REIMAGINING BUS TRANSIT
The fleet replacement began in late 2012 with the delivery of 123 smaller, 26-foot ARBOC buses in use on a variety of routes including Flex and On-Call. In January 2013, the first of 459 larger buses - a mix of 31-foot and 40-foot vehicles - arrived from NABI, part of a three-year contract valued at more than $210 million.
The new buses boast features that operators and customers now expect: spacious interior, comfortable seating, efficient air conditioning, security cameras, low-floor boarding, large LED destination signs and the like. In addition, upgrades like infotransit screens and purified air provide a great ride for DART's largest category of customers.
New Express Buses ComingCustomers who ride DART's Express bus routes soon will receive a travel upgrade. The agency is exercising an option in its contract with NABI and is purchasing 46 new buses, which are scheduled to arrive in FY 2016.
As with the rest of the fleet, the vehicles used as Express buses are near retirement age. Although light rail has replaced several routes in the past five years, 15 routes remain.
Express bus routes originate at a suburban or intracity bus transit center or park-and-ride, and operate without stops outside the Uptown/Downtown area. The typical patron is a commuter traveling to and from part of the service area without nearby rail access.
The new buses will incorporate most of the key design features of the other NABI buses. But these CNG-fueled vehicles will uniquely feature high-back reclining seats and overhead parcel racks to accommodate Express riders who are on the bus for longer travel times.
D-Link Connects Downtown and Oak CliffSince November 2013, bold magenta-and-yellow D-Link (DART Route 722) buses have circulated downtown Dallas and neighboring districts, connecting major tourist attractions, dining destinations and employment centers as well as the DART Rail System. These branded buses are providing improved access to the urban neighborhoods that have become entertainment destinations over the last decade.
The two-year pilot project is funded by DART, the city of Dallas and Downtown Dallas, Inc. To encourage ridership, project partners are offering the D-Link trips for free. The route provides better connections between downtown and the Bishop Arts District and Jefferson Avenue areas of Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood, which is home to various restaurants, shops, theaters and residential communities. Once the Dallas Streetcar between Union Station and North Oak Cliff opens later this year (see Page 2), the D-Link route may be modified.
During the first year, ridership averaged 500 people daily during the colder winter months and often exceeded 1,000 customers daily during the summer.
Love Link Reaches Dallas Love FieldBuses transporting travelers between Dallas Love Field and DART's Inwood/Love Field Station have a new name and look as of December 2014. Route 524 now is branded the "Love Link" and the vehicles are easily recognizable, wrapped in a design that combines the airport's signature red and DART yellow.
Interest in DART service at Dallas Love Field was renewed with both the opening of DFW Airport Station and the expiration of the Wright Amendment, a federal law that restricted airlines operating from Love Field to flying nonstop only within Texas and the contiguous states. Now that carriers are allowed to fly nonstop to any U.S. destination, airport officials predict that Love Field travel will increase significantly. DART has offered bus service between light rail and Love Field since the final section of the Green Line opened in December 2010.
CNG Saves Money, EnvironmentDART is one of many U.S. transit agencies transitioning their fleets to natural gas. Compared with the alternatives, CNG offered both a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel cost savings. Through a deal with the Texas General Land Office, the agency secured a fixed-price contract that locked in natural gas costs through 2020 and took advantage of favorable market conditions.
"Switching our bus fleet to compressed natural gas was a carefully weighed decision. But in the end, it was a no-brainer: Go with the fuel source that will promote clean air while saving taxpayers at least $120 million in fuel costs over the next 10 years," said DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas.
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