Nov 18, 2022 - News

Dallas can fix racial inequities in transportation, report says

A man gets on a Dallas light rail train

Not everyone in southern Dallas has quick or easy access to trains and buses. Photo: Rebecca Smeyne/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dallas should create a mobility equity council focused on ensuring Black and Hispanic residents in the southern sector have equal access to transportation, according to a new report by the nonprofit Urban Institute.

State of play: Dallas is the 12th most segregated city in the country, according to 2020 Census data, and most transit-dependent residents live in South Dallas.

  • Many of them reside more than a quarter-mile from the nearest bus or more than a half-mile from a train station.

Why it matters: Dallas' top leaders have acknowledged the city's racist past and are now faced with making systemic changes to improve opportunities for people of color.

What happened: Urban Institute researchers conducted case studies of improved transportation equity in Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas; Portland, Oregon; and King County in Washington state after the South Dallas/Fair Park Transportation Initiative asked the think tank to study transit access in the southern sector of the city.

  • Researchers interviewed South Dallas residents about what they want from the transit system.

The intrigue: The report details some of the racial divides in Dallas but focuses almost entirely on potential solutions.

Recommendations: City and transit leaders can build trust by actually listening rather than simply saying, "Here's a solution and why you should want it," Urban Institute researcher and report co-author Christina Stacy tells Axios.

  • Meet people where they are: Don't just offer community meetings. Visit people during the day while they're at a recreation center or playing with their children at the park.
  • Keep data: Track the demographics of who is giving feedback. The demographics of people responding to surveys should match the community.
  • Pay people: Committee members and advisory councils should be paid for their time. Offer child care and food at community meetings for people attending to offer input.

Of note: Cities don't necessarily have to spend more money to increase racial equity in transportation, Stacy tells Axios.

  • "It means being more efficient and thoughtful with money and the investments that are made," she said. "There's a lot of minor, small changes that can be made that can help not just equity but the system as a whole."

What's next: The researchers will meet privately next month with officials from DART and Dallas and the other cities studied to discuss the recommendations.

The bottom line: Dallas can learn from what works in other cities, but city leaders also need to listen to what residents want and need so successful programs from elsewhere can be tailored to local needs.


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