HONOREE SIZE & INDUSTRY: Small – Transportation
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) moves people around Dallas, Texas, and 12 surrounding cities with modern public transit services and customer facilities tailored to make their customers’ trip fast, comfortable, and economical. DART’s extensive network of DART Light Rail, Trinity Railway Express commuter rail, bus routes, on-demand GoLink Service, and paratransit services moves more than 240,000 passengers per day across DART’s 700-square-mile service area. DART serves more than 70 million people every year, providing critical transit services for some and clean transit alternatives for others. Commuters pocket more than $4,000 per year riding DART. DART provides travel services that help employees improve their attendance rate and their overall productivity rate. Public transportation is eco-friendly by nature. Buses, trains, streetcars, and vanpools take single-occupancy vehicles off congested roadways. Fewer vehicles and faster commutes lower the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollution. While improving mobility is DART’s most impactful contribution to the environment, they are committed to sustainable practices in many areas of their operations.
SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS STRATEGY
Since forming as a public transit agency in 1983, DART has a long history of sustainable planning and project development, as well as operations and maintenance practices. DART’s sustainability commitment was memorialized in December 2011 when they became a signatory to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Sustainability Program.
DART’s sustainability framework is organized around three pillars – “our community, our planet, and our agency”. From developing innovative mobility solutions and integrated applications that make it easier for customers to get to where they need to go, to embracing renewable energy, and continuing to transition to clean fuels that reduce energy consumption while protecting the environment, DART is making a difference.
DART continues to expand and evolve their system to sustain the North Texas region into the future through their Bus Network Redesign effort (planning underway), the Silver Line regional rail project (opening 2023), Red and Blue Line platform extensions (phased opening through 2022), and a second light rail alignment in downtown Dallas (preliminary design underway) – all intended to enhance mobility, accessibility, and capacity while supporting more efficient, transit-oriented land use patterns.
Both DART’s sustainability plan and strategic priorities, outlined below, acknowledge the social purpose and holistic value that DART delivers to employees and communities in their service area. These commonalities better allow sustainability and conservation to be wired into DART as a strategy versus managed as a stand-alone program that competes with other organizational priorities. DART’s vision and mission statement were updated in Spring 2020 to better reflect the evolving nature of public transit and their commitment to communities they serve.
DART’s Board Strategic Priorities include:
While all DART employees have a role in sustainability, the DART Procurement and DART Engineering departments are vital to DART’s success. DART’s Procurement established the Innovation Portal that encourages unsolicited proposals that can lead to more sustainable and efficient operations for DART. They manage and proactively advance energy contracts with sustainability goals in mind. The Procurement Department also has their own sustainability policy that guides their procurement activities to benefit the entire agency. DART Engineering is responsible for exploring and recommending changes to make use of available technology to limit the amount of environmental pollutants for the agency under DART’s Clean Fleet Policy. They took the lead in DART’s conversion to a compressed natural gas (CNG) bus fleet, supported the grant to obtain seven electric buses, established a Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) fund which generates DART revenue credits, and actively participate in industry exploration of new technology such as the utilization of Drone/LiDAR technologies and automated vehicles.
DART and their employees are supporting North Texas communities during the pandemic:
Meals for North Texas Students: DART bus operators made sure that Dallas Independent School District (DISD) and Garland Independent School District (GISD) students continued to receive the meals they needed throughout the summer. Knowing the importance of keeping children fed and connected with school, DART partnered with DISD and GISD to deliver weekly meals for students. Using DART buses for meal delivery helped each district reach families that utilize state-sponsored school lunches, making it more practical for families that are transit-dependent and helping families that are working. Each bus delivered 1,500 meals, enough for 100 families per bus, 15 meals per student, for a total of 4,500 meals weekly for distribution by DISD employees.
Senior Care Packages: In April 2020, DART partnered with the City of Dallas to assist in delivering care packages to senior residents who participate in the Dallas Park and Recreation Active Senior Adult Program. With 40 recreation centers in Dallas that offer senior programs, as well as three dedicated senior centers, the program is free for individuals 60 and over in the City of Dallas. DART, working with MV Transportation and MyCity Transportation, utilized six to eight vehicles to supply approximately 150 to 200 care packages per day, totaling 850 deliveries during the week of April 6-10.
Procurement and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Since early March 2020, the Procurement Department has been focused on protecting the safety of their employees and riders, while continuing to perform other procurement activities, without disruption. Procurement staff immediately mobilized and invested more than 600 hours in the quarter, establishing a global emergency preparedness supply chain and purchasing $8.6 million in PPE and services. Procurement staff also assisted other transit authorities and communities in obtaining PPE.
Safe Place/Human Trafficking: DART is proud to be a part of the Safe Place program, a national non-profit organization that builds community safety nets for young people in crisis. This partnership represents an important step forward in protecting DFW’s youth – and another way DART can combat human trafficking. When young people in crisis need help, they simply approach any uniformed DART employee and let them know they need a Safe Place. DART employees then work in coordination with QuikTrip and Jonathan’s Place staff to transport the child to safety.
DART has a focus on renewable energy, as they continue to transition to cleaner, no or low emission fleets. Currently, 30% of DART’s electricity is from renewable sources, and DART is seeking to increase this over time.
Renewables are the fastest growing segment of the energy industry thanks to technology improvements and EPA policy changes. DART consumes 1.2 MMBTUs of Natural Gas annually in their compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.
