DART, Hitting a Bulls Eye

It appears, that Texas of all places is pulling significantly ahead of Portland, Seattle, and many other cities on miles of light rail.  At least according to their long range plans.  From the DART site;

“DART's current long-range Transit System Plan, adopted in 1995, includes the ongoing doubling of the DART Rail System to serve Pleasant Grove, Fair Park, Northwest Dallas, Love Field, Farmers Branch, Carrollton, Irving and DFW International Airport. Working from the 1995 plan, DART has built a multimodal transportation network providing more than 300,000 trips each weekday. Components of the network include:

  • A fleet of more than 700 ultra-low emission buses, serving 120 routes in 13 cities
  • 45 miles of light rail with 48 more miles scheduled to open by 2013
  • 35 miles of Trinity Railway Express commuter rail connecting Dallas and Fort Worth
  • 31 miles of high occupancy vehicle lanes in four corridors
  • Paratransit curb-to-curb van service for customers with disabilities

The North Texas region is on pace to double in population – to approximately 8 million – by 2030 and the impact of that growth will be significant.

  • Jobs will grow from 3 to 4.9 million.
  • Traffic congestion will slow average freeway speeds from 43 mph to 27 mph.
  • Time lost in traffic delays will increase from 1 million to 5.1 million hours annually.

More of the 2030 plan from DART;

The 2030 Plan builds on the success of today's system and ongoing expansion and updates the draft system plan. Key elements include:

  • Approximately 43 miles of additional rail service, including:
    1. A 2.9-mile extension of the Blue Line to UNT-Dallas
    2. A nearly 26-mile express rail line in the east-west Cotton Belt corridor from the Red Line to DFW International Airport. The Board resolution approving the plan also helps define system characteristics for the corridor with regard to rail technology, noise, vibration and emissions.
    3. A Lake Highlands Station on the existing Blue Line
    4. A 4.3-mile light rail branch off the forthcoming Green Line along Scyene Road to approximately Masters Drive
    5. A 4.3-mile light rail extension of the Red Line south to Red Bird Lane
    6. A 6-mile rail line in West Dallas along Fort Worth Avenue or Singleton to Loop 12/Jefferson Boulevard
  • A comprehensive network of enhanced and rapid bus corridors consisting of:
    1. 77 miles of enhanced bus service corridors
    2. 20 miles of rapid bus service corridors
  • Strengthened and new express bus service
  • A total of 116 miles of permanent managed HOV lanes – six more than the 1995 plan
  • A continued high level of Paratransit service, while improving cost-effectiveness through targeted technological and operational changes and transitioning customers to fixed-route where feasible
  • Strengthening of key systemwide mobility programs to support improved operations and system efficiencies, enhanced customer information, access and comfort, strengthened safety and security, and increased transit ridership

With all this it really makes me wonder about Portland.  While we funnel money and efforts toward things like the Streetcar and WES we’re continually losing out on efforts being spent toward LRT, BRT, increased bus service, or even what is very important now, more sustainable operating funds.  What is Portland doing?  What is TriMet doing?

In my 2 cents TriMet is smartly moving forward on the Milwaukee Light Rail Line, this will incur a massive ridership.  However TriMet is significantly ignoring service needs in the all vital downtown areas of the inner east side.  Between the east side waterfront and 60th, where the highest density of ridership occurs, the bus service is often off schedule, limping along, with meager 40ft buses when larger ones are needed and no hope for relief as there are no future plans for these routes.

The Milwaukee Plan is great, but Portland & TriMet seriously need to focus on some additional higher demand areas where density is increasing but service supply is not increasing to meet demand.  More on that later…

…for now, give DART’s website a view and check out what they’re doing.  Strangely enough, there is a lot ole’ Portland could learn from Houston these days.


  1. The problem with TriMet (and Metro, who plans everything) is that Metro is too much in bed with developers and too far removed from the public.

    TriMet/Metro is more interested in development, rather than serving people. In a sense they are right – buses don’t attract developers. But since when was our transit system supposed to be beholden to developer special interests? What about the people who already live and work here and yet can’t access transit – or the only transit available is poor quality transit? Don’t existing residents count for anything?

    Right now TriMet has, what, a 4% market share in total trips taken? That’s 96% of opportunity that we have, right now, without even counting a single new region resident, to get out of their cars and into transit. Portland is not one single city, one single downtown – but a dozen different unique, distinct communities. There are folks who simply live in Gresham, and want to travel in Gresham. Same is true for Beaverton, or Tigard, or Oregon City. Where is the transit planning for those folks? It doesn’t take a huge, expensive Streetcar line to accomplish good quality transit – Streetcar shouldn’t be the end, but a part of the journey (as just one mode – one tool in the toolbox.)

    When I look at transit systems around the nation, I can’t find an agency who is betting their entire future on light rail and/or Streetcar. I see comprehensive solutions, just as you’ve pointed out with DART – adding 700 new buses and adding 97 miles of high capacity bus corridors (with 18 miles of light rail). Portland? It’s X number of light rail miles, Y number of Streetcar miles… Bus? What’s a bus?

    Portland just expects that everyone will magically live around a MAX or Streetcar line, but when the details of that are asked for…everyone shushes up because even the planners know that it’s not possible. Folks live in what they describe as "less desirable" areas for a reason and it’s not because it’s further away from resources. They’ve chosen that affordable housing is not a priority. They can either make it a priority – or make transit TO affordable housing a priority.


  2. That’s 77 miles of enhanced and 20 miles of rapid service. Which neither are really high capacity I don’t think (at least not in the 40+ ft bus range like in Seattle). Probably going to be similar to express bus and frequent service. However it is 43 miles of additional rail service, which isn’t as many bus miles, but it is still a significant amount.

    I’d love to do a comparison too of DART vs. TriMet average load, etc. Should be interesting.


  3. Erik Halstead wrote: "Right now TriMet has, what, a 4% market share in total trips taken? That’s 96% of opportunity that we have, right now, without even counting a single new region resident, to get out of their cars and into transit."

    Don’t make the cardinal mistake of confusing 4% modal share with Tri-Met operating at just 4% capacity.

    Theoretically, anyone has the right to board a TriMet vehicle if they so choosed. What would happen if they did?

    Well, part of the consequence of being a government-run agency is that supply is legally mandated to match as close to demand as possible. So, current schedules generally closely match demand for the route.

    If all of a sudden, ridership doubled and carried 8% of total modal share, it would still be a pittance but the agency would have to worry about doubling its fleet, infrastructure and at least quadrupling its payroll (the bus would carry at least two full-time bus drivers per day).

    Plus, mode share calculations have one big flaw: they compare dissimilar statistics. TriMet carries people, roads carry vehicles. It’s not a highway engineer’s job to worry about how you get from place to place; the engineer’s job is to worry about how your vehicle gets from place to place.

    That’s a big difference.

    For instance, TriMet doesn’t have to worry about luring value-added traffic. In other words, this is traffic caused by economic activity that requires vehicular movement. Trades workers should not be expected to lug a truck’s worth of tools and supplies to go among job sites on buses or trains. Delivery cargo cannot be transferred onto public transportation.

    This is a significant portion of road throughput, yet the difference between this and commute to work is that value-added traffic, by definition, an economically productive activity. Commuting is not. Commuting is akin to "heat loss" similar to the inefficiency of transmitting power over long distances.


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