2010 in review: Year of big changes at DART

Good morning, readers.

Below is a column of mine that appeared in the December issue of DART’s newsletter:

DART faced a great deal of uncertainty at this time last year. The latest pedestrian accident was less than six months behind us. A budget shortfall lay ahead. The Transit Hub existed on paper but there was no money to build it. And the City of Grimes wanted out of DART.

Now look at where we are.

The accident rate is low and the only serious accident involving a pedestrian (actually, a kid on a bike) was completely unavoidable by DART’s operator and was covered as such by the media. The Transit Hub received not one, not two, but three grants in the past year — enough to build it start to finish. And Grimes decided to stick with DART after the launch of a Park and Ride lot at a new Walmart there.

Not to mention this year’s discovery of Ron Cheatem, who is becoming a household name since he started doing a morning segment on WHO-TV on how the buses are running, reporting live from dispatch each weekday morning with his smooth baritone.

Of course 2010 wasn’t perfect — let us not forget the service cuts in April — and there could still be surprises before next year arrives. But I can’t help but look toward 2011.

We’ll be launching a big-picture planning study, dubbed DART Forward 2035, that will see the system map redrawn from scratch.

We’ll start installing GPS technology on the buses, which will translate to real-time departure and arrival information for customers.

We’ll break ground on the new Transit Hub in the spring and construction won’t stop until it’s finished, likely in 2012.

So where will we be at this time next year?

I don’t know, either. But I do know that we’ll have a better idea of what is in store for DART’s future, as all of these plans inch closer to becoming realities.

If this past year is any clue, it’s going to be another sweet view next year.

Happy New Year!