Legislators to DART: Halt Route, Schedule Changes and Increase Transparency

September 21, 2017

Secretary Jennifer Cohan
Delaware Department of Transportation
Administration Center
P.O. Box 778
Dover, DE 19901

Dear Secretary Cohan:

We write with great concern about the impending changes to several DART bus routes and schedules in our communities that stand to impact thousands of residents, students and workers who commute to and from these areas.

We are concerned that these changes largely have sprung up unnoticed by members of the public and legislators due to a lack of outreach and communication. As part of that lack of communication, we have not been informed of the urgency of some of these changes, why they are being proposed, or how DART intends to provide funding for them.

The methods employed to inform the public were inadequate. DART officials said they did not advertise their proposals in the media, but instead used their buses, bus stops and Facebook to provide notice of the public hearing workshops. Additionally, there was only one public hearing (divided into two segments) for the numerous New Castle County route and schedule changes, which simply was not enough to properly notify the public and give them the opportunity to offer comment and engage in a constructive dialogue. 

During the public comment portion of the public hearing held yesterday afternoon in New Castle County, the vast majority of attendees were not in favor of DART’s proposed changes.  In fact, only Wilmington business owners and business representatives supported these changes.  The citizens who actually utilize DART services on a regular basis and whose lives would be directly affected by the proposed changes overwhelming spoke in opposition to the proposal. 

Various concerns were expressed, such as the effect that combining routes will have on lines that are already congested, such as the combination of Routes 1 and 22, and Routes 4 and 24, as well as the difficulties that an increase in distance between bus stops will present to riders with physical and mobility issues.  However, the lack of notification of the proposed changes and the need for the public to participate by providing their feedback was a common theme.    

Communication between elected officials and state agencies has been lacking as well, which also limited our ability to provide information to residents. As state legislators, we were not informed of these proposed changes until just days before the public hearings began, leaving us unaware and uninvolved with this major overhaul by DART which would have a direct impact on our constituents.  It did not allow us any time to ask questions, communicate with our constituents or seek their input in any way.

Specifically regarding the proposed changes, we are confused as to why the use of Rodney Square as a bus hub is being discontinued now, well before the September 2019 completion of the new Wilmington Transit Center.

We are not disputing the desire to restore Rodney Square into a park, but we believe that this interim step of decentralizing bus service in Wilmington (moving buses away from Rodney Square to several different stops), only to recombine them in two years at the new transit center will have an adverse effect on riders. Members of the public seem to be unaware of this two-step process, and it will create confusion and require residents, students and workers to make new transportation plans, only to do the same again when the new facility opens.

Additionally, the discontinuation of service to the Claymont Train Station would negatively impact our constituents. As I’m sure you are aware, the Station was the recipient of a $10 million federal TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation last year. Discontinuing service to the Claymont Train Station, effectively cutting off transportation between Claymont and the City of Wilmington, during this period of revitalization and growth would be a huge step backwards. We urge you to reconsider your proposal to essentially eliminate DART service to the train station.

Some of the other changes being proposed throughout our areas would have an adverse effect on people of a lower socio-economic status, and without adequate time to review and discuss these changes, we fear that the plans will be implemented without due consideration.

For these reasons, we are asking that DART delay its implementation to allow for adequate public education and solicitation of comments. We believe that diverting buses away from Rodney Square now should not be part of this plan – unless the agency can demonstrate the urgency for such a move before the transit center opens – and that service to and from the Claymont Train Station should be continued.  Any plans to move forward should include an explanation of the urgency for the next steps.

We also would encourage all levels of government to work together to openly communicate about these plans going forward, especially as the new transit hub nears completion. Only by working together can we ensure that our constituents are well-informed of potential changes to a vital mode of transportation that thousands of them rely upon.

Sincerely,

 

Charles Potter, Jr.                    Stephanie T. Bolden               Gerald Brady
State Representative               State Representative               State Representative
1st District                               2nd District                               4th District

 

Debra Heffernan                     Bryon H. Short                       James Johnson
State Representative               State Representative               State Representative
6th District                               7th District                               16th District 

 

Margaret R. Henry
Senate Majority Leader
2nd District

 

c/ Governor John C. Carney, State of Delaware
   Mayor Michael S. Purzycki, City of Wilmington
   John Sisson, Chief Executive Officer, Delaware Transit Corporation

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Legislators - DART Route and Schedule Changes.pdf118.6 KB