Lee Kleinman Wants to Put Vonciel Jones Hill on the DART Board: Welcome to the Suck Up & Spend Club

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The full, NEW City Council votes tomorrow, so there is hope that this will not go down. But District 11 residents might want to ring up