tanzoak wrote:One of the most glaring inadequacies, particularly relevant for a place like Dallas with lower frequencies, is bus-rail timed connections. US transit agencies typically set those schedules completely separately from each other under the impression that they serve different groups with little overlap. That idea becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy when you unnecessarily add 10+ minutes to travel times for trips that would use multiple modes.
Bus route times are notoriously variable, so even the best-timed connections can be messed up when a bus is held up in traffic. That's not a huge deal if there's another bus/train 5-10 minutes later, but a good chunk of DART bus routes only operate every 30-60 minutes as you mention. In my experience, buses serving rail stations are typically scheduled with enough dwell time to arrive before and leave after at least one train in one direction, but obviously that doesn't account for all directions/lines, or the time it takes to get from platform to bus bay.
Of course, DART also inexplicably sequences the LRT lines through downtown such that Blue comes after Red, and Green after Orange. This means the stations inside the Mockingbird-8th&Corinth-Bachman loop get two trains 3-5 minutes apart, then nothing for 12-15 minutes. splitting the difference would at least shorten connection times by "splitting the difference" for riders using those closer-in stations.
tanzoak wrote:Another one very relevant to Dallas (though perhaps might be considered more "planning" than ops) is designated transit lanes (particularly for streetcars!). It's strange that this is not adopted in the US considering its generally much wider streets offer the ability to provide these designated lanes while still providing ample space for private vehicles.
Unless they're dedicated transit lanes (fully separated from traffic), there's a significant enforcement requirement, plus tow trucks for keeping any shared streetcar lanes clear of parked or broken down cars. I've never seen DART or DPD patrol the bus lanes along Harry Hines, and of course cars try to turn on to the transit mall all of the time. As much as I'd like to see more dedicated transit lanes and harsher penalties for drivers who interfere with those lanes, I don't see that happening here in Texas. There'd be kooks getting interviewed on the local news with ridiculous claims that they're "banning cars," then the situation would be made worse by D Mag types saying "actually, yes, we should ban cars" and the whole proposal would get tossed out in the uproar. It's the Dallas Way...
tanzoak wrote:Another biggie is doing away with the concept of "commuter rail" and instead providing frequent all-day service with regional rail. Providing peak capacity is the big cost driver--that's what determines the number of trains (or buses) you need to buy and the number of operators you need to hire. Off-peak service, by contrast, is fairly cheap; you're just using the trains and operators you're already paying for instead of having them sit idle.
Part of the reason for off-peak schedules is to allow for maintenance, inspections, and cleaning. If you run the same service all day, you need extra spare trains or mechanics working overnight shifts to keep things running smoothly. As for the operators, they're hourly (and Union), so the operating costs are the same (or higher, if operators are working overtime to fulfill the schedule).
As far as the commuter lines, part of the O&M costs are funded by freight railroads using it when passenger trains aren't running peak service. DART is also obliged by law to keep old railroad ROW that serves existing freight customers available for freight movements, and they meet that by allowing DGNO to move trains during off-peak times.
tanzoak wrote:All-door boarding for buses and streetcars is another good one, as is providing boarding islands.
All-door boarding on trains is already a thing here, but I've never seen enough of a line to board buses to merit the additional fare evasion rear-door bus boarding would create.
tanzoak wrote:There are others, but I feel like this is a good start. Some of these concepts have slowly been making their way into the consciousnesses of a few US transit agencies over the past five years, but for the most part they are not even considered, despite being pretty standard for decades elsewhere. It's tough to make headway when most transit agencies hire from within, meaning decision-makers aren't learning from outside experiences, and it's generally difficult to hire foreign consultants even if so desired.
DART adopted the tap card concept pioneered in London and used in Chicago, the Bay area, Seattle, etc.. but it took forever to roll out and only came 4 years after rolling out a mobile app that is inferior from a ticketing & fare enforcement perspective. People get super excited about having a phone app for everything, but just about every time I see a fare inspector on the train, they're listening to someone's tall tale about how they really tried to buy a ticket on the app but their card didn't work, or they thought they activated the pass, or didn't know it wasn't already activated, their phone died, etc. The Tap card is what they should have rolled out back in 2014, and limited the app to trip planning, account management, etc.
As for hiring new talent, I think DART is hamstrung by a lot of factors common to public agencies, and hiring from within is the path of least resistance. If they went out and poached well respected ops and planning staff from other agencies, they'd catch flak for paying the high salaries needed to convince someone to leave a well-run system to come here.
There's also the issue of the board composition- the vast majority of the service area is suburban, and even though the bulk of Dallas is itself suburban sprawl, Dallas' board members have been directed to vote as if they only represent the interests of Downtown and specific (read: wealthy) close in neighborhoods. Even if DART were able to poach some operations gurus from the CTA, they'd get henpecked to death for trying to replicate the sort of bus system that serves the areas where transit dependent populations live
because that would be "putting the interests of suburbs ahead of Dallas" according to the mental giants Dallas has appointed to the board.