A study recently presented to members of the City of Dallas Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee highlights several pitfalls and inefficiencies in the services offered by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Conducted by the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) Institute of Urban Studies, the analysis sheds light on the intimate link between transportation and issues of poverty, inequality, and upward mobility.
UTA’s Dr. Shima Hamidi, accompanied by City of Dallas Chief of Resilience Theresa O’Donnell, discussed how gentrification, disparate development, and other geographic factors dampen much-needed access to reliable transit options. Namely, the simultaneous concentration of low-income residents in Dallas’s southern reaches and the creation of low-wage jobs in the city’s northern areas is contributing heavily to gaps in service, and as a result, perpetuating issues of poverty and income disparity. Here are several of the study’s primary takeaways:
• Transportation is unaffordable to 97.44% of Dallas’s population
• The average Dallas household spends approximately 19% of its income on transportation costs, greatly exceeding the generally-accepted 15% threshold. A Dallas household spends anywhere between 14 and 26 percent of its income on transportation
• With regards to transportation, over 73% of Dallas’s Section 8 housing properties are unaffordable
• Approximately one-third of Dallas residents lack walking access to a transit station
• In terms of bus passenger miles per capita, DART ranks 23 out of 29 for medium-and-large-sized transit agencies
Ultimately, the study suggests that DART fails to effectively, reliably, and efficiently move residents from place to place, particularly from home to work and vice versa, as only 18 to 22 percent of the population has access to high frequency service during peak hours. In order to address these shortcomings, researchers suggest steps to create a more holistic, accessible, and interconnected system: implement new first-and-last-mile solutions, and increase the use of innovative shared mobility options, among others.
Improving transportation—creating a more reliable and seamless link between a resident’s home and place of work—will prove indispensable in tackling Dallas’s broader issues of poverty and quality of life. An inequitable, disintegrated, malfunctioning transit system will only limit the city’s potential growth and exacerbate already serious problems of poverty.