Letter to the Editor: DART should be more attentive to riders’ needs

I recently attended a Delaware Transit Corp. meeting in Dover. This meeting was to provide input and comments on proposed changes to DART Statewide Bus Services that will become effective Dec. 15. All three counties will be affected but my main focus was Kent County where I live.

Route 106, which services Dover Air Force Base to Delaware Technical Community College is most likely being discontinued, but other DART buses will still service certain locations on that route. However, for the people that currently take Route 106, what used to be a 15-minute ride for some, could now take approximately 90 minutes or longer.

The increased time is due to having to take connecting buses to locations that used to be a straight run. In addition, some riders may have a farther walk to catch a connecting bus.

Cheryl Precourt

When it was time for public comments, I would say that based on comments made, most of the people in the room are dependent on the DART bus as their only means of transportation. Some of the issues discussed: The scheduled times were not convenient and most routes have no Saturday or Sunday times. There are people who depend on the bus to get to and from places of education and work. They may find a bus that runs to get them there, but no bus that is available to take them home.

Some of the new routes require extended walking to get to a bus stop. This makes it difficult for people who may have trouble walking long distances but do not qualify for paratransit services. Some riders stated that several stops have no protection from the rain or heat. Safety was also an issue. Waiting after dark for a connecting bus was a concern. Some stated that there have been fights at the transfer station and that there is no security there.

Some information about DART: “The mission of Dart First State and the Delaware Transit Corporation, an operating division of the Delaware Department of Transportation, is to design and provide the highest quality public transportation services that satisfy the needs of the customer and the community. We aspire to be a premier transportation organization with accessible facilities and interconnected services incorporating state of the art technologies. Our well-trained workforce, using clear communications and beneficial working partnerships, will enable us to connect people to their destinations in an affordable, safe and efficient manner.”

DART is funded through 81% state funds, 13% from passenger fares, 3% federal grants, and 3% from other bus advertising. DART offers riders a seven-day or 30-day ticket and gives reduced fare cards for senior and disabled riders. DART has a customer advisory committee that meets four times a year to discuss issues important to the quality of service to the riding public.

However I want to note that the people on the committee are appointed and are not necessarily riders of DART. My suggestion would be that the advisory committee use the DART system for seven days in lieu of their regular mode of transportation so that when they make recommendations, they have firsthand experience.

Delaware currently has 520 buses and over 900 employees. Delaware has six electric buses operating in Kent County and Delaware Transit Corp. has received $5.6 million in federal funds and plans to have 20 electric buses operating statewide by the beginning of 2021.

While it is great to have buses that have low or zero emissions, it seems the main priority should be to service the people that need a reliable, safe, time efficient ride to work, adult education, grocery shopping, church, etc.

Cheryl Precourt is a resident of Dover.

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