Dallas public transit system looks to riders to help improve fleet

February 9, 2024

Dallas’ public transit system is looking to upgrade its fleet and is seeking input from its riders to help it regrow its business.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is surveying riders at bus shelters, transit centers and on its buses asking them to take a survey to help them decide on future bus purchases for their fleet.

The 10-year system modernization plan includes improving signal systems and tracks across the rail corridor, replacing the oldest buses and light rail vehicles in the fleet, and improving passenger and operating facilities, DART said.

DART employees are also being asked to participate and provide their feedback, particularly bus operators and bus mechanics, to ensure the new vehicles are easy to operate and maintain. Employees who use DART are also being asked to provide feedback.

DART’s survey will include questions about storage access, seat comfort, noise level, overall layout and possible new features like Wi-Fi accessibility, onboard air purification systems, passenger video displays and brighter interior lighting that DART could add to its spec development.

“As we modernize our next generation bus fleet, it is crucial for us to secure the safest and most efficient buses while meeting the needs of our customers. These surveys help us better understand the customer’s journey and how our new fleet can improve that journey,” said Dee Leggett, DART chief development officer.

DART said it expects to complete the survey and begin developing new bus specs later this year. New buses could be in service by 2026, DART said.

DART ridership is down since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, DART ridership was at 70.7 million riders. That number has since dwindled.

DART was poised to match its ridership through the first two months of 2020, on par with its 2019 numbers through January and February, but it plateaued with the onset of the pandemic. Ridership for the year totaled 50 million riders.

DART’s 2023 ridership was lower still, at approximately 49 million riders, though that represented an increase from 2021 and 2022.

In large metros in California, where COVID-19 related mandates were more stringent, ridership decreased substantially over the past four years. San Francisco’s rapid area transit system had 117 million riders in 2019, but those numbers plummeted following the onset of the pandemic and still haven’t recovered. Only 40.7 riders braved the light rails and buses in 2022 and participation only improved to 47.3 million in 2023.

But ridership in other similarly sized cities has slowly increased over the last few years. Atlanta saw its ridership increase to 62.1 million in 2023 from 54.7 million in 2022.

Denver has also shown steady growth, logging 52.6 million riders in 2020, 49 million in 2021 and 61.6 million in 2022.

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Photo courtesy of DART

Miles Smith

Miles Smith has more than two decades of communications experience in the public and private sectors, including several years of covering local governments for various daily and weekly print publications. His scope of work includes handling public relations for large private-sector corporations and managing public-facing communications for local governments.

Smith has recently joined the team as a content writer for SPI’s news publications, which include Texas Government Insider, Government Contracting Pipeline and its newest digital product, Government Market News, which launched in September 2023. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in journalism.

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