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Experiment in Good Urbanism Goes Bad; Or, Why I Won’t Be Taking DART Anymore

Krista, I hate piling on a person or an agency when they’re down, but I’ve got another big bone to pick with DART. Here it is: Like a good little fledgling urbanite, I vowed to make a habit of taking the light rail from home to our new downtown offices–and did so last week. The upshot? The very first day I parked the family vehicle at the White Rock transit station–less than a mile from our house in Merriman Park–criminals ripped away at the passenger-door lock, ransacked the car and made off with a bunch of stuff, including the entire center-console bin. This, after I’d parked outside our house in our driveway every night for the last 9-plus years–and never had the car touched once. Now, I’m aware this sign looms over the White Rock park and ride facility: “Not Responsible for Theft or Damage to Vehicles.” But I’m sorry; that ain’t good enough. Why shouldn’t DART have to secure its parking facilities for its paying customers? Until it does, I’m staying off their trains and out of their lots.

42 comments on “Experiment in Good Urbanism Goes Bad; Or, Why I Won’t Be Taking DART Anymore

  1. Just like NorthPark, Wal-Mart, Target or anywhere else where there’s a giant parking lot, an entity can only offer so much security. There’s a point where you have to use some common sense, too. Park in a well-lit place, as close to the train platform as you can. Don’t leave anything in your car. Period. If you don’t have anything there, they can’t make off “with a bunch of stuff.”

    And yeah, less than a mile, and you drove?

  2. The law of averages says you’re going to get your car broken into at least once in your lifetime. Mine came about two years into my usage of DART rail. Yours came one day.
    And like Gwyon said, unless it’s raining, you should just walk to the station. You have to walk an equal distance from the downtown station to the office, right?

  3. You’re right, Glenn. And to think they’re talking about charging money for you to park in their lots when you pay to catch their trains. But the “Not Responsible” sign will still be there.

  4. Wow. I was actually just passing on some information the police have told our neighborhood watch after a rash of car break-ins.

    But yeah, thanks Steve.

  5. @Geyon, @Bethany: Why do people want to walk a mile to transit station or work and get all sweaty? I work out at the gym and follow with a hot shower and fresh clothes. Plus we have to carry a lot of papers, notebooks, laptops etc. Since we’ve moved downtown, I’ve been walking — and sweating — a lot more. Prefer to do it in the gym, outfitted appropriately, thank you!

  6. I do not get the focus on the fact that he drove.

    Walking a mile would take 10-15 minutes for most people, which adds 20-30 minutes to his daily commute. That is a material amount when you consider the time from White Rock Station to Pearl Station is 12 minutes.

    Plus, it is not much fun in the rain or 100F temperatures or if you have a lot to carry or if perhaps if you need to run an errand on the way to or home from the station. I don’t know if any of those things were the case on the day last week that he drove (ok I am pretty sure it was not 100F), but I do not get the rush to criticize when there are potentially a lot of great explanations.

    Now, if by less than a mile he means 100 feet, then yeah, he should walk. He should skip actually, because that would be a great commute.

  7. I work a few blocks from this station and I wouldn’t leave a Humvee full of Delta Force commandos parked in that lot. However, I’m surprised that Glenn, being a journalist, has a car worthy of anyone’s attention, other than to solicit sympathy, even from common auto burglars…

  8. Does DART have security cameras covering the parking lot? and if not why not?

    and yes if you leave ‘things’ visible in your car you’re tempting fate. either leave the stuff at home or put it in the trunk

  9. Candace, I’ll concede that if you’re in poor health, bad shape or if you sweat profusely and don’t have a bag to carry your laptop and papers in, driving to the transit station would be preferable to walking. And calling in sick would be preferable to both.

  10. Sorry about your car. When I worked in downtown, I would park at the Mockingbird station and thankfully never had my car broken into, but I know it happened there too. It also happens in my current employer’s parking garage in Uptown.

  11. Did you pay to park?

    Why should the fares of the people who don’t drive to the stations subsidize extra security for those who do?

