Riding public transportation in Dallas is not nearly as bad as you may have been led to believe. One can, especially with a little help from Uber or Lyft, successfully navigate the city without owning a car. Nevertheless, DART is decidedly not great when compared with transit agencies in cities of comparable size. Buses and trains don't run often or late enough, routes often don't make sense and there's the nagging idea that DART riders are beneficiaries of public assistance, rather than just people who don't want to or can't drive. With that in mind, here are the 10 pains one faces as a heavy DART user.
10. Foul Fares
For what you get, DART is expensive. Getting anywhere costs a minimum of $2.50, a day pass is $5 and a 31-day pass costs $80. A single ride on New York City's MTA — which, for all its faults, is still the best public transit system in the United States — costs just a bit more ($3) and an MTA monthly pass is $116.50. MTA's service is 24 hours, comprehensively covers the city and is far more frequent than DART's. There are underlying funding issues that shouldn't be ignored — MTA doesn't have to subsist largely on sales tax revenue — but DART's cost-to-service ratio consistently feels off, especially when you end up taking Uber to solve a DART last-mile issue. Closer to home, an all-day pass on San Antonio's VIA is $4 and a 31-day pass is $35. Houston's Metro charges $3 for a one-day pass, and a single ride is $1.25.
9. You Can't Get There from Here
Somehow, Lowest Greenville, one of the most popular nighttime destinations in Dallas, is inconvenient to get to using the city's public transportation. The closest light rail gets is Mockingbird Station — two miles from the Blind Butcher — and bus Route 1, the primary route serving the area, runs with maddening infrequency at night and on the weekends. Which is, you know, when one wants to go to Lowest Greenville.
8. Java Jive
Admittedly, the no food and drinks on the train or bus rule rarely gets enforced, but if you believe in following rules, or encounter one of the few operators who does enforce the rule, not being able to sip coffee during a morning commute is an affront to human dignity. And makes us very cranky.
7. D-Link Is No D-Light
Theoretically, DART's free central-city circulator, the D-Link, runs every 15 minutes. The route's price and frequency should be a good gateway drug for those who wouldn't try DART otherwise, unless they end up waiting 30 minutes for a bus that's supposed to come every 15. That's a bad trip, man, and it's common.
6. Early Buses
Buses can be late. Stuff happens. Buses shouldn't be early though, because it kills riders' ability to make tight connections — the lifeblood of efficient transit commuting — along with a little piece of their souls. Unless your stop is a time point, your bus will just roll though it whenever it gets there, early or not. There's a reason DART says get to your stop five minutes early. Useful tip there, DART, except that sometimes that's impossible when your first bus is running late. Nothing breaks a bus-rider's heart like seeing the vanishing tail lights of the connecting bus they were supposed to catch, rolling away five minutes early.
5. The State Fair Amateurs
As you might have experienced the past couple of weeks, the once-a-year DART riders headed to the fair do their best to choke the life out of the system. They take forever to load onto trains from platforms. (Simple rules here, people: Doors open. Let passengers off, then enter. Move quickly away from doors to let other people on it. Got it?) These newbs are incapable of even the smallest deviation from the strict plan suggested by DART for getting to Fair Park and don't observe the most important rule of public transit: DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. Crazy people do that, and if the person you're eye-balling stares back, you could have trouble. And for the love of God, stop whacking everyone with that sports utility stroller that doesn't fold. Some of us aren't riding the train for fun.
4. The Last Call. Make It Uber.
DART doesn't operate 24 hours. It doesn't even operate until last call. If closing time for DART is 12:30 a.m., and if you can't get an Uber, you effectively turn into a pumpkin. It's not a happy feeling to have to leave a concert at Gilley's two songs early because you need to catch the last bus home. It's even worse when you miss that bus.
3. The Whoosh-By
The whoosh-by is mostly a downtown Dallas phenomenon. Because multiple buses stop at most downtown stops, riders have to somehow alert the driver of their particular bus that they want to get on. There's no protocol for this, and hand signals are often misinterpreted, but if you screw up, you miss your bus. Check it out next time you're downtown, the whole thing is like a particularly high stress interpretive dance.
Somehow, you've survived the gauntlet of negative assumptions you must elicit when you tell the object of your desire you don't have a car. In Dallas. In Texas. God job, lover, but don't relax just yet. The mechanics of dating while DARTing are daunting. It becomes difficult to meet someone at eight, because the bus only goes by the bar at 7:28 p.m. or 8:08 p.m.. You can't stay out late, and it's really hard to date someone who lives in the suburbs. If you want to go to more than one place, your movements have to be planned in excruciating detail, lest you be stuck making small talk at a bus stop for a half hour because of DART's frequent infrequency. It's too much.
1. Going to Arlington
There are actually multiple good reasons to go to Arlington. Well, three is technically a multiple, right? Baseball is fun. Football is ... is ... well, it has its moments, though not this year. Some people like roller coasters. Just don't expect to do anything but drive there unless you want to expend a comical amount of effort using Arlington's single, infrequent, limited-service bus route. It's exhausting getting to Arlington's entertainment, which might explain why everyone is getting so worked up about the fantasy of the Rangers moving to Dallas.
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