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Inefficiencies In Dallas Mass Transit Affect Riders Who Depend On It Most, Report Shows

Stephanie Kuo
The DART blue-line extension runs three miles between the Ledbetter Station and the UNT Dallas campus in South Dallas.

Dallas has a ways to go in providing more accessible public transportation to people across the city who need it most.

A new report commissioned by the city explores the state of mass transit in Dallas, specifically its affordability, coverage area, frequency and accessibility.

Shima Hamidi, the director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, produced the report

She says Dallas' mass transportation has potential. But to improve, future planning will need to focus on the most dependent riders: people of color, seniors, low-income residents and people without a license or disabilities.

Interview Highlights

On the challenges people face with transportation: For example, we found that in the transit-dependent population in southern parts of Dallas about 40 percent of the population has access to 1 percent of jobs by transit. So not having access to jobs by transit means if you don't have physical access, you won't be able to get the job. If you won't be able to get the job, then the question is how are you going to survive? How are you going to live?

If you don't have access to health care facilities, if you don't have access to healthy food, if you live in food desserts, if you don't have access to high-quality education, your entire life is going to be affected. In the short term, you're dealing with how to make up the budget to survive. In the longer term, it makes poor people poorer and poorer over time, the chances of upward mobility lower in the city, and it diminishes the middle class income in the city.

On what Dallas is doing right: We already have a good light-rail system. We have the longest light-rail system in the country; 94 miles if I'm not mistaken. It's all about how to optimize and use the best out of transit system that we already have. With regards to the bus system, it's the same. We already have the system in place. We don't need to figure out how to make new investment, but it's mostly about rethinking our transit system and looking through the lens of equity when we think about investment and planning for the future of transit system in the city of Dallas.

On how Dallas compares to other cities: To get the most out of transit, most cities focus on areas that are close to transit stations — transit-oriented development — and try to maximize the efficiency and use of these areas with affordable housing, jobs and mixed-use development. So people living in these areas can walk to the station and use transit and get a much more efficient transportation experience. That's not happening in the city of Dallas.

What we see in the city of Dallas mostly around transit stations is parking, which I call them "empty spaces." Even in the high-occupancy hours of the day, you don't see many cars in these areas, and we are losing this opportunity to really invest and optimize the use of these areas close to transit stations."

Explore the full report

Hamidi's portion of the report begins on Page 12. 

Transportation Equity and Access to Opportunity for Transit in Dallas by KERANews on Scribd

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.