It's still far too early to declare D-Link's two-year pilot program a success or to gauge the long-term popularity of a free downtown shuttle. But after nearly two months in operation, officials say they're pleasantly surprised.
"It's exceeded our expectations so far," says Downtown Dallas Inc. president John Crawford, whose organization is splitting the $1.4-million annual bill with the city and DART. DART spokesman Mark Ball adds "we're pleased with what we're seeing."
The numbers so far aren't eye-popping. Statistics provided by DART show daily ridership averaging several hundred people, with a peak on Saturday nearing 500:
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Compared to the region's other high-profile (albeit not free) new bus route, Arlington's MAX, which has daily ridership of around 250, the figures are solid. But with D-Link shuttles making 96 runs per day -- 48 in either direction -- the buses aren't exactly packed. Most days, the average ridership per bus hovers south of four.
That doesn't discourage Crawford, who is quick to point out that D-Link is starting from scratch and had a relatively modest rollout.
"I'm hopeful we'll continue to improve the numbers and also hopeful that we can expand the service, going to places like Deep Ellum, Farmers Market, other areas that are being" developed, Crawford says.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.