DART exploring free fare program for Dallas-area students

The Dallas City Council members adopted a resolution in support of plans to allow all students in Dallas to ride DART buses and trains for free to get to school or after-school activities.

But it comes at a time when criminal activity on DART transportation is spiking.

There could be more young people on DART trains and buses if the agency follows through on a free fare pilot program. But not everyone is on board because of a recent spike in crime at stations and on rides. 

Every day, more than 120,000 riders use DART trains, buses and other modes of transit. 

The agency is now exploring a free fare program for students K-12. 

"It’s still in the very preliminary stages," said DART Spokesperson Gordon Shattles. "We’re discussing how this will impact finance and security and what are the concerns people will have in a situation like this."

Students could use public transportation to go to school or non-school activities for free and without an adult.

On Wednesday, council members passed a resolution of support for the program. 


"At my time at Dallas ISD, my wife and I bought a lot of DART cards for students. There is not an option for a lot of kids," said Councilman Adam Bazaldua.

"This program is not replacing school buses," said Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn. "But what it will provide is non-campus, after-school activity transportation. It will help our youth explore parks and museums.

Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold voted in opposition. 

"They have seen an extremely high level and increasing number of citations," she said. "I think about a kindergarten student being put on the bus. Because there will be some parents who will put the child on the bus, trust me.

The plan comes at a time when DART is seeing a spike in criminal incidents. 

In the first three months of this year, DART says 428 incidents have been reported. That includes assault, harassment and other things like panhandling and vandalism. That number is up compared to the first three months of 2021 with 351 incidents. 

"DART is certainly not immune to the increased crime that we’ve seen throughout Dallas and across North Texas," Shattles said. "As riders return to the workplace and COVID restrictions are lifted, we encourage everyone to contact DART Police if they witness a crime as well as any other concerns they may have."

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia have touted lower violent crime stats. While most violent crime statistics are down compared to last year, murders are up. 

Shattles says DART is working on hiring more officers. 

"We have officers across the network at our stations, on our buses and on our trains," he said. "And the work they do is simply phenomenal considering, of course, the size of DART but also what can, unfortunately, walk across our platforms on occasion."

There is no timeline on when the DART board will vote to start the pilot program. 

Students 5-14 can currently ride with half off the normal fare price. That also includes college students who attend college in DART's coverage area. 

Some on the council want the free program in place for the start of next school year.