    Or, is DART also responsible for providing a personal escort to for each person from home to the station and from the station to their ultimate destination and back again? Why shouldn’t DART have to provide security for its paying customers? Maybe, because they’re a transit agency and not a personal security service?

    Thieves will congragate where there are targets. Robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is. To blame DART for this is unfair.

    Oh, and the approved way to get to a DART station more than 5 feet but less than a mile away from home is to take your Segway.

  12. Since Dallas is too short-sighted to have any sort of “circle line” in addition to the hub-and-spoke arrangement, I seldom have any occasion to take the rail. I’d consider it for day flights once (if) there’s rail to DFW — except that I’d have to get dropped off since I’d never trust parking in west/NW Dallas.

    I don’t know how we can possibly still experience crime, with our two-pronged approach to solving the problem:

    1) “Lock. Take. Hide. Cower.”
    2) Juke the stats.

  13. 1. As a matter of fact I had considered walking some days, though the day this happened it was raining. 2. The “bunch of stuff” was the entire, foot-deep center-console bin, plus other automotive-maintenance items in the rear compartment. 3. None of which has anything to do with the fact that the DART lots seem to be fertile, all-day-long hunting grounds for local criminals, and DART doesn’t claim any responsibility for the situation. Which was the point of the post–and is apparently just fine with the “enlightened” among us.

  14. I’ve parked daily at WR station for almost 3 years without trouble. I’ve very occasionally seen broken glass from a break-in, but less often than I see it in my White Rock area neighborhood.

    Usually, there is a guard (more of an attendant) patrolling the parking lot all day – haven’t seen him around lately, though. Not sure why.

  15. The Tyler/Vernon (Red Line) parking lot. Doesn’t even have lights. Total darkness at night. That’s why I don’t walk there, or drive.

  16. Good for you for trying a new method of transport. Sad to hear you are giving up based on the parking lot incident. The lots are an easy target because they signal to predators that someone can be assumed gone for 6-8 hours. Just like at night when people are assumed asleep (that’s what the Great Pyrenees is for, they never sleep–but they also think possums on the premises are of paramount concern).

    Should DART police those lots? I’m not sure, how do other cities and travelers deal with this problem?

    Dallas, in general, feels like a place where people are curious enough to try new things but easily convinced set-backs are a sign to give up and move on to the next exploration. Prove us wrong, Hunter.

  17. LOL @ Jaetex… fare payers pay so little of the cost of their ride (15-20% of the operating expenses, not even considering the capital costs) that they have no reason to complain about anything… If the DART stations didn’t have parking their ridership would probably be 1/2 what it is now, if not worse.

  18. Thanks for posting Glenn and sorry to hear about your car. You deserve praise for trying something new. As an employee transit coordinator at a Dallas business, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to try something out of the ordinary routine. Personally, I’ve lived without a car in Dallas for over 2 years now and I rely on DART daily. A few things I’ve discovered: (1) If you have one, your most precious tool is a Smartphone (e.g., iPhone). Google Maps is synced with the DART schedule so you can get great point-to-point directions. (2) DART is tough because you usually need to take a bus to the light rail. I used to live 15 minutes from the nearest bus stop. For that reason, I moved closer to the rail and I plan to get a bike so that I’m less dependent on the bus or walking for short distances. (3) DART is far from perfect (and the fare hikes didn’t help), but they are slowly expanding. In fact, the Green Line is the largest light rail project on the continent. This conversation is proof that more people are at least interested in exploring alternatives to the solo commute.

    Finally, one note on Dallas crime. Dallas is a city – and like all cities, there is crime, at the root of which is poverty. Many people in Dallas live removed from this poverty – they don’t see it on a daily basis and, consciously or unconsciously, do everything possible to avoid its reality. One fact about public transit is that it is PUBLIC – open to all. I’m not suggesting DART couldn’t improve its security measures, but Glenn’s incident should also remind us that we have neighbors in desperate situations, ones that remain invisible to some.

  19. He said it happened last week. It was probably raining, as it did every week for the last five weeks.

    It shouldn’t matter if he wants to hitchhike, ride a bike, drive a hummer, or fly an airplane. His car was broken into in broad daylight. To my knowledge, Dallas still has the highest crime rate in the United States, and Glen was a victim of it.

