Dallas: New Bus Network Unveiled

The Dallas area is getting a new bus network in January 2022, the result of our three-year collaboration with the transit agency DART.  It’s the result of extensive input from the community, and the Board, about what kind of transit system they want to see.

You can see maps of the new network here.  But here’s a taste of the contrast using one part of the city.  Pay attention to the colors!  They indicate frequency, which has a huge impact on whether the service will actually be useful to you.

Existing (above) and New Network for a portion of Dallas. Maps by Jarrett Walker + Associates.

This network is not all the service that the area needs or deserves; it’s just what DART can afford.  Our work was about reallocating existing service to make it more useful to more people to go more places.  It does that: The average area resident will be able to get to 1/3 more jobs in 60 minutes, which means more access to all kinds of opportunity for all kinds of people.  This benefit happens almost everywhere (blue in this image):

… and the benefit is similar for all races, ages and incomes.

Source: DART

This DART document talks you through how the new network looks in each area.

The plan was based on the Board’s decision (not mine) to shift the focus of the service slightly toward a ridership goal and away from a coverage goal.  That would have meant service to fewer places, or further away from a few people’s homes, in order to run higher frequencies that produced expanded access to opportunity for most people.  Because the sad mathematical fact is:  Ridership arises from how useful service is to many people, not how useful it is to absolutely everyone.  When we seek to serve absolutely everyone, we’re planning for coverage, not ridership.

But in fact, even though the priorities shifted away from coverage, the final network hardly cuts coverage at all.

None of this means that everyone will be happy.  Network changes are always disruptive to some people’s lives. We make sure every decision-maker to know that before they decide to proceed.

Finally, this is not our plan. It’s DART’s plan based on their conversation with the public, and the decision of their Board.  We facilitated the design conversations and did the analysis, but we didn’t set the policy that led to the network looking as it does.  That’s not an evasion of responsibility.  It’s the key to our whole approach to these projects, which is to defer entirely to the community on questions of priorities, and to never make those decisions ourselves.

So we hope you enjoy your new network, when it arrives in January.  Meanwhile, the DART Board will soon be discussion how much more bus service they can offer the following year, if any, given their other priorities.  If you’re a local, you may want to follow that conversation.

2 Responses to Dallas: New Bus Network Unveiled

  1. Alan Robinson August 30, 2021 at 10:04 am #

    I’d like to know how the route 131 loop would be implemented.

    I’ll assume it requires 2 buses to provide the proposed 30 minute service. For trips from Illinois station to the far side of the loop, this could effectively provide 15 minute service iff the buses depart from the Illinois station at 15 minute intervals in opposite directions and one can be certain to go to the stop on the right side of the street at stops on the far end of the loop.

    However, if a customer has to guess at the direction of the next bus and finds themselves darting across the road, that could be a significant safety issue.

  2. Jarrett August 31, 2021 at 9:38 am #

    We don’t want to encourage people to dart across the road. We encourage people to use realtime info, which can be accessed by text, to make sure they know which direction of service is coming next.