But in a public notice about the potential change, DART said, “For a variety of reasons — including shifting of employee locations during the pandemic plus related construction issues — Parkland has chosen to discontinue funding for Routes 434 and 435.”
Gordon Shattles, a spokesperson for DART, said in an email that these routes have also seen “deficient performance based on DART Service Standards.”
DART has been running these specific routes for Parkland since 2015. They were paid for completely by the hospital, which asked in August that the routes be discontinued. That month, DART approved the holding of a public hearing on whether to discontinue the routes. The hearing was required because the discontinuation would result in a change of service greater than 25%.
Despite public notices of the hearing, no one came to speak to the DART board about the routes’ discontinuation. The board will make a final decision on the routes this month. If the discontinuation is approved, they will stop running on Oct. 31.
This comes after the discontinuation of another Parkland DART shuttle route. Route 436 was initially created to connect off-site employees with Parkland Hospital and administrative staff. But future construction in the area and the fact that employees have moved throughout the pandemic made this route less useful to Parkland. Shuttle route 436 would average about six riders an hour. The average DART shuttle sees about 16 riders an hour. Shuttle route 436 was discontinued in mid-August.
Changes like these must go through what’s called a Title VI assessment. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color, and national origin. A Title VI assessment is meant to determine if there are any disparate or disproportionate impacts to people as a result of changes such as the discontinuation of shuttle routes 434 and 435.
The assessment indicated that there would be a disproportionate burden to low-income riders as a result of the discontinuation. But, according to DART, “the actual impact is minimal” because these routes are surrounded primarily by medical and commercial land uses, and because there are “abundant remaining DART services within walking distance.” Those services are about a quarter mile away.
However, the change wouldn’t result in disparate impacts to racial or minority groups, according to the assessment.
Parkland has suggested that if these routes are discontinued, it will replace them with private shuttles for employees only that won’t serve DART rail stations or facilities. Patients leaving the hospital will have to walk the quarter mile to the nearest mode of pubic transit if they don’t already have a ride.
By email, Parkland spokesperson Chelsea Kretz said the hospital wanted a more cost-effective way to transport its people. “While DART provided good services, DART only has the 30-passenger shuttles available, which are beyond what we need,” Kretz said. “The new vendor has 14-passenger shuttles, which are more suitable for our needs and cheaper than the larger vehicles.”
Kretz said patients have used the shuttle routes less often over the years, which the hospital attributes to the closure of Old Parkland and the 2021 opening of the Moody Outpatient Center. “All clinics are now located on one campus, which reduced the need for patient shuttles,” Kretz said.