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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Riding DART? Beware.

I was going to title this post: Trying to reduce our carbon footprint earned us a $75 fine. But that just took up too much space, as did: How conserving gas by riding public transport cost us more than 3 tankfuls of gas.

But first, some background information.

Last night, we attended a Dallas Stars game (#11 on the 101 list!). However, I was already downtown for an afternoon meeting. Because we believe in conserving gasoline (for the budget and the environment), we often carpool.

Question: How do you get one person downtown when the other person with the car is already downtown?

Answer: Take public transport.

The Boy walked to the closest DART station to make the trip to the arena. However....

It can be really confusing to determine which ticket you need to purchase. Unless you are a frequent rider, you have a limited amount of time to figure out which fare applies to you, based on your age, route, time of day, etc.

Simply stated - it's easy to make a mistake.

And make a mistake, The Boy did. He purchased a reduced single ride fare rather than a local single ride fare. Fee difference: 90 cents.

Then the unthinkable happened: he was part of a random ticket check on the train.

You see, DART isn't structured like most rail systems that we've ridden around the US and the world - there's not a ticket check before you board. In theory, it is possible to ride all day on DART without a ticket...unless you happen to be part of a random ticket check.

So The Boy was ticket checked and found lacking.

He discussed his confusion with the DART police officer who responded: The fare structure is very clear. You have no excuse.

He responded: But if I wanted to cheat DART, wouldn't I have not purchased a ticket at all? It's not logical that I would try to cheat by just 90 cents.

Logic apparently wasn't an option. Nor was asking him to get off the train and purchase a correct ticket at the next stop.

No - DART police wrote him a ticket for $75. A $75 ticket for a 90 cent error.

A ticket that will cost us $500 if we don't pay, plus the opportunity to have a warrant issued.

In my opinion, the handling of this situation is a Major Fail for DART. I understand the need to catch those cheating the system - those who take advantage of a poorly designed ticket control process.

But to punish someone who makes a mistake? An average Joe-Blow-Tax-Paying-Rider trying to get downtown for a game? Fail.

To be aggressively confrontational when discussing a ticket situation with said individual? Fail.

We have long been advocates of the need for expanded DART services in the metro area - committing our votes and tax dollars to the issue. These types of situations don't endear the system to us.

And I can only hope that visitors to our city aren't treated as poorly as The Boy was.

It almost ruined our enjoyment of this:


  1. It might be worth a trip to 1401 Pacific Avenue to pay in person, and attempt to plead your case... or give them a piece of your mind in the event they are not very understanding. Just don't get arrested.

  2. My sympathies. Sometimes a person just can't do the right thing.

    Not that this video reflects your situation, but it reminded me of this award-winning short film entitled "Schwarzfahrer". The title is a play on words: it means both "black rider" and "one who travels without a ticket." It is a commentary on racism and immigration--topics not peculiar to Germany.

    If you have ten minutes, it is worth a look.

  3. I agree with John. I would try to see if you can plead your case. It may have just been this officer having a bad day and you felt the brunt of it. They have traffic court for people to fight tickets they believe they got unjustly. I don't know. $75 seems a lot not to try argue.

  4. I agree with the others. Does DART have a Customer Service Director/Department? That's where I would start.

  5. And following what Bob and John suggested, I wouldn't start with the front line customer service person. I'd start of with a supervisor or higher first.

    Major FAIL. Especially when K-Man could have simply purchased the correct ticket at the next station. I can see a steep fine if you were caught without a ticket. But, to have a ticket ... just the wrong one ... This is why people hate public transportation.

  6. awful. I found the ticketing system very confusing before I was regular rider. I must also say that before I had a monthly pass and needed cash to get on the dart, it was miserable trying to find cash (especially when you don't have a car which is exactly why you're taking the DART in the first place!), and if I couldn't find cash it was SOOO tempting to just skip out on the ticket because I had to get to work somehow.

    I wish they'd have working atms at all stations. Also sketch: the ticket machine at my station was broken several times, and if I'd been ticket checked at those points, would they have fined me?

  7. Chaulk it up to a costly learning experience and pay the ticket. A simple look on Dart's Website at before departing for the train might have saved getting the ticket. All the fares are very well explained. It's unfortunate that he was on the train with a ticket inspector that was abiding by the rules.

    Choose the level of service that's right for you.

    All Day Passes valid for unlimited rides on the date of purchase only through 3 a.m. the following day.

    Local $4.00
    System $5.00
    Regional $7.50
    Reduced* $2.00

    Single-ride options are good for 90 minutes of train travel or a single bus trip (no transfers). Rail Only Tickets are not valid on buses.

    Local $1.75
    System $2.50
    Regional $3.75
    Reduced* $.85

    Local — Red, Blue and Green Line trains
    — Local buses (exact cash fare or Day Pass required)
    Note: Local fare is valid for all bus routes except express routes numbered in the 200s. Express routes require a System fare.
    — FLEX service along local service route (exact cash fare or Day Pass required)

    System — All DART buses and trains
    — Trinity Railway Express trains between Union Station and West Irving Station
    — DART On-Call and FLEX service

    Regional — All DART buses and trains (except Paratransit)
    — All Trinity Railway Express service, plus the T in Fort Worth
    — DART On-Call and FLEX service

    * Reduced Applicable on bus and rail for the following:
    — Seniors (65 or older) with valid DART photo ID
    — Non-paratransit certified persons with disabilities with valid DART photo ID
    — Medicare card holders
    — Children ages 5-14
    — High school students with valid DART or student photo ID from a school within the DART service area
    Note: DART Rail Reduced Fare within the CBD has been eliminated.

    DART Photo ID Information
    Contact the DART Store at Akard Station at 214-749-3282 for more information about obtaining a DART photo ID. Note: Photo IDs are made at the DART Store weekdays between 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. only. Senior citizen and student photo ID cards are $2.
    • View information on how to obtain a DART Seniors photo ID card.
    • View information on how to obtain a DART reduced fare photo ID card.

    All DART buses and trains meet ADA requirements, offering wheelchair lifts and other features to accommodate riders with disabilities. By ADA standards, wheelchairs must be secured on buses. Paratransit-eligible passengers with valid Paratransit photo ID ride free on DART Rail and buses and The T.

    ** Exact fare required on all buses. No change made. Failure to produce a valid ticket or pass constitutes fare evasion and is punishable by an administrative penalty of up to $100 or a Class C misdemeanor violation with a fine not to exceed $500.

  8. Out of curiosity, who are you, Admin?

    The fares are pretty clear on the website, but it may shock you to learn that not everyone has time to look at a website before leaving a job and walking to catch a DART train.

    See earlier comments as well in this stream as well.

    We'll likely pay the ticket, but that does nothing to change the fact that this is poor customer service - yet again - by DART police. I'll direct your attention to the Dallas Observer to read a long history of poor interaction with customers.

  9. They may be well explained on the web site, but it takes 5 minutes to read through them! It's almost as bad as trying to read through postal regulations, or any other government site, as far as that goes. Is the DART system another government run service?

  10. Thank you fo posting admin-you helped make our case. This is typical for government. They have nothing else to do but sit and learn the rules they are to enforce-so they lose sight of real life-I know, I used to work for the government. Just looking at your long list is confusing. The tube in England is easier!