Bus-and-Rail and All-Bus Transit Systems: Experience in Dallas and Houston, Texas, 1985 to 2003

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, mode - rail, mode - tram/light rail, mode - subway/metro


Unlinked passenger trips, Trip length, Travel distance, Statistics, Ridership, Patronage (Transit ridership), Passenger miles, National Transit Database, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Light rail transit, Intracity bus transportation, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Bus transit


Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) in Texas has experienced widely acknowledged success with its light rail system, New Start. Ridership results have met or exceeded expectations. The DART system has experienced significant ridership changes as it transitioned from an all-bus system to a bus-and-rail system. These changes are reflected not only in the growth of light rail ridership but also in changes in bus system ridership. Until the 2004 opening of its light rail line, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) had been a highly successful all-bus transit system. Metro’s success with high-occupancy-vehicle lanes supporting an extensive network of express and park-and-ride routes is renowned. Metro’s local bus network serves high volumes of passengers daily. These two Texas transit systems have some interesting similarities. Until 1996, both were all-bus systems. Their ridership trends shared general patterns. There are also divergences in ridership patterns occasioned by the differing natures of the two systems. Their service areas are significantly different. Their service area populations, however, are of similar size. Ridership statistics for the two systems as reported in the National Transit Database for 1985 through 2003 are examined. The statistics examined include unlinked passenger trips, passenger miles, and average trip lengths. The changes in these statistics and their comparisons after the inauguration and subsequent expansion of the DART light rail system reflect the changing nature of the DART bus system as its role in the regional transit network refocuses.