Dallas transit official briefs transit partnership on mobile app trip planning

The Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership was created a few years ago to serve as a clearinghouse to improve the efficiency of public transit in a community with multiple service providers.  At their recent meeting in March, they learned about how Dallas Area Rapid Transit has benefited from having an office of innovation. 

“We now have the largest on-demand offering in North America,” said, Greg Elsborg, who has been Chief Innovation Officer since 2019.

Since that time, he has focused on a few areas. 

“One was to try and drive a culture of innovation across the agency and pull ideas from our employers and from communities and us, and that’s been an exciting activity set,” Elsborg said. “But another area has been the continued development and scalability of a mobile trip-planning and management application that we have for our transit providers.”

Dallas Area Rapid Transit covers 760 square miles including Dallas, and twelve other cities. On-demand service is available in a third of the service area. 

Part of their funding comes through a one cent sales tax, an idea that has been floated in this community but is not authorized by the General Assembly.  (view the presentation on the GoPass Mobility Platform)

The DART system includes light rail and community rail, as well as a large bus fleet. The first mobile application was created in 2013 to help make it easier for people to travel across multiple transit systems. There is a regional fare. 

“So I can pay to travel across the entire region and pay a reduced fare to travel through the commuter rail and to get point to point in Fort Worth, as well as in Denton County in the north, as well as DART’s 13 cities,” Elsborg said. 

The GoPass Mobility Platform began in 2013 and has been updated several times. (view the presentation)

To unite it all, DART built its first mobile app in 2013. There have been several iterations of the GoPass Mobility Platform to add more capabilities over time. In 2018, they added a feature to allow riders to transfer cash to their mobile phones at local retailers.

“So if I’m an individual that doesn’t have a debit card or a credit card but I’d like to use the mobile app, then I could use trip finding in the app and some of the other features, but to buy tickets, I could go and load cash at a retailer,” Elsborg said. “They would scan a barcode on the app and then this loads the funds into the app directly.”

In 2018, DART also introduced a fare-capping system where an individual user would no longer be charged after they’d paid a certain amount. The app tracks this information. 

“And there’s a really nice tracker inside the app that shows you how much you spent to get toward that fare cap total,” Elsborg said. 

The next year, DART introduced Multimodal Microtransit to the system which introduced on-demand services that can be used in conjunction with fixed routes. Soon there will be a new feature.

“We have a partnership that we’re working on with Uber so that we can direct people to Uber rides as on-demand mode through our app without having to have an Uber account or pay for your ticket through Uber,” Elsborg said. “You do it throughout our app. And that will be an industry first when that comes out.” 

Elsborg said DART is seeking to add other transit agencies so that there can continue to be more investment into the platform. Currently they are running the mobile app functions for over 50 cities, including Charlotte, North Carolina. One of the agencies is the one for Tulsa, Oklahoma, which until recently was run by Jaunt CEO director Ted Rieck. 

“I kind of call this the Swiss army knife for mobile apps,” Rieck said. “I think as we look for ways to bring our region together on transit, a mobile app like this could be a starting point.” 

The platform also has connections to e-scooter services as well as bike-sharing programs. 

To learn more about the app, view the March meeting on YouTube. Four people have viewed it so far. Will you give it a watch on YouTube and demonstrate the power of the CCE bump? 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the April 5, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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