DART’s fleet highlights:
In late 2017, DART received an unsolicited proposal from the Operator and Maintainer of their 4 CNG Fueling Stations through the DART Procurement Innovation Portal – through this portal DART seeks unsolicited proposals that contribute new and innovative ideas consistent with their mission. In 2018, DART released a request for proposals for a revenue-generating contract for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). DART received four proposals and awarded a 5-year contract with one 2-year option to Element Markets Renewable Energy, LLC. Every month DART receives 4.5% of the Renewable Identification Number (RINs) revenue generated. Based on today’s market value of D3 RINs, DART stands to generate millions of dollars over the contract term. The period of performance began on January 1, 2019 and in March of 2019, DART received its first check. DART’s revenue in 2019 was $723,266.43.
Many municipalities and corporations are implementing sustainability strategies, and the majority include the use of alternative fuels such as electric vehicles (EVs). RNG has up to 90.7% less greenhouse gas emissions and 85.9% less nitrogen oxides (NOx) than electricity as reported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. RNG also produces zero particulate matter.
DART is in the process of procuring an Energy Savings Performance contract to undertake a review of facilities, technology, and systems to improve productivity and reduce energy consumption. Energy Savings Performance Contracts has a reasonable potential to achieve up to $1M of annual energy costs savings through LED lighting conversions, HVAC Controls upgrades, and amongst others, solar panels installation at DART facilities and various infrastructure locations.
These actions reflect DART’s dedication to playing a significant role across the North Texas region in reducing GHG emissions by providing clean, alternative transportation options that help decrease the number of cars on the roads. Future reductions by DART will be largely reliant on continuing to investigate the electrification of their vehicle fleet, increasing renewable energy sources and storage, and improving electricity, water, and other facility fixtures.
DART’s Maintenance Department has gone green as well, using only the lowest-impact chemicals for cleaning parts and other tasks. They recycle up to 22,000 gallons of antifreeze per year, and recycle all plastic jugs, aluminum cans, and paper.
Small Business Academy
DART’s Diversity and Procurement departments created a Small Business Academy program several years ago to provide more educational opportunities for the small business community. The program is directly tied to DART’s sustainability goal of creating opportunities for Texas’ diverse business community by providing education, outreach, and ultimately, awarding contracts. The academy is hosted quarterly and features a two-day training program focused on educating the minority business community on DART’s procurement process and marketing tools to help them be successful. Nearly 50 small business owners participated in the 2019 Academy, the largest class in the history of the program.
Urban Garden at Hatcher Station
DART provided 16,000 square feet of land and the seed money to get the Hatcher Garden and Training Farm started, this included clearing the land and fencing in the property. The DART proposal was one of the three projects selected for funding through the newly created Blue Green Grey Initiative from the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Get Healthy Dallas, a 501c3, built and maintains the garden through a beautification license agreement. They are doing box gardens and row planting in order to provide access to the produce and fresh food to communities in the southern sector of Dallas that lack these resources. Read more about this project in this Dallas Morning News article.
BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
The North Texas region is constantly growing and evolving and DART is evolving, too – they are transforming from a bus and rail company to a true Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) provider, by galvanizing traditional DART services with newer forms of transportation. Coupled with their national award-winning GoPass app, their customers now have access to ride-sharing services, bikes and scooters, shared vehicles, and other microtransit opportunities like DART’s GoLink service. As DART moves into MaaS, their mission stays the same – to provide a sustainable system of innovative, affordable, reliable, and safe mobility options for their riders that enhances the quality of life and stimulates economic development, ultimately in a quest to reduce single-occupancy vehicles in the region.
From a conservation and sustainability standpoint, this translates directly into providing services to meet their customer’s needs and collaborating with their communities on initiatives that encourage people to live a car-free lifestyle. In the future, DART has an opportunity to transition facilities from more traditional multi-modal hubs into shared-use mobility hubs to fully embrace the capabilities of the GoPass app by seamlessly integrating different modes of transportation, multi-modal supportive infrastructure, technology, and place-making strategies to create accessible, walkable livable communities.
The integration of land use around transit becomes even more important to direct economic growth and create walkable communities, all while enhancing access and ridership. Many DART facilities are beginning a phased transition to drought-resistant xeriscape improvements and LED lighting to reduce water and energy use. As of Fall 2018, approximately 70% of DART’s passenger shelters have solar-powered lights. There are also 100 freestanding solar-powered LED bus stop lights throughout the system to improve security for riders and make it easier for bus operators to see waiting passengers. Additionally, at the Kiest and VA Medical Center stations, for example, DART has installed yucca, sage, and agave plants in beds of decomposed granite.
The latest study on the economic benefits of DART demonstrates the following benefits and highlights from 2016-2018:
Some studies have shown that land-use efficiency benefits of transit are often greater than the benefits generated directly by transit ridership as it can reduce vehicles miles of travel of non-transit riders by helping to create communities where trip distances are shorter, trip chaining is more common, private vehicle ownership is lower, and walking and cycling are more attractive options.
Technological advances and social trends will continue to influence and change travel behavior. While preparing for near-term conditions with specific improvements and services is important, planning for long-term conditions that are less clear, or even unknown, requires that DART continue to innovate and test concepts. DART will be flexible and forward-looking with policy updates and targeted pilot programs to test emerging technology and adjust over time to changed conditions. This approach will not only help DART navigate the future but can help to ensure that the agency stays relevant for future generations.
Texas, specifically North Texas, is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country for families and individuals, but also for progressive and innovative companies. By 2029, the region will gain another 1.4 M people. From DART’s perspective, innovative mobility solutions are a must, and companies based in North Texas like Toyota, Uber, and of course, DART are primed for innovative mobility solutions and work as partners. Also, Texas and the DFW region are rooted in philanthropy which matches DART’s commitment to the community.
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