As some of you might know, I’ve been without a car for a while now, and last week I started taking public transportation to work. Having lived in Chicago for four years,completely acclimated to public transportation there, I was very excited to try out this city’s DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) system, and so far I have been very impressed!
I live in North Dallas, which is technically within proper city limits, but really functions kind of like a northern suburb of Chicago would, in some aspects. It’s not the most fun, or hip neighborhood, but it is way more well-connected to the city than I imagined. I teach in the neighborhood of Pleasant Grove, which is on the other side of the City, far south, bordering the city of Mesquite. It is one of the roughest neighborhoods in Dallas, if not the roughest, and is also pretty isolated from the rest of the city proper. One would imagine that these two neighborhoods couldn’t be any more different, and that it would be logistically impossible to commute to work between these two places. Certainly, whenever you mention public transportation to a native Dallasite, they will tell you that it is completely impossible and takes forever, but I’ve found that the commute time is comparable to that spent in Chicago’s CTA, and is perhaps even more seamless and well-run.
To get to school, I take a bus to the Forest Lane station, at around 5:50AM. From the Forest Lane station, I take the Red Line Downtown, and once Downtown I get on the Green Line to the Lawnview station. I take another bus, and today I got to school at around 7:10, for a total of 1 hour and 20 minutes commute. I live around 13 miles from my school, but realistically it is more like 15 miles.
Now, for comparison, let’s compare this commute to one that I would usually take in Chicago. Let’s say I lived in Hyde Park, and wanted to commute to Lakeview. That’s more or less around 13 miles – same as the distance from my apartment to my school now. By Google Maps’ estimation, it would take me around 1 hour and 8 minutes to commute, so really, the difference between Dallas’ DART and Chicago’s CTA is 12 minutes, and I spend way, way less time waiting for my bus or train on the DART, or walking to said stations than I did in Chicago (my bus stop is right across the street from my building, whereas the 55 in Chicago was 2 big city blocks – which is still not bad – just sayin’).
On some days, I’m tempted to stay carless, and just adopt this commute as a daily routine. I can get a lot done on this commute, like catching up on reading, journalling, grading, all of which I’ve done on my commutes so far. I don’t think it will work as well when I’m getting out half an hour before sunset on Shabbat on Fridays in the winter months, but on all other days I can count on waking up at 5:15AM, being out the door by 5:45AM, and being home by 6PM.
Things that are more difficult without a car include making it to TFA meetings downtown at 5PM when I get out at 4:30PM, getting groceries, and social outings, but they are still doable. I will be getting a car eventually, I think, in two weeks, but for now I am taking advantage of this opportunity. It feels good to ride public transportation and to be around other people on my commute, and to have a little more thinking time before each day. If I am lucky, my bus arrives earlier than scheduled, and I get to take a short block’s walk to school just as the sun is rising over the big Texas sky. Nothing short of beautiful.
So really, there isn’t a huge reason to not take public transportation in Dallas, at least at the rate that I did in Chicago to things that weren’t as urgent as work. Things like movie theaters and shopping take just as long or less (with the exception of Doc Films and good bookstores). I think it’s just a difference in culture that keeps most Dallasites out of the trains and on the freeways.
I’ll post pictures on my Facebook account later today! It’s taking a while for them to load onto my phone.