DART Green Impact on the Rise: Pursuing Environmental Quality for the DFW Region
Oct 31, 2011 10:33AM
One of the most important elements of the "go green" movement is public transit, which benefits everyone, whether or not they use it, and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit System (DART) is our major provider of public and rapid transportation. DART is the driving force behind the DFW region’s quest for decreased carbon emissions via reduction of the number of automobile trips and the use of clean energy technology in its own vehicles and systems. By riding instead of driving, commuters not only help the environment, they also limit wear-and-tear on their cars, lower auto expenses and eliminate the stress of stop-and-go driving.
With 72 miles of rail and 55 substations, DART Rail is the largest light rail system in the United States, and new extensions to Irving, DFW Airport and Rowlett are also underway. DART also operates an extensive bus network connecting 13 cities in North Texas over a 700-mile service area, carpool/vanpool programs, and the region's high occupancy vehicle (HOV) system. DART jointly operates the 35-mile Trinity Railway Express commuter rail line with the T, in Fort Worth.
Extensions of the Blue and Orange light rail lines are proceeding at a rapid pace, with openings anticipated next summer, and a new fleet of natural gas-powered buses is on the way. Dallas-Fort Worth is now the nation's fourth-largest and fifth most-congested metro area, and recently earned the EPA's designation as a "serious non-attainment area" for its failure to meet federal clean-air standards.
The new, non-polluting rail cars are powered by electricity fed from overhead lines. Clean technology is also leading the way with the DART’s connector buses. The agency invested $25 million to cut bus emissions by 68 percent over the past decade, and up to 452 advanced technology buses will be delivered starting in 2013. Those will reduce current fleet nitrous oxide emissions—a precursor to ozone pollution—by at least 90 percent.
The key to effectiveness lies in public utilization of the rapid transit system. Through the DART Commuter Choice Initiative, employers may subsidize transit pass or vanpool expenses up to $230 a month, or $2,760 a year, per worker. The employee receives the benefit tax-free, and the employer doesn't pay payroll taxes or other costs on the amount provided —about a 10 percent savings. Alternately, employees can set aside up to $230 per month before taxes to pay for transit or vanpool fares.
Employers and employees can also split the cost of commuter benefits, and the DART Employer Corporate Pass Program comes at a substantial discount. With tools such as Google Transit, Dart Trip Planner, Where’s My Dart Stop, and other apps, DART is aggressively pursuing and engaging the tech-savvy DFW market.
For more information on DART schedules, programs and activities contact DART Customer Care at 214-749-3333 or go to Dart.org. Use the Carbon Calculator to see how much greenhouse gas emissions you can save by switching from driving alone to taking existing public transportation.