Why I Don’t Ride DART to Work

The site Mapnificent shows how far you can get around Dallas via public transport in a given time.
The site Mapnificent shows how far you can get around Dallas via public transport in a given time.

I’ve been asking myself why I don’t use the bus for my daily commute when it’d be nearly as convenient as driving. I’d get from my front door to my desk in less total time each day via DART than I do via my own automobile. But I don’t make that choice.  Here’s why.

1) Look at that map image above. That’s from a site called Mapnificent (H/T Atlantic Cities), which uses Google Maps tools to show how far a person can get from any address in a city via public transport within a given amount of time. That image represents how far you can go from our office within 30 minutes.  It seems like a reasonably good coverage zone until you consider a) That if I lived south of downtown, I’d have a hell of a time getting here, apparently and b) It’s not such great coverage when you compare it to how far you can get in a lot of other cities.  The main problem is how infrequently many buses and trains run. Sitting at the bus stop is going to eat up most of your 30 minutes, depending on which direction you need to go. Obviously the DART schedule is a function of how many riders are using the system, and it doesn’t make sense to run a bunch of empty buses or trains. But the bus that serves my home runs once every 30 minutes.  That lack of convenience is difficult to want to deal with.

2) I can park downtown just as cheaply. The Arts District Parking Garage, which is a short walk from our office, will run you $65 a month. That just so happens to be the same cost as a DART monthly pass. There are a lot of available parking spots in this neighborhood, for which I am grateful, and which helps to keep the cost down. If the city is interested in seeing more downtown workers use public transportation – which, based on support for the Trinity River Toll Road, it doesn’t seem that they are – parking has got to become more expensive. Find a way to have the market jack up the cost, and I would get on the bus.

3) I don’t feel any Hipster-Urban-Hydra-implanted guilt that I should be supporting a more sustainable form of transportation. I only live about 3 miles from work. On many days that 6-mile round trip is about as much as I drive. I don’t get on any highways to get to the office. I don’t feel like I’m part of the problem. Then again, is that the way we all think about it?   Peter cited in his recent post a book by Frank Hendriks, who describes a tension between egalitarianism and individualism in these public policy debates.  But I’m no die-hard individualist, I don’t think. A car to me is just a machine for getting from A to B – not an object of lust – so I’d be more than happy to get out from behind the wheel.

But if that’s what you want, oh Great Overlords of Urbanism, you’re going to have to make me. Radical steps are required.

Just don’t try to tell me I should be biking. It’s 95+ degrees around here for at least a couple months every year, for goodness’ sake.

23 comments on “Why I Don’t Ride DART to Work

  1. I choose not to ride it primarily because it would take me twice as long to get to work. I’d have to take a bus to downtown, get on a train, then take another bus to get to my workplace.

    Yes, I could bike or walk the extra mile from the train station. I’d just have to remember to bring a change of clothes during the summer.

  2. Has DART considered GPS tracking for its buses? A simple phone app tells you when the actual next bus (and not the theoretical next bus) will be at your stop, so you don’t head over there until its arrival is imminent. That would alleviate Problem 1.

  3. Possibly forming a lustful relationship with an automobile, is one of the main reasons, why I do use public transportation. I’m not sure, how, I could ever break it to my mom that i’d found my one true love, but “she” wasn’t a she at all; but, a cold piece of metal(mainly plastic by todays car manufacturing standards….of course a lot of women are mainly plastic, too, by todays standards of beauty) to be my betrothed! To end my perpetual digression, though, and allow you exquisite, lady and gentlemanly writers, get back to y’alls business(which I always adore). The GOP told me these feelings could possibly surface if same-sex marriages were allowed. So, in summation….damn you! Ol’ Party of Grandness. Damn you:(

  4. @Vseslav Botkin: During a couple brief periods when my car was in the shop for an extended period, I used the DART app to know when the next bus was coming. It’s not so precise that it eliminated the need for waiting at a stop, but it is a pretty good app. I found it helpful.

    But it doesn’t alleviate problem No. 1. My own issue isn’t so much with the time spent waiting at the bus stop. It’s just the simple matter of convenience. Let’s say I’m at the office working until 5:20 and suddenly I’m ready to get out of here. Only I can’t leave just then. I’ve got to wait 30 minutes for the next bus on my route. That’s too big a gap for me to want to sacrifice my own ability to leave when I damn well please.

  5. I’d like to take Dart more places but the $65 a month pass fee is a lot and it taking an hour to get anywhere on it is ridiculous. Dart are you listening? Cheaper fares. Less transport time. And don’t make me feel like I need a degree in rocket science to take the bus? As I said I’d like to take it but most of the time I can’t figure out what or where I am supposed to go.

