DART’s fare structure was met with a mixture of corporate and community wide concern as transit agency officials hosted a public hearing on Tuesday, July 27, at their downtown Dallas offices.
The fare increase is part of DART’s 20-Year Financial Plan, which assumes an increase to the average fare about every five years. Some of the major changes include fare capping for daily and monthly passes, contactless (smartphone app) payment cards, replacement of the 2-hour passes with AM/PM passes, and removal of trade school eligibility.
The following is brief list of some of the proposed changes:
Starting in November of this year, DART will install fare boxes on all of their buses to issue a new kind of ticket replacing the two-hour day pass tickets with an AM/PM pass as well as a Mid-Day pass. Mid-Day passes allow unlimited travel between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Also in November of 2017, DART will work with roughly 1,000 retail locations in the area and allow customers to use cash to purchase a GOPass for their smartphones from these locations.
On GoPasses, DART will implement fare capping beginning in May of 2018. That means if a customer buys $5 day passes more than 16 times throughout a month, the system will keep track of them. If a customer buys $80 worth of $5 day passes, the customer will receive a monthly local pass and will no longer need to pay for any fares for the rest of the month.
The fare structure amendment will take place in a series of steps, beginning in November of 2017. More changes will take place in January, May, and August of 2018.
DART officials began holding pre-public hearing community meetings in May at a number of city halls as well as civic and recreation centers to begin gaging the community’s response to the fare structure proposal.
According to Joe Costello, Senior Vice President of DART finance, most of the price changes will become effective in 2018 but many of the new features will be available earlier.
DART has received 196 written comments on the fare restructure. The total includes comments received through the DART website, and online social media. On Tuesday evening, 20 additional comments by community members were added to the public record.
After hearing all of the public comments and reviewing previously received comments, DART officials are implementing changes to their initial proposal.
“From customer comments, we discovered a circumstance where a rider might board shortly before noon, buy an AM pass, and then that pass would only be good for a short time,” Costello said.
“Monday through Friday the solution for that rider would be to buy a mid-day pass, but on weekends we don’t have the mid-day pass currently, so we’re changing our proposal to extend the availability of the midday pass to the full week.”
Also changed from the initial proposal are busy days such as holidays and big game days where customers preferred to buy day passes rather than AM/PM passes.
Baylor Scott and White, one of a number of corporations that purchases DART’s corporate local passes, builds the cost of purchasing local DART passes for their employees into their yearly budget and asked officials for more notice for the fare increase.
“Our budget starts July every year,” said Shawn Orrange, an assistant director at Baylor Scott and White. “Getting notice for this now, our budget’s already been set.”
Regina Montoya, chair of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawling’s Task Force on Poverty, linked the cost of transportation as a critical factor in individuals escaping poverty.
“We would urge you to consider discounted rates for low-income riders,” Montoya said. “A $5 weekly increase may not seem like a lot to some people, but it is to someone who is barely surviving.”
One attendee at the hearing had lost her job that same day after having sat at her bus stop for an hour and 45 minutes before learning her bus had been in a wreck and another had not been sent.
“The only people this is going to help are the people that are going to come to the conventions and the football games,” she said. “It doesn’t help the residents and the people in Dallas. It does not get us where we need to be.”
The DART board is expected to vote on a new fare structure by August 2017.