There are few worse feelings for a North Texas transit commuter than the one that often hits just as they step off of one of DART's climate-controlled light-rail cars and onto the platform at one of the agency's more far-flung train stations:
"How fricking long is it going to be before I get home?"
That feeling that sucks in the heat, cold, snow or rain, knowing that the next bus is a half-hour, or more, away and that you might have a lengthy walk ahead of you even when your bus ride's over. Transit experts and officials have a phrase for it — "the last mile problem" — and it's especially bad on a commuter-focused system like DART.
Light rail serves many neighborhoods and communities without comprehensive bus service, frustrating riders who either don't own a car or don't want to park and ride. This week, DART rolled out a couple of new programs to make things a bit more tolerable.
Starting Wednesday, DART riders heading to and from the Buckner, UNT Dallas and Parker Road light-rail stations can catch a free UberPool to any address in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the stations. UberPool rides in those neighborhoods, none of which have decent bus service, that don't begin or end at a train station can be had for $3.
For those unfamiliar with UberPool — which hasn't been available in Dallas to this point — it's similar to UberX. Drivers pick up Uber riders in the driver's own car and take them to their destination. What makes UberPool different, and cheaper, from UberX is that the driver may pick up two additional riders on the way to the rider's original destination, depending on demand. Beginning May 9, those free trips to and from the train stations will cost a buck.
DART riders outside of the three chosen UberPool partner neighborhoods could be looking at improved commutes, too.
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In two weeks, riders in Farmers Branch, Glenn Heights, Lake Highlands, Lakewood, North Dallas, Highland Park and University Park — and each of the three UberPool neighborhoods listed above — can book the agency's GoLink service straight from DART's GoPass app. GoLink is an expanded replacement service for DART's On-Call system, which previously served Farmers Branch, Glenn Heights, Lake Highlands, Lakewood, North Dallas, Highland Park and University Park riders.
Rather than waiting on a scheduled, fixed route bus, DART will pick up GoLink riders wherever they are and drop them off at a destination of their choice within the GoLink zone.
Along with the partnership with Uber and the switch from On-Call to GoLink, DART is also getting rid of its free downtown circulator, the D-Link, in favor of another GoLink shuttle. Unlike GoLink buses in outside neighborhoods, which require a regular DART pass, downtown GoLink buses will cost $1 and cover the "West End, Perot Museum, Klyde Warren Park, Arts District, Dallas Farmers Market, Deep Ellum, Convention Center and Main Street District," according to DART.
All of the changes, from offering rides-on-demand to making more of DART's service app-focused, make the agency look a lot more like Uber, but maybe that's the point.