  6. I have waited for buses for over an hour, and in 100+ degrees. The buses seem to break down too much for me. Dallas mass transit is really bad

  7. I agree that parking downtown should be more expensive, which would increase demand for transit and housing near the core. The city should impose a luxury tax on downtown parking lots that aren’t attached to residential buildings and use that money to encourage transit-oriented development.

    DART, on the other hand, should do away with fares in the downtown transit mall and create a fare-free zone from the West End to Pearl Station.

  8. I work Downtown and ride DART to work just about every day. I live in Knox Henderson and within a block I can either ride 2 different bus routes to Downtown or ride two different bus routes to CItyplace or Mockingbird Stations to catch the rail. I am fortunate to have good transit in my neighborhood, however it does require a certain level of planning. Yet, I still find myself with plenty of flexibility for leaving work early or late as needed.

    DART’s service level is good but not great. At $65/month, DART is a bargain compared to some other major transit organizations. However, I would advise DART against raising their fares as planned at the end of the year. It will push some away from transit and also deter new ridership.

  9. Vseslav,

    Seattle has an app that tracks buses to do exactly what you’re proposing: http://www.onebusaway.org/. It’s fantastic. But not surprisingly, it was a product of a culture that’s already open to buses, which probably has something to do with how usable Seattle’s bus system is. While I’ve commuted by DART in the past, it’s not really an option for me now, commuting from Oak Cliff to Addison. I wish it was.

  10. That maps seems a bit inaccurate…or at least doesn’t consider alternative factors like say, having a bike.

    DART + bike is a fantastic combo that I’ve been using for over a year now. I started biking from my home in Winnetka Heights to Tyler-Vernon Station 2-days a week, using single ride passes, $1.75 each. I now do it 4-5 days a week.

    It takes roughly 10-15 minutes longer than driving, but thats not the point. It’s a pleasurable commute and it has a profound affect on my mood for the day. I read more, I’m more in tune. I feel a sense of freedom.

    Sure, there are times when I’m annoyed that I have to plan and live by a schedule, but its not enough to turn me off.

    If you are even considering DART, I highly suggest giving it a try. Give it a couple tries. The psychological hump is the biggest factor in getting more people on DART.

    People expect so much from this system, and the reality is different from their expectations and this turns them off. The fact is, DART wasn’t made to come right to your doorstep. You must find a way to adjust yourself if you intend to take advantage of the system.

  11. The “tax parking to subsidize transit” theory is both (i) unlikely as a logistical matter (when have targeted funds worked without either being diverted (I’m looking at you lottery-for-schools and cabaret-cover-charge-for-domestic-abuse) or subject to a crippling mordida), and (ii) somewhat in vogue, but presents an unpleasant slippery slope. For example, the guest this week on Fresh Air who would tax processed foods to subsidize vegetables took the next step to the government controlling portion sizes because, you know, it is in everyone’s best interest that you stay away from that whole chicken quarter or second piece of cake.

    Private enterprise has the means of accomplishing your goal somewhat; for example, if Wick really cared he could subsidize your bus pass to the point that car travel did not make sense. More than a few employers downtown do so to some extent already. I am sure Zac would blanche at the thought, but a threat by a major employer/donor to relocate to a suburb, say Frisco, might cause some movement more geared to a solution rather than another boondoggle.

    @Robbie’s biking experience and @LivablePerspective’s Dart experience (Knox to the CBD runs about 30 minutes each way, coupled with a half mile walk, and that’s if you don’t have to change buses) is not practical for anyone who has to dress like a professional, like, say, much of downtown. So it maybe be a solution for the neck tattooed/ear gauge wearing/tongue pierced OWS-OD types, but not for the market the Great Overlords of Urbanism are trying to capture (unless I am right and what they really want is to expel dissenters to the Gulag).

    Also, that’s Hipster-Urban Hydra©.

  12. Bring a woman, it is completely unacceptable in Dallas to arrive at work as a hot sweaty mess with your makeup running down your face, and wearing your sneakers. That means no biking, walking, or long waits for buses. Maybe if it happened just a few weeks a year, like up north, I could do it, but not for 6 montha. Even more problematic: I can’t just leave work to catch the bus at 6! I might be at work until 7 or even 10, if finishing a major project. And how do you solve the problem of meeting a client who doesn’t office downtown? We aren’t 9-5 clock punchers!

  13. When the Green Line opened in NW Dallas, I checked out commuting to my office at Mockingbird and Abrams. Instead of a 20 minute drive, I could (a) catch a bus on the corner at Marsh Lane to the Royal Lane station, transfer to the Green Line to Downtown, transfer to the Red Line/Blue Line to Mockingbird Station, and transfer to another bus to Mockingbird/Abrams, or (b) catch a bus on the corner at Marsh Lane to the Royal Lane station, transfer to the Green Line to Baylor Hospital, and transfer to another bus to Mockingbird/Abrams, or (c) drive to the Green Line station and park and ride the remainder of the route using (a) or (b). The travel times for these options range from a minimum of 80 minutes to 95 minutes, depending on departure times. Returning home was no better.

