Ridership on public transportation systems across the country has fallen in recent years and DFW is no exception. With this trend in view, transit authorities in DFW will survey their riders in an effort to gauge demand and improve service. Some area riders of public transit in Dallas will be surveyed beginning this week and continuing over the next few months.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), and Trinity Metro in Fort Worth are conducting the surveys, in partnership with the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).
The passenger surveys will be conducted in phases, starting with DART and Trinity Railway Express passengers. That process will take about 3 months, according to Kathleen Yu, the principal transportation system modeler with NCTCOG.
Passengers using DCTA and Trinity Metro will be surveyed for about 2 ½ months in the fall.
Some of the surveys are taken on cards and some are conducted orally, but all will be kept confidential.
The results will be compiled and released in a report about six months after the surveys are completed.
“The data will be used by transit planners as they consider any changes or improvements to their transit systems,” Yu explained.
The results are also used when applying for Federal Transit Administration grant programs.
However, when asked if the agencies would attempt to survey those who don’t ride mass transit and their reasons for not using the systems, Yu said that only existing riders would be included in the surveys.
DART reports that it provided 62.5 million passenger trips in 2018, with almost half of those being on buses. That’s down from the 65.7 million ridership reported in 2017.
The Trinity Rail Express commuter rail between Dallas and Fort Worth had 1.8 million passenger trips in 2019. This was a 10.8 percent decrease from 2018.
In 2019, ridership for Trinity Metro in Fort Worth was about 5 million. This was a 3.6 percent decrease from 2018.
Additionally, the new TEXRail has significantly underperformed expectations in its first year of operations.
Denton County (DCTA) had about 2.5 million riders in 2019, down from over 2.7 million in 2018.
Despite the decreases in riders, both DART and Trinity Metro transit authorities increased their budgets in Fiscal Year 2020. DCTA lowered its budget slightly.
DART has a total budget (operating and capital) for FY2020 of over $1.3 billion, up 31 percent from 2019.
Trinity Metro has an operating budget of $113.9 million, an increase of 2 percent based on sales tax revenue increases, not based on an increase in ridership.
DCTA’s operating budget of $44.6 million in 2020 is about $400,000 lower than the previous year.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.