A story in the The Dallas Morning News last August highlighted what many commuters without cars manage to do to get to work. In spite of the inconvenience, a Mrs. Burch managed 4 hours a day travel time in addition to her 8-hour job. Complicated, time-consuming transit routes + walking for 2 hours each way took 1/6 of her 24 hours on work days.
The story got a lot of attention, and Dallas City Council has responded. To try to improve the efficiency and service of mass transit in its jurisdiction, the Dallas City Council is going where few transit decisionmakers tread — it’s replacing half of its appointees to the transit board with people who actually use transit for much of their transport.
Do those who rely on cars have a grasp of the most immediate issues to tackle in public transit planning? Do they have the same sense as transit users how it is most effective to spend cash for regular transit service and improvements?
“The newcomers named on Wednesday are formidable choices, based on their credentials and interviews earlier this month. All of them are frequent Dallas Area Rapid Transit users, and each showed an understanding of the agency as well as the shortcomings that consistently bedevil Dallas residents who must depend 24-7 on the system,” The Dallas News reports. The idea of combining technical/academic expertise with long-time experiential ridership makes a wealth of sense, and it seems the new board members have been able to show that from the start.
The Dallas News notes that some of these riders-turned-board members are already coming in with a user-based focus. “For instance, new member Catherine Cuellar offered ideas in her interview about how DART could improve the tools available for riders to track buses. She also spoke for many when she described the frustration when mostly empty vehicles leave stops ahead of schedule.”
Brandon Formby at the Texas Tribune reports that efficiency is the focus. Improving bus service in the central city is key. Rail expansions are planned as well, but they are not seen as the immediate, most critical issue.
Considering this story, one has to wonder how many transit boards around the country are not full of transit users. Would GM and Ford want people on their board who don’t drive cars? Presumably not.
Image: Radical Bender via Wikimedia Commons
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