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COMPASS ready to roll
Anyone on the eastern side of Dallas County frustrated with the traffic or cost of the commute to and from work is about to have an alternative thanks to an agreement between the city of Mesquite and DART. Mesquite launches its new mass transit service, COMPASS, on Monday, March 12 at 5:02 a.m. when the first shuttle leaves the park and ride.
The two entities joined together to host a kickoff party for members of the media on Tuesday, March 6, at the city’s new COMPASS Park and Ride location, the overflow parking lot adjacent to Handby Stadium, 410 E. Davis Street.
“This is a big day for Mesquite but a major event for the region when it comes to transit initiatives,” said John Monaco, Mesquite Mayor.
“This is a momentous occasion,” said John Danish, DART board chairman.
“This couldn’t come at a better time, as gas prices are skyrocketing. If you don’t have a choice, I can guarantee you that [people] won’t get out of their cars,” said Gary Thomas, DART president.
The event included a trip from the park and ride location via DART bus to see the route firsthand that the city’s new mass transit initiative will follow. The trip is expected to take approximately 20 minutes, according to DART.
The project began when the DART board changed its policy to allow for contract service to nonmember cities last April. Once the policy was changed, Mesquite petitioned the board for contract service.
The city entered into an agreement with the Mesquite ISD to use one of its overflow lots at Handby Stadium as the parking lot for the park and ride station. Once the agreement with MISD was reached the city finalized the agreement with DART to allow the project to become a reality.
In order to use the Mesquite service, each passenger must obtain a DART system pass. The cost of a one day system pass is $7. There are options to obtain weekly and monthly passes, which reduce the per day cost. The pass allows the bearer complete use of the entire DART system.
DART gave the city 150 free one week passes to let people try out the service for the first week.
“DART does this to get people to try it. They gave us 150 passes to distribute and we have already given out more than 100,” said Jerry Dittman, assistant city manager and COMPASS project manager. “In order to get on the shuttle service they have to have a transit pass.”
The passes can be obtained through DART, at the Albertsons located at Beltline Road and Cartwright Road, at the Tom Thumb at Cartwright Road and Pioneer Road or by presenting exact change to the shuttle driver.
“All you do is show your pass and get on the bus,” Dittman said.
Dittman said that the city expects to have at least 140 riders per day, which would be an average of 10 people per shuttle bus. DART planners estimate the ridership to average between 200 to 250 people, Dittman said.
“I would love to have the problem in six months where there are not enough buses and we have people clamoring for more service,” Dittman said.
Dittman said the city’s agreement allows the number and times of the shuttle buses to be adjusted depending on demand.
“The way the agreement is structured we can add or decrease the service by mutual agreement,” Dittman said.
He added that the city was open to running the shuttle service for special events such as the State Fair of Texas.
The city has placed signage throughout the area around the park and ride to direct people to the parking lot.
“Instead of the blue DART Park and Ride sign, it says COMPASS and directs people to the parking lot,” Dittman said.
Dittman said he plans to be at the park and ride location Monday to assess the service firsthand.
“We are all excited because we have been making a full court press on this since 2008,” Dittman said.