DART Riders Left Without a Ride – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
An early retirement program at Dallas Area Rapid Transit left the agency with too few bus drivers. Passengers inform NBC 5 that they have been temporarily idle in the past few weeks.
Passenger Paul Miranda relies on DART to travel from his home in Garland to his overnight job in West Dallas.
He said the last leg of the 35 bus from downtown Dallas sometimes isn’t there at all.
The alternative of taking another bus route takes him far from work.
“Either I don’t go to work or I take the other bus, which is an hour or two late,” he said.
Miranda uses the same bus route from 35 to return home in the morning.
“The mornings never have this problem, but for some reason they don’t show up on bus 35 in the afternoons,” he said.
Passenger Ollie Williams makes a long daily commute from her home in South Dallas to Garland.
She takes a bus to board a DART light rail train through the city center to the forest at Jupiter Station.
There she said the last leg of her trip on the 372 bus had become unreliable.
“As soon as I get to Forest and Jupiter, I have a problem there because sometimes this bus is on time and sometimes it is not,” said Williams. “From what I’ve been told, they have a lot of retirement and sometimes they don’t have enough drivers.”
COVID-19 reduced the number of DART drivers by 50% and crippled the agency’s budget. Kenneth Day, president of Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 1338, said offering early retirement was a popular option for operators.
“I think the timing was good. COVID didn’t help. A lot of people said it was too dangerous, it was too risky, “said Day.
DART spokesman Gordon Shattles said 369 employees had accepted the early retirement offer and the agency is currently working on hiring 53 more bus drivers.
He said DART is focused on safety and service for passengers who still rely on public transportation.
“Of course, that worries us a lot. It’s one of the reasons we’re working so closely together to increase our workforce while ensuring our buses travel safely, ”said Shattles.
The spokesman pointed out that an app for smartphones and a warning service with text or email messages are available on the DART website to warn drivers of service interruptions. He encouraged drivers with concerns to call DART Customer Service at 214-979-1111.
“That would be helpful,” said Paul Miranda.
For years, Dallas City Council members have been calling for a revision of the DART bus service to better serve passengers who rely on the buses.
The DART board hired consultants and received details of their work on Tuesday.
“Everything would have changed again by the time the study was completed,” said Day. “It’s time for a redesign, but this is the time.”
The changes aren’t slated to go into effect until January 2022, and spokesman Shattles said DART expects to operate the same number of buses, so even more drivers will be needed.
“Anyone out there looking for a job, a long-term role here at DART, we’re definitely hiring,” said Shattles.
The agency also anticipates driver numbers will return as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available.
“I hope you fix it. It’s not just me There are a lot of people who depend on the bus, ”said Paul Miranda.