DART is bringing its On Call service to the Park Cities next week.
Beginning Monday, anyone in the new Park Cities Zone — which includes all of Highland Park but only parts of University Park — can reserve a door-to-door trip within the zone between 6:25 and 9:25 a.m. or between 3:25 and 6:25 p.m. Rides must be scheduled at least an hour in advance, but reservations can also be made up to a week in advance.
Highland Park and University Park are two of the original members of DART, which was created in 1983. But over the past 30 years, because of reduced ridership, service in the Park Cities has been reduced to little more than a single bus route on Preston Road and a shuttle between SMU and Mockingbird Station.
Nonetheless, the Texas comptroller’s office is still sending 1 percent of the sales tax generated in the Park Cities to DART. University Park contributed $3.1 million to the transit agency in fiscal 2012, and Highland Park pitched in $2.8 million, DART spokesman Morgan Lyon said.
According to a document presented to the Town Council this week, a Highland Park resident expressed concerns earlier this year that the reduction in bus services was making it harder for workers and guests to get to the resident’s house. That resident, whose name was not available, talked with DART and town officials about identifying alternative means of transportation.
The solution was to create a new On Call zone, not unlike the ones that DART already has in Lake Highlands, Lakewood, and Richardson. In the Park Cities Zone, reservations will not be required for rides that begin at Mockingbird Station, where the On Call bus — a 10-passenger vehicle with two wheelchair-capacity areas — will return each hour.
“Historically, in these On Call service areas, [a connection to a rail station has] been the biggest request,” said Todd Plesko, DART’s vice president of planning and development. “Now, it may be different in the Park Cities. We may learn that the demand is within the community. But, generally, what we are finding is that people are trying to get into these neighborhoods, or get to these neighborhoods, from a rail station, so we make that a major part of it.”
Despite its origins, the new On Call service will not be used solely by Park Cities residents’ employees. Camille Potts said her daughter, a 20-year-old graduate of Highland Park High School who does not drive due to a disability, will be among the riders.
“I am thrilled to know there are options in my neighborhood,” she said.