“Significantly expanding beyond the borders of the 13 service-area cities will increase rider access over a wider area, help sustain regional growth, enhance the economy, and improve the quality of life through reduced congestion, pollution and urban sprawl,” said Walt Humann, the businessman known as the “father of DART,” who led the charge for the agency’s creation 30 years ago.
In March, the DART Board of Directors amended its policy on contracting for transit service outside its current service area. The new policy gives cities a gradual way to join the transit authority while being fair to residents of the 13 cities that have contributed the 1-cent sales tax since 1984.
Within the first three years, the municipality must pay DART to prepare a long-term transit system plan and a supporting financial plan. And within four years, the city must call an election so residents can vote whether to join the DART Service Area and dedicate sales tax revenue to fund transit service.
“In 1983, some people weren’t ready for public transportation, didn’t understand it or thought the need was too far out,” Thomas said. “A lot has changed in the last 30 years and now DART is looking at how to expand in a fair and equitable manner.”
DART, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and other parties also are searching for innovative financing to build commuter rail along the largely DART-owned Cotton Belt Corridor decades ahead of schedule.