    Blame the victim, really?

  20. I stopped running at White Rock Lake a couple of years ago after my car was broken into for the 5th time. It is a shame because WRL is a great place to run. The price the last time was $160 to replace the window and one hour to wait for the police to show up for the report. Forgetting about the two items that they took from my car and just talking about the window repair, if the couple that the police thought did it only broke into 2 cars a day that would be almost $117,000 in window replacements in one year. They have a special tool to pop the window with and they are gone in under 10 seconds. The mentality that this is Glenn’s fault because he parked in a public lot is absurd to the point it doesn’t deserve a response. What is sad though is if someone catches the creeps in action and takes care of business, they would probably end up in jail and not the thieves.

  21. Bicycle to the train, and that 10 minute commute turns into 3. Plus you can ride it from the train station to your office door.

  22. The only time I’ve had a car break-in was on University Blvd near SMU. They used a crow bar and broke the door instead of the window — even though it was a BMW “break my windshield”.

    I’ve been to White Rock Lake oh about 1 million times and no problem.

  23. @ Glenn Hunter: Why do I think that there’s absolutely nothing you can do or not do to please Gwyon?
    I’m so glad that you exist to fulfill his/her needs to vent.

  24. Let’s see if I understand this correctly. Dallas is a big city. In a big city, public transportation can be helpful. At other times, it can be difficult, just like private transportation. Sometimes people will break into your car. Sometimes they won’t. Safety is good, but crime is bad.

    Did I get all that right?

    Glenn, if you parked your car at NorthPark and someone broke into it, would you stop going to NorthPark? File an open records request with DART; if that lot has a break-in every day (or whatever), THEN stop using DART. Or that train stop.

    A true story: not long ago, some guys high-jacked some planes and flew them into some buildings. I still fly on planes.

    (Did I just go there? Wow. I just went there. Sorry.)

  25. Tim: Thanks for the lecture about big-city living, but it’s not necessary. I’ve lived among other places in L.A. and San Francisco, where the bums used to break into my daughter’s car and pee and sleep in it. That sort of criminal activity is unacceptable there, and it’s unacceptable in Dallas, Texas. But until “understanding” people like you start holding people (and public agencies) accountable–and quit apologizing for their outrageous behavior because “that’s just the way it is”–nothing will change.

  26. Man, if I quit doing things after one bad experience, I would’ve had sex once in my life. Your first time must have been magical given the way you roll.

  27. I agree that DART should have some measure of security to deter crime. My neighborhood association has only first hand observations such as color of vehicles, license plate number, and number of people involved in a crime. Security cameras would help especially since I doubt an entire center consol was carried away from the parking lot by foot.

    As for your methods on getting to work. If you are willing to ride the train then may I suggest a foldable bike. They get you around quickly in short distances, fit under you desk, and with the right setup you can carry laptops, books, etc… They require slower speeds in the rain but with the right putter shell of clothing you will stay dry. During the rain season I commute north and ride in all three miles. I carry my nice shoes and clothes in a wterproof bag then change at work. The bag of bike clothes and foldable go under desk. As for riding during the summer, forget it. You need an employer who has a shower or freezing temperature to bring your body temp down quick enough to not soak your work clothes.

    Cheers and good luck next time.

  28. @Gwyon: Sweetheart, I can pump 30 pounds with a kick-ass trainer at Cooper and I run about 2 miles 4 days per week plus step aerobics and more. I am not weak, thank God. I just do not like walking in high humidity, such as the rain that has pummeled us of late,or high humidity that makes my hair frizz. Now excuse me, I’m off to my boxing class…

  29. The problem with DART in this situation is similar to the TX/OU DART issue. For such a prestigious agency simply saying “Sorry” to the TX/OU fans and “Sorry” to Glenn in advance (by posting their sign) is a laughable attempt to address the situation.
    How about acknowledging the issues with security at certain DART lots and posting a pro-active statement about what is being done to curb crime at these locations. If someone were to be assaulted or, heaven forbid, murdered, then there would be a whole level of publicity where “Sorry” would not suffice.
    Most rationale people would agree with any DART initiative if they were seen to be sensitive and truly attempting to prevent such occurences again.

