Sunday, January 18, 2009


A combination business/personal trip to Dallas gave me an opportunity to sample yet another urban public transportation system – in this case, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system.

Like Seattle’s King County Metro, DART has an automated scheduler on its website. You type in where you want to go and from where, and when you want to leave or arrive. The scheduler then gives you three trip options.

It also gives you a lot of information on the infrastructure that’ll get you from your starting point to your destination. In my case, it was from DFW to downtown Dallas, and it involved coordinating airport transportation with the Trinity Railway Express with DART.

It worked perfectly.

I went to the blue and yellow sign at my terminal and waited for the matching colors bus I’d seen on the website. I was on board in less than 10 minutes.

The blue and yellow is a CNG-powered bus similar to our Thomas/Dennis 400 series. I couldn’t find the name of the manufacturer on the buses, so I asked the driver. He said it was Champion out of California. He also said he preferred the Gilligs they replaced with the Champions a few years back. A second driver told me the same thing.

My terminal bus took me to a central station for all five terminals south of the airport. I caught another shuttle (another blue and yellow Champion) to Centerport Station where the train arrived on schedule. I bought a $5.00 pass which got me to downtown Dallas, plus free all-day rides on any DART bus or light rail.

The train car was roomy and the seats were comfortable. My car was maybe a quarter full. We rocked gently along, and “City Of New Orleans” started playing in my head as I looked out my big window at the passing countryside and the skyline coming into view.

One arresting part of the ride took me right by Dealey Plaza – Texas Schoolbook Depository, grassy knoll and all. My family lived in Dallas when Kennedy was assassinated. I was a junior in high school, and while those days of yore feel long ago and far away, a virulence in the culture in those days seems to have re-emerged with this election cycle. I’m still feeling surprised and a little chilled by that train window apparition.

I got off the train at the last stop, Union Station. I walked across some light rail tracks and waited for the northbound blue line – which arrived right on schedule.

Perhaps it was the novelty, but the light rail felt more efficient, more precise, than a bus. The doors opened, and I had the sense there was a certain amount of time I had to get on before the doors closed and stayed closed and inexorably programmed movement began. And when we did move, it was a whole lot smoother than a bus – starts, stops, and the ride in between.

Another thing I noticed: The streets we moved down were reserved exclusively for rail traffic. I’d read about some cities’ problems with automobiles and light rail sharing the streets. Dallas doesn’t have that problem.

Inside, the car was more like a bus: rows of double-seats on either side of the car. Like Union Station, it was crowded, but everyone had a seat. There was a remarkably heterogeneous mix of races and genders, ages and classes. Pretty much a picture of what the ideal ridership for urban public transportation looks like. In Dallas, everyone was on board.

A few stops later, I disembarked and walked about a hundred yards to my mother’s apartment building. I’d gotten from DFW to my mother’s in less than two hours without having to wait in line at the car rental, negotiate the traffic, find my mother’s apartment, then find a place to park. All this for $5.00.

So did I get a bus story?

I did. Look for it next week.


Anonymous New Flyer DE40LFR said...

What a coincidence! Just like our 400-series buses, DFW Airport's Champion CNG buses are disliked by drivers.

Luckily though ABQ RIDE will soon replace most of the 400-series Thomas/Dennis CNG buses with the new 800-series New Flyer DE40LFR buses. I won't be sad to see the 400-series gone.

On the ABQ Bus Riders forums at Duke City Fix, I posted a thread about several rumors that I heard that the 400-series will be sold to Santa Fe Trails in Santa Fe. John Perry did say that there was a 400-series bus (in ABQ RIDE colors) running the Downtown Santa Fe shuttle loop on the first day of Rail Runner service.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

I've been following your threads on this and several other items and issues in the DukeCityFix forum.

I'm amused by the possibility that some future day trip to Santa Fe might mean a reunion with my old, not-exactly-trusty 400 bus.

9:05 PM  

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