    These are not viable options for me. And not for most people who bother to do the math. It is not DART’s fault that I chose to live and work in locations that are not easily accessible to it train system, but it is not my fault that the massive inconvenience (not to mention time lost each day) resulting from DART’s piecemeal system keeps me from choosing to commute with DART.

  14. I lived 3 years (of my mid twenties) with no Car and relying solely on DART for transportation. I enjoyed the freedom from car expenses enjoyed my morning and evening train rides, however that is before I had a child to care for and a wife to come home to. I also had to make conscious decisions and sacrifices in where I lived and worked. If your commute requires use of a bus you can never be sure you will get to your destination on time, and you were almost sure to have a 15-45 minute window of sitting outside in the TX sun waiting for a bus that you hope and pray will be within 10 minutes of it’s scheduled arrival.
    Another issue with the buses was the lack of enforcement and cleanliness. Maybe it was just luck but in those 3 years I can count on one hand the number of times I was harassed my the mentally ill or homeless on the trains, but almost every single bus ride had at least one obnoxious character on it. The same ratio also applied to the stench of urine or feces.

  15. @CraigT….sorry about the urine. The feces I didn’t have anything to do with, promise!

  16. Taking public transportation means trading one kind of freedom for another. You can’t leave any ol’ time you want and expect your chariot to be waiting. But, once on the train/bus, you are free from the hassles of traffic, car trouble, potential of a cop pulling you over, etc. And while your $65 monthly parking fee is the same as a DART pass, you still have the cost of gas to account for with driving.

  17. @Claire St. Amant: I don’t drive on highways to get to the office, and only rarely do I encounter traffic along my route. (In which case, I just jump over to a side street and take an alternate route. A bus can’t do that.) If my care were less reliable or older, I might give extra consideration to DART, but it isn’t.

    Yes, factoring in gas makes the cost slightly higher for my driving-and-parking commute. But since my daily round trip is six miles, that extra cost feels negligible.

    And it’s more than offset by the fact that my parking pass gives me free nighttime event parking for any events at the Wyly, Winspear, Meyerson, or elsewhere in the Arts District, which I take advantage of regularly.

  18. DART fights an uphill battle because it has to operate in a region that was designed for automobile access and literally nothing else. The design of the transit system depends to such a large extent on the design of the city in which it operates, and while transit can change the design of a city over time, that time is measured in decades (the same being true for the city’s transformation to auto-centric, which took decades to achieve but is not firmly entrenched in both the city’s design and its culture). Gradual change of development patterns isn’t helping the Jason Heid’s of the world who just want to get from Point A to Point B as conveniently and with as little hassle as possible.

    Despite all the obstacles that DART faces, it does provide a couple hundred thousand people a day with a workable way to get from Point A to Point B, a large portion of whom are discretionary riders who see DART as a convenient *alternative* to driving as opposed to a necessity one has to put up with. In 20 or 30 years, when the system has matured and development patterns have changed to match, I imagine Jason Heid Jr. will find the transit option more attractive. Until then, more people need to understand, like Jason does, that DART *is* a choice. Maybe not the best choice. Doesn’t have to be. The fact that it is available for you, should your car break down, should the Hipster Guilt set in, or should the parking garage you park in decide the “market” demands more per month than you’re willing to pay…that is a fact in which I find comfort.

  19. That should have said “which took decades to achieve but is NOW firmly entrenched…”

  20. Jason, your set-up equation is this: “I’d get from my front door to my desk in less total time each day via DART than I do via my own automobile. But I don’t make that choice. Here’s why.”

    Forget the here’s why. Based on what you write, you’d clearly be better off not putting daily wear and tear on the car (however short the drive), unless you have other automotive needs on a particular day.

  21. I’ve always been leery of biking in central Dallas on the busy urban streets. In today’s DMN is an article about Dallas bike advocate Mike McNair getting hit by a car Tuesday – in the middle of “Bike to Work Week”. He’s in the hospital being treated for internal bleeding and had pins put in his hip. All of his ribs on the left side were broken and had to be rebuilt. His pelvis is broken in five places. No charges have been filed against the driver so I’m guessing he didn’t do anything flagrantly wrong when he collided with the terribly injured Mr. McNair.

  22. I cannot understand why Houston, a city that is more spreadout and car oriented than Dallas, would have such higher bus ridership than Dallas, percentage wise. We have bus and light rail, yet we still seem to lag their ridership numbers bigtime. DART needs to rethink the way it is doing things. In addition, DART needs to consider purchasing smaller busses for those routes with low ridership. Most DART busses ride around most of the day with only a couple of riders.

  23. Unsure why this article was written? You can walk to work in an hour, and driving 3 miles one way isn’t really worth noting, to be honest.