This roundup of Dallas news includes free rides on DART, COVID-19 school closures, Deep Ellum safety, and drones. Drones are the best.
Here's what happened around Dallas this week:
A number of school districts across Dallas-Fort Worth have temporarily closed due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and shortages of teachers and staff, including Garland, Grapevine, and Mesquite. The largest districts — Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, and Plano — are having classes as usual. Newsbreak has a list of the districts that have closed.
The Dallas Police Department is now using drones as part of its new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Unit to help fight crime.
Specially trained officers will operate the drones to be used in cases such as disaster response, missing persons, fugitive searches, and crime scene photography. Some of their larger drones have thermal lenses, which can help in search and rescue cases.
The usage of the drones will follow FAA guidelines, and will not be used for random mass surveillance.
"We don't do anything anticipatory or proactive," DPD Sergeant Ross Stinson tells Fox 4. "So everything we do is from either 911 calls or from officers on the ground who are seeing things and we respond looking at exactly what is requested and that information is limited to what that critical incident will be, not the general sense."
Here's an idea: How about using the drones to help animals? Like this story about a runaway dog named Millie who was rescued after they tied sausages to a drone to lure her in. Texas has a new law banning the use of chains to tie up dogs; maybe drones could be used for enforcement? I mean, if they're just sitting there waiting for a disaster to happen, why not make use of them.
On January 24, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) launches its New Bus Network, with the goal of providing greater frequency, longer service hours, and improved access to employment, education, and entertainment destinations across North Texas.
To celebrate its launch, DART is making all rides free the week of January 24-30. Through February 14, DART will offer 50 percent off all rides purchased with any DART contactless payment option from January 31 through February 14. (Contactless payment options include GoPass® app, GoPass® Tap card, Contactless Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover cards with contactless payment at the validators, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay.)
The promotion is valid on all DART transit services including buses, light rail, TRE (between EBJ Union Station and CentrePort/DFW Airport Station), GoLink, Dallas Streetcar, and Paratransit Services.
Bus frequency will now match or surpass light rail service, with 15-minute peak and 20-minute midday. Light rail service will also return to pre-pandemic levels, providing 15-minute peak service and more frequent evening service.
The new bus routes are more direct, focusing on major transit corridors and reducing the number of bus stops. They're also refocusing on transit riders who work non-traditional hours, with bus service every day from 5 am-midnight at a minimum. There are 22 core frequent bus routes that will operate between 4 am to 1 am.
They're increasing their GoLink program to replace traditional fixed-route service, with 13 new zones; and adding weekend hours. GoLink is available at no additional cost with a valid DART fare. The GoLink program also includes the UberPool shared ride program, with travel to or from any DART station or transit center within a zone for $1, and travel to or from any destination within a zone is $3. The $1 fee has been waived during the introductory period.
Don't drive to Irving next week
There'll be road closures January 24-25 at the Diamond Interchange in Irving. Monday overnight, they're closing: the westbound frontage road of State Highway 114 (SH 114), from Century Center Boulevard to Spur 482; eastbound turnaround of SH 114 to northbound Spur 482; and northbound mainlanes of Spur 482 from Maryland Drive to Century Center Blvd. It's part of a $301 million Irving Interchange project that will re-do the interchanges at SH 183, SH 114, Loop 12 and Spur 482. The project is anticipated to be completed in mid-2023.
Deep Ellum safety
Council Member Jesse Moreno is partnering with Deep Ellum residents, business owners, and the Dallas Police Department to launch a new Deep Ellum Community Safety Plan. They're also engaging Code Compliance, Dallas Fire & Rescue, the Department of Transportation, and members of the City Attorney's Office. All they need now are the Dallas Cowboys. The process will include community meetings, workshops, an online survey, and a community safety fair. The DPD will do an analysis and create a plan to be published by summer 2022.