Follow Up: South Dallas leaders help make GoLink successful, will DART make it permanent?

By |Published On: November 9, 2023|Categories: South Dallas|

DART has four rail stops and seven bus routes in and around South Dallas. Yet it takes residents long stretches of time — sometimes hours — to travel by bus within the neighborhood, from their homes to the grocery store or community center.

South Dallas leaders like former Dallas councilwoman Diane Ragsdale looked at DART’s GoLink zones in north Dallas and realized it could be a solution to this problem. The South Dallas Fair Park Transportation Initiative, led by Ragsdale and made up of neighborhood residents and leaders, advocated for the GoLink pilot that launched in April 2021, then laid the groundwork for its success. 

Now, South Dallas ranks third in daily ridership among 32 metro area GoLink zones, and DART wants to make the zone permanent.

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The Uber-like city service gives neighbors the option of requesting door-to-door service for just a couple of dollars. The South Dallas zone stretches west to Cedars Station, south to Bonton Farms, and east to the Larry Johnson Recreation Center. and now sees an average of 220 riders per day. 

That’s a phenomenal increase since November 2021, when DART was telling South Dallas leaders the pilot needed at least 21 riders per week — an average of only three riders per day — to be considered successful. Some weeks saw as few as nine riders. 

Leaders believed the service was needed, so they took it upon themselves to make sure the pilot became permanent.

DART GoLink barriers: Communication, technology and availability

Several major barriers kept neighbors from using the South Dallas GoLink service. At first, neighbors didn’t know the service existed, so leaders organized grassroots, in-person outreach — even in the middle of the pandemic.

Pamela Grayson was among the South Dallas residents unaware of GoLink. Grayson noticed the DART bus was no longer stopping on her street in the Dixon Circle neighborhood, so she attended a DART Board meeting in 2021 to complain about the route changes. There, she was surprised to learn that GoLink was operating in South Dallas.

Now Grayson uses GoLink at least once a month. She has a car, but many people on her street use public transportation exclusively. Census data from 2020 shows that at least 1 in 10 people living in the 75210 and 75215 zip codes don’t have a vehicle, and a 2019 survey from South Dallas Fair Park Transportation Initiative and DART estimated that as much as 45% of the community is without a vehicle.

DART rides are cashless and contactless, and the easiest way to book and pay for GoLink is through DART’s GoPass app. That’s another barrier for South Dallas residents, Grayson says. 

“Many of our seniors do not feel comfortable having to download an app, and go through the technology piece to secure a ride,” Grayson says. Plus, she says, “South Dallas is known for having a significant digital divide,” with the neighborhood’s 75210 and 75215 zip codes among Dallas’ 10 least-connected areas.

To overcome this hurdle, South Dallas leaders pre-loaded and passed out DART TapPass cards in the pilot’s early days so that neighbors without smartphones, or who lacked bank and credit card accounts, could pay for GoLink rides. 

Availability of TapPass cards is still a problem, leaders say. Though there are 15 locations in and around South Dallas to reload physical cards, only four of them have TapPass cards available for purchase, and each one is either north of Fair Park or east of I-45, just outside of the neighborhood. Neighbors who have a device with the GoPass app can also visit Family Dollar or Walgreens, and show the app barcode to reload with cash. 

Jing Xu, associate vice president for service planning and development, says DART is working to expand their retail partners. They are building relationships with retailers, she says, and looking into working with Fiesta, just across from the MLK Jr. rail station.

Another deterrent as the pilot rolled out was availability of GoLink’s rides — Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents typically are at work or school during those hours. After leaders voiced the problem, South Dallas’ GoLink expanded its hours and now operates 5 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

DART GoLink history, from Plano to South Dallas

The first GoLink program launched in Plano’s Legacy West in 2017 with funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox grant. The program’s intention was to help with “first and last mile transportation,” so Plano residents could get from their homes to fixed bus or train routes safely and efficiently. 

Xu says in the past six years, GoLink has been successful in filling transportation gaps across the city and now includes 32 zones. In its grant report, DART estimated that 28% of all residents within its service area live more than a quarter-mile from a bus or train station.

