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Shuttles Provide a Booster ShotDART teams up with area hospitals to improve access to healthcare
There's a new sight around Parkland Hospital – purple DART buses. No, staff and visitors don't need their eyes checked. The transit agency began its branded shuttle service connecting the Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station with the hospital's main campus on November 1.
With rail stations at or near many of the Dallas area's hospitals, DART provides a convenient and cost-effective transportation alternative to the thousands of professional staff, hourly workers, outpatients and visitors that travel to and from these medical centers at all hours.
But Green Line connections to two of the region's largest medical districts needed a shot in the arm to improve ridership, and new partnerships with the Parkland and Baylor health care systems are proving to be the remedy.
Cure for the Parkland Commute
"Ridership at the Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station got off to a slow start due to the continuing hospital construction near the Green Line station," says DART's Vice President of Planning Todd Plesko.
Because the new hospital facility is not yet complete, the short walk to the current Parkland Memorial Hospital can be something of an off-road adventure. Further, an existing, privately contracted shuttle service wasn't performing as well as it could. As a result, the rail station was underutilized.
To remedy these problems, the two institutions joined forces to create a new shuttle service. The prescribed treatment was to "wrap" six DART buses in Parkland's signature purple and logo.
Unlike the previous service, the new shuttle is exceptionally convenient, offers added curb appeal and – with Parkland picking up most of the tab – is free to the general public. Plesko predicts the route will draw many new riders.
The shuttles run every three to seven minutes from 4 a.m. until midnight, Monday through Friday. The circulator links the hospital, rail station and two sheltered stops in Parkland's employee parking area.
"This is a win for Parkland as well as for DART," says Ken Cheatle, Parkland's chief of police. "As a public institution, this partnership allows us to balance the needs of our patients and employees with the concerns of our shareholders, the taxpayers of Dallas County."
When the new facility is complete in four years or so, the clinic entrance will connect directly to the DART station, allowing direct access to the train. "The purple shuttle buses will take good care of our riders until the day we can deliver them right to the door," says Plesko.
Increasing the Baylor Dose
In a similar initiative, DART is partnering with Baylor University Medical Center to merge three separate Baylor-operated shuttle lines into the DART transit network, with service available to the general public beginning in 2012.
The medical center campus, which has a namesake station on the Green Line, is so vast that not all buildings are within easy walking distance for everyone. By linking the buildings and rail station with bus shuttles, DART and Baylor will now provide convenient access to jobs and health services from 5:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.
"This partnership with Baylor introduces new riders to DART, and provides existing riders with more helpful transportation connections," says Plesko.
The shuttles are not the first close partnership for DART and Baylor. The healthcare giant already subsidizes and aggressively markets annual transit passes to its employees and was a strong partner in the Green Line opening.
"We have a large participation in the DART pass program. With this partnership, we will continue to work together to grow the program at all of the various campuses as DART expands their services," says Andy Troth, director of Transportation Services for Baylor Health Care System.
"This partnership with Baylor introduces new riders to DART and provides existing riders with more helpful transportation connections."
- Todd Plesko, DART Vice President of Planning
Turn for the Better
From the rail system's beginning, DART has used bus shuttle service to provide the final link to nearby destinations. Today, shuttles connect DART Rail to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Galatyn Park, Medical City, Southern Methodist University, NorthPark Center, Texas Instruments, The University of Texas at Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
By working with communities and businesses, DART enhances the commuter, resident and visitor accessibility of those communities while increasing the vitality of the rail system. It's a win-win proposition that will continue to expand in the future.
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