Monday, October 19, 2009

DART: doomed to failure

Poor Dallas Area Rapid Transit! The worst pun of the day (Monday) is how the public is throwing its light-rail passenger system “under the bus,” which is kinda funny since the bus people also operate a train schedule.
And not every well. It came to a head last Saturday when tens of thousands of fans tried to use the DART trains (and save a couple of bucks parking) to get back and forth from Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl for the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game.
First, people who operate buses should never oversee trains. Current DART people still haven’t got the hang of it and the board needs complete overhaul. But having said that, it was ridiculous for anyone to expect a light rail system to handle ALL those wishing to attend the Fair … and the game. Even in major cities with long history of light rail/subway/elevated systems who transport athletic event crowds (Boston, NYC, Washington, Chicago), it doesn’t happen quickly.
Sometimes it DOES take hours to clear out HUGE crowds (and remember, the Cotton Bowl holds twice as many people as venues like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park...). When my wife went to Washington, D.C. for the big women’s rally a few years ago, it took her many hours to leave the mall via its Metro system because you can only run so many people in so many passenger cars at a time – and do it safely!
DART, with just 80 cars, was doomed to failure from the start; it did its best to handle the overflow…and its best simply wasn’t adequate.
Besides, those DART riders would have been just as stuck in traffic, causing even MORE of a traffic delay in the Mixmaster and around Fair Park area (and would have been subject to the near-criminal method of parking at Fair Park).
In Atlanta, when the Braves play at Turner Field, you ride MARTA to an area called Underground Atlanta and (on the same MARTA ticket), get transferred to a shuttle bus which takes you directly to Turner Field. These shuttles run every minute or so and that’s ALL they do ... before the start of the game and afterwards.
Shuttle buses COULD have taken a large portion of the Green Line passengers to Fair Park on this instance and relieved much of the stress on the system. Certainly, there were more than 80 buses in the DART system, right?
DART should have had ALL Green Line users go to the West End Transit Center and the Green Line could have been initiated THERE! As it was, no Red or Blue Line users (coming from Plano, Richardosn, or Garland), trying to transfer at Pearl Street (the first place to get the Green Line but the line stop in downtown from Victory Station), could have gotten to the Green Line; ALL those trains were at (or beyond) capacity – a transit line design flaw for which DART must take blame.
At the West End Center, shuttle buses could have EASILY been dispatched. In fact, said buses COULD have been run from ALL DART transit centers, going directly to Fair Park and bypassing downtown altogether.
IF someone at DART had actually thought about it, or actually STUDIED other cities and their methods, all this hand-wringing could have been avoided. Now and in the future!
As it happened, it was a doomed mission and the negative publicity will cost DART more than it could have ever gained … which is really sad for the city of Dallas as a whole.
P.S. – DART is its own entity; it is NOT run by the city of Dallas and does not have anything to do with its employees, who are becoming scapegoats for those who do not understand how this city operates. Since ignorance is often bliss, these must be very happy people.

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