will give direction to DART staff and consultant as to how to balance investments in high ridership and in high coverage, within the limited budget, in the redesign of the bus network. The Board anticipates giving that direction in the Summer/Early Fall of 2020.

When redesigning a bus network, what are some of the considerations?
Of the things that matter to people when a bus network is redesigned, most of them relate to two big categories: 1) Goals that are served by high productivity (ridership relative to cost); 2) Goals that are served by high coverage (percent of population and jobs near some service.)
 
If DART wants to design the network to get higher productivity and ridership, then they would design a network of frequent services, coming all day and week, running long distances. And they would focus these routes where there is::
 
  1. Density – How many people are traveling to and from an area around each bus stop? What features are around the bus stop?
  2. Walkability – Can the people around the bus stop walk to the bus stop? What is the street network and sidewalk network like around the bus stop? Is it safe to walk?
  3. Linearity – Can transit run in straight lines that are useful to through-riders? When dense and walkable places are located along a major road for long distance it can create quicker trips for buses. When destinations are off the main line road (driveways, cul-de-sacs, off of a freeway, etc.) the bus has to deviate. Longer bus routes take longer to drive and are more expensive.
  4.  Proximity – Does transit have to cross long low-ridership gaps? Generally, if there are longer bus drives it is more expensive to operate buses along a route.
  5. Demographics. Some characteristics, like income, make individuals more likely to choose transit. Where people with lower incomes live and work at high densities, can walk to and from transit, and are in linear and proximate patterns, then they often ride in high numbers.

     

Why is it necessary for DART to redesign its entire bus network, and why now?

  • Some DART bus routes have been running the same paths since World War II, and most of the network was designed in the 1980s.

    Since then, the service area has grown and the places people go for work, recreation, socializing and other purposes have changed. Originally, the bus and rail network were designed to focus on downtown Dallas, but now more of the region’s activity happens far outside of that center today than in the past.

  • Since 1994, DART bus ridership has slowly declined relative to bus service provided. This is partly because some light rail lines replaced very productive bus routes, but it also relates to larger forces that make driving a cheaper or easier option for many people than transit. DART is seeking to make bus service more useful to existing and future riders.
  • Transit serves other values related to economic, environmental, social, health and personal liberty goals. Therefore, DART thinks now is the time to ask the public how the bus transit network can better serve their values today.