One out of 20 North Texas households doesn’t have access to a car or truck, and many of them can’t count on mass transit either. That fact from a recent Dallas Morning News article came as a surprise to me. I knew our mass transit system was moving from very bad to almost adequate, but I really didn’t know that 115,000 households in the North Texas area did not own or have access to a vehicle. Here are excerpts from the article:
Despite spending billions on mass transit over the years, the Dallas-area ranks next-to-last out of America’s 100 largest metro areas when it comes to making transit accessible to people who have no vehicles. Only the Atlanta area leaves more no-vehicle households without transit coverage.
“It’s a wake-up call for how many of these folks live without a vehicle in a place where the commuting patterns are obviously very, very tilted toward driving,” said Adie Tomer, senior research analyst at Brookings and co-author of the report. More than 33,000 no-vehicle households in North Texas get by without access to transit either, the report said.
That’s not a result of bad planning by transit agencies, just proof that too few communities have signed on to help build the system, argued Dallas Area Rapid Transit vice president Todd Plesko. Within DART’s 13-city service area, the percentage of households with no vehicles that are near transit stops is in the high 90s, he said.
For the purpose of the study, having access to transit was defined as living within three-quarters of a mile of the nearest stop or station.
Ninety-one percent of no-vehicle households in the area’s three largest cities — Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington — had access to transit, a much smaller percentage than such cities as Los Angeles, Seattle, and even Miami, where nearly every no-car household has access to transit.
And while Arlington, still famous for being among the largest cities in America without transit, accounts for more than 4,000 of those households, others are in Fort Worth and Dallas.
Dallas’ mates at the bottom of the rankings share many of the same characteristics, Tomer noted. Of the five areas that rank worst, four — Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix — are sprawling Sun Belt cities where suburbs have grown quickly. The more spread-out things become, he said, the harder it is to link them with bus or rail service.
“As we continue to sprawl outward, both in terms of housing and jobs, things are getting farther and farther apart from each other,” Tomer said. “Transit is just at a structural disadvantage in that scenario. That’s why you see Atlanta and Houston and Dallas at the lower end of the rankings.”
Despite heavy spending on rail and buses, especially in Dallas, “it’s been hard to keep pace and catch up,” he said.