GoLink operating costs make up $9.5 million of DART’s $1.7 billion annual budget, significantly less expensive than the cost of its bus or rail routes. In 2022 GoLink served nearly 300,000 riders. For 2023, DART has budgeted for 400,000 riders across its service area.

In addition to their own fleet of GoLink vans, DART also has partnered with Uber to add more vehicles to the fleet and shorten pick up times. 

A typical Uber ride from Grayson’s Dixon Circle neighborhood to Fiesta typically costs $7.31, a price that can increase based on traffic and demand. A GoLink ride, however, is $2.50 for anyone, at any time, between any two points in the zone.

Grayson says she first tried the service to drop her son off at school. 

“I called and there was an Uber that came to pick me up, with a super nice driver, nice vehicle,” Grayson says. “With using that Uber, everybody that could fit into that car could get into the car, so that’s actually a value-add and a plus for me, the rider.”

Despite GoLink’s success in South Dallas, neighbors are still learning about what it is and how it works. Across three days, Dallas Free Press visited the MLK, Hatcher and Cedars rail stations and talked to 10 people. None of them were familiar with GoLink.

Xu credits the program’s success to South Dallas leaders, who have advocated for the GoLink program since before the pandemic. Their success resulted in a year-long expansion in December 2022, and now Xu’s team is working with DART Board members to make the zone permanent.

“Things really began to take off this past January,” Xu says, right after the South Dallas pilot was renewed for another year. “This is a known food desert, so people are needing that connection to grocery shopping and other essential opportunities.”

How to use GoLink

Here’s what you need to know before booking a GoLink in the GoPass app or by calling 214-515-7272.

  • Residents can travel anywhere within the South Dallas zone for $2.50 per passenger, with a maximum of eight passengers
  • Residents can book their ride up to 24 hours in advance
  • Residents can view their driver’s name, car make/model, and license plate number in the GoPass app

How to Use GoLink

Fares can be paid by loading money into the GoPass app, using a credit or debit card. Those wanting to pay in cash have to buy a GoPass Tap card, either at the DartMart or at a retail partner. While DART has partnered with grocery stores and gas stations across the city, there are only four locations to purchase cards in South Dallas, through the PayHere Network. Reloading is somewhat easier, with 15 locations in South Dallas. 

Where to purchase GoPass Tap cards in South Dallas:

  • Stuff & More: 4702 E Grand Ave
  • Shell: 3305 Grand Ave
  • Taqueria El Arquito: 1909 S Cesar Chavez Blvd
  • Don’s Food Store: 825 S Carroll

Where to reload GoPass Tap cards in South Dallas:

  • TMA Grocery: 2302 S 2nd Ave
  • Shell: 5314 S 2nd Ave
  • Grand City Grocery: 3026 Al Lipscomb Way
  • Hackney Food: 4815 Collins Ave
  • Uncle Lee Grocery: 3839 Dixon Ave
  • Stuff & More: 4702 E Grand Ave
  • Sonic Grocery: 4820 E Grand Ave
  • Arcadia Wine & Spirits: 5626 E R L Thornton Fwy
  • Shell: 3305 Grand Ave
  • Neighborhood Convenience Store: 3415 Malcolm X Blvd
  • Big D Cut Rate Beer & Wine: 1405 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
  • Emily Grocery: 1818 Metropolitan Ave
  • Taqueria El Arquito: 1909 S Cesar Chavez Blvd
  • Don’s Food Store: 825 S Carroll
  • First Stop: 4847 Scyene Road
  • Sandra Grocery: 1827 S Haskell Ave

Where to reload the GoPass app in South Dallas:

  • Walgreens: 1461 Robert B Cullum Blvd 
  • Family Dollar: 3129 Grand Ave
  • Family Dollar: 3324 Elsie Faye Heggins St

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About the Author: Michaela Rush

Michaela Rush joined Dallas Free Press in July 2023, as a Report for America Corps Member. Prior to joining RFA and DFP, Michaela worked at The Battalion student newspaper at Texas A&M, most recently as the editor-in-chief, covering campus news, local businesses, student organizations and LGBTQ+ topics. Outside of journalism, she plays several instruments, including flute and alto saxophone, and is a self-proclaimed “band nerd.”

Official Title:

Report for America Corps Member