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Why DART Isn't Worried About Low Gas Prices

Bill Zeeble

Falling gasoline prices have not affected bus service operations in Dallas and Fort Worth. The T and DART buses use compressed natural gas (CNG). But low prices have been bad news for light rail service in the past. Not so this time around.

Morgan Lyons, vice president of communications for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, explains.

From Morgan Lyons’s interview:

How gas prices have typically affected light rail ridership: Generally where we see the impact is when gasoline prices go up, our ridership goes up. The other thing that continues to affect ridership is employment. When people are working, they’re riding. Interestingly enough, this time, as gasoline prices have gone down, our ridership has continued to grow.

Why? Employment is the big factor here. We’ve been in a recovery for a year or more, but it’s been kind of a jobless recovery. We’re starting to see people take jobs and get back in the workforce. As the economy continues to improve, and they’re using transit to get to work. Part of the reason is they see the convenience of riding it and how transit is able change their community and change their neighborhood and enhance the growth within. Now people are able to make live, work, entertainment choices and live within an area and have great access to choices. Substantial companies are locating close to transit because they want to make sure their employees can get to work, and employees are looking at that as a benefit – just being able to do something with the time other than just glare at the driver next to them.

Who's using DART light rail: Most of our customers are what the industry call choice customers or basically people with cars who make a choice to use transit instead of a personal auto. And so convenience comes in many forms: Is it close to where I live? It needs to be typically within a quarter mile, and most jobs within the DART service area are within a quarter mile of a DART facility, so we think that’s important.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.