  30. @Glenn: That wasn’t a lecture. If you want one, I’m happy to oblige tomorrow. But only if I can deliver said talk while holding you in my loving arms.

    Point is, if you’re the victim of a crime on someone’s property, don’t cast blame on that someone unless they’ve demonstrated negligence or some sort of failure in response to that crime.

    What has DART done wrong? If you shop at, say, Central Market, and your car is jacked in their lot, do you stop going to Central Market?

    Anyplace people gather, crimes will happen. My problem with your post is that because the crime happened to YOU, you’ve decided, apparently, that public transportation is to be avoided?

    If I steal something from your desk tomorrow, will D Magazine’s outrageous behavior stop you from ever coming to work again? I hope not, because your desk is a target-rich environment for me.

    Kisses, friend.

  31. So I came back today to check on the conversation. Seems like we fall very easily into the blame trap. But the truth is these forums are just as useful for thinking up solutions! I believe that public transit has a critical role to play in improving mobility, productivity, and community in Dallas. To reach its potential, though, folks do need to feel safe and DART can’t continue to be seen as the mode of transit solely for the poor and the “hippies.” So, what’s the solution here? What would you like to see DART do to make its stations safer?

  32. Seems like everything I’ve thought of has been said…

    Glenn, I hope you give it another shot. In my experience, DART really does make for a more interesting commute. If anything, it creates an excellent opportunity to get some reading done.

    Sorry to hear about your car. I think DART does have some security measures in place, of course any security system can fail.

    man, tough week for public transit…

  33. Jonathan:

    Great, sanity in a Frontburner discussion. That will never work.

    My idea would be to pull the DART cops from writing traffic tickets and use them to actually… patrol DART. In know, it sounds crazy.

  34. First, nobody blames Glenn for the fact that his car got broken into.

    But yes, I think driving less than a mile to a train station is a bit silly (for most people). You can’t walk in the rain or the heat? Really? I thought we enlightened elitists were supposed to be the soft ones.

  35. I hope I am not tempting fate by responding, as my car has had its windows broken seven times in four years. All but one were at home at night. (Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a job and can’t afford to move) The one that was not at my apartment was at Central Market in daytime and I did stop shopping there- they were unhelpful. I parked where the employees take smoke breaks and hid my purse- taking keys and credit cards (I had a toddler with me). Someone was obviously watching and broke into my car (got my purse- my eyeglasses were the most expensive thing in it) and the one next to me- Central Market got it on their tape but did not offer to help identify the culprit. I do not have a fancy car (11 years old) or stereo- and they have never been successful getting the stereo out. Now I do not leave my car without covering up my stereo and I never leave my glasses in my purse unless I am carrying the purse. After the first break in I installed an alarm system- a joke, obviously. I have a broken door handle that I cannot afford to fix and would be afraid to get a nicer car even if I were employed. I do not know what the answer is.

  36. Glenn – I assume it was your 9 to 10 year old car that was broken into? The one you let me and my pregnant wife borrow when we had our wheels stolen off of our car? Truly sorry to hear it pal.

    To the argument that theft is a “poor” thing. Screw that! I agree poor is a reality, but its a shame people use it as an excuse to do bad things. I grew up poor – had a single mom raising four kids receiving welfare. I never stole a thing.

    Tim – next time, maybe you should just give Glenn that kiss while he’s in your loving arms instead of punching in the stomach first.

  37. @ak: Thank you for telling your story on FrontBurner. It sounds like you’ve had a tough row to hoe. Real “answers” I think are long-term and sweeping–societal stuff–but you made a good start by demanding accountability from the uncaring market, withholding your hard-won dollars. If enough people acted similarly, maybe we could get some people’s attention.

  38. I’ve been lucky. My car’s never been broken into in Dallas. But if it was, I’d never go back to where it happened, whether a Dart Station, CM, or anywhere else.