DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Veronica Simmons lives and works downtown, so she does a lot of walking.
But for the past five years, she’s enjoyed taking the D-Link buses, which she and other residents and visitors have been able to take — free of charge — to a variety of popular spots around downtown, such as the Farmers Market, Klyde Warren Park, and Dealey Plaza. “I think it’s needed.”
But in late March, the service will likely come to a halt which disappoints Simmons because she says it’s hard to get around certain parts of downtown.
“For the lower part of downtown which is really developing, the Farmers Market area. There’s a new movie theater on Lamar, there’s another movie theater on Victory, there’s really not an easy way to get around to those things.”
While the buses are free to riders, they cost DART, the city of Dallas, and Downtown Dallas Incorporated $1 million to operate a year.
But the city doesn’t want to spend the money because the bright pink and yellow buses have attracted far fewer riders than projected: 283 per weekday compared to the the goal of 450 per weekday.
Simmons believes many people don’t know about it.
“I think we could have done more to raise awareness of the service.”
Since the buses began operating in November, 2013, planners say they spent time and money spreading the word about D-Link.
The project manager at DART, Hans-Michael Ruthe says riders are on the buses during special events, happy hour and weekend days.
“But consistently over time, ridership has trended down. So the indication based on the numbers that we’re spending vs. the numbers we’re boarding is that the demand is not there. At least not for the style of service.”
Downtown Dallas Inc. CEO Kourtny Garrett says while the ridership isn’t meeting goals, there is still a need for the service.
Garrett says it needs to be more effective and efficient and rider-friendly.
She hopes an alternative will be in place or in the works by the time the D-Link will likely end in late March.
D-Link stops 19 places around downtown, including near the popular Perot Museum.
A statement released by the Museum said in part, “While the D-Link bus does not have direct service to the Perot Museum, we support all resources that provide opportunities to connect our community and increase accessibility for visitors, residents and employees to Downtown, Uptown, the Arts District and surrounding areas.”
Planners for DART and Downtown Dallas Inc. are now considering an app-based, on-demand service for a fee or the service could be subsidized.
The DART Board will hold a public hearing on D-Link Tuesday evening January 22 and may vote that night or at a later date to end the service and come up with an alternative.
Whatever it may be, Veronica Simmons hopes residents become aware of it. “We need to be involved in our community.”