Rack ’em up

July 6th, 2009

For many potential transportation cyclists, one daunting impediment is commute distance. This is especially true for North Texas, where urban sprawl and an increasingly expanding suburban landscape combine to push one’s home further from one’s place of employment. To a novice bicycle commuter, the prospect of riding eight to ten miles is a high enough hurdle to overcome. Increase that distance by two to three-fold and even a seasoned recreational cyclist would not make the attempt. Mixing modes is a viable option in these instances.

For the most part, The T has understood the potential of mass transit to serve as a supplemental mode to not only pedestrians, but cyclists as well for over a decade. They have provided bike racks on the front of their buses almost since their inception. Recently, DART has joined their neighbor to the west and now offers racks on most all of their buses, too.

Until December 2008, attempting to bring a bike on a bus was an unpredictable endeavor. A cyclist would have to survey the approaching bus for available space, ensure the operator saw they had a bike, enter through the rear doors, secure their bike, make their way forward to pay their fare and return to the rear of the bus. All the while, their ability to board was dictated by operator discretion – whether or not they felt there was enough room for accommodation.

This changed late last year of last year. It was then that the initial phase of installing front racks on all buses, except Shuttles and FLEX routes was initiated. By the end of January almost the entire fleet had been retrofitted. They are quite easy to utilize, too, and support up to two bikes. Should more cyclists be encountered on a given route, the operator has the discretion of allowing additional bike on-board according to the previous protocol.

Following the installation of racks on the majority of bus routes serving North Texans, there is little reason to use distance as an excuse. Whether one lives in a proximal suburb or a distant rural enclave, the ability to combine multiple modes has become much easier. No longer is it necessary to lug a vehicle up the steps of a bus and fight forward through the crowds to pay a fare. Through the simple task of compressing a handle and swinging an arm, a bike can be placed on the front of a bus and transported anywhere within the service area of either North Texas transit agency.

To facilitate use, DART provides detailed instructions on how to use the racks, and a helpful video.

Now that transit options for cyclists in Dallas has achieved parity with the successful program in Fort Worth, more versatility will allow a larger audience of users to consider combining mass transit and a bicycle for their daily commute. Now that another impediment has been removed and, hopefully, it is hoped more people will come to appreciate the benefits of multi-modal transportation options to improve their health, decrease stress and save money.

4 Responses to “Rack ’em up”

  1. Steve A says:

    I would welcome ANY suggestion as to how to reduce cycle commute distance or time by even as much as ZERO for a multi-mode commute from SE Colleyville to Fort Worth Alliance Airport. I’ve looked, and made requests to the transit powers that be. Nada. I occasionally included TRE when I commuted to Haltom City. Total time savings – 10 minutes, tops. It did, however, extend the battery life of my lighting in the winter (the heat was nice, too) and the AC was nice on hot days. In addition, it occasionally afforded an advantage in gaining a tailwind.

    The T is focused on downtown Fort Worth. Period. There is essentially NO useful service to the northern reaches of Fort Worth (like Alliance Airport or TM Speedway), despite the taxes those areas pay.

    Luckily, I have my bike, and that’s as much as I need. I can take TRE as a backbone for extension of range on Saturday recreational rides (it doesn’t run at all on Sundays). It might be a little better over in Dallas, but I have not found trains and buses to be well coordinated schedulewise. Checking out potential alternate bikeDFW Traffic 101 courses to the one that pooped out on me, the best I’ve found was one that I rode 10 miles to a TRE station, then took the train, then rode 10 more miles to the start of the class, arriving 10 minutes before class started. Sunday, I’d have ridden the whole distance to the class, at a time penalty of roughly 20 minutes compared to the Saturday trek. That’s not RAPID transit in my book.

    Unfortunately, my story is the norm rather than the exception. I LOVE the TRE, but it’s “toy transit” that I’m willing to pay my subsidized $45 per year to ride. I’ve just never found any Metroplex transit the least bit useful OTHER than the TRE to get anywhere I’ve needed to get. Even when I go to the Dallas main library, I find that the bus leaves a couple minutes BEFORE the TRE arriveds at Union Station. The walk from Union Station to the library is pleasant, but I wonder why DART area patrons put up with such nonsense.

  2. pmsummer says:

    One of the great benefits of the DART bike/bus racks is their ability to allow folks dressed in business-casual attire to commute by bike for fairly long (by laymen’s standards) distances without having to shower and change clothes upon arrival. That overcomes a daunting obstacle to many would-be bike commuters.

    The racks also extend the service captures basin of every DART bus stop from 1/4 mile to a minimum of one mile… a 400% increase in accessibility.

  3. Herman says:

    I debated whether approve this post, Steve. It is rambling, whiny and not really on topic. However, it does serve to illustrate a perception many people use to justify not using public transit: it is not convenient to my schedule. This is ridiculous. Everything does not revolve around you; a concept those who cry for facilities, like bike lanes, fail to grasp as well.

    Take a look at the schedules for transit agencies in other major metropolitan areas and you will find similar scheduling schemes. There are more options during rush hours and near the city center, than during off-peak hours, weekends and holidays. It is not cost effective to run buses and trains every ten, fifteen or twenty minutes when the ridership will be near or at zero. Transit agencies have to weight the value of their service against the cost to run it. If one whiny cyclist wants to take the train to a basic skills class, I doubt the transit agency is going to bend over backwards to accommodate.

    Making another cycling related analogy: Timid and novice cyclists demand the installation of bike lanes to, in part, provide them with so-called safe zones in which to ride their bikes. They do not care that doing so usually takes a regular traffic lane and fail to realize that increasing the number of cars in the remaining space will increase congestion and, subsequently, pollution, heat and tempers. The relatively few number of cyclists who would use bike lanes in North Texas will never justify the resource expenditure to install and maintain them. Yet the whiners complain and the politicians pander.

    Your examples of TMS and Alliance are equally ridiculous. The limited number of events at the former would never justify the establishment of service routes. It would be a money losing venture. It is more cost effective – both personally and through governmental subsidies and support – for you to take a cab, than to maintain bus service. The same goes for the airport. There are a couple of buses which serve DAL, because it is located within the city limits and there are already buses in the area. Alliance has no similar benefit; it is out in the middle of nowhere. As the sprawl you love so much continues to creep that direction, perhaps that will change in the future. Right now, such complaints are folly.

  4. Steve A says:

    Good point. I could have eliminated all but the first sentence.

    Alliance may be in the middle of nowhere, but if we believe its inflated claims, there are 31,355 direct and construction jobs there, with another 68,165 indirect jobs. There is not a single T bus to serve that market. I’ve heard the T DOES plan to run event busses to TMS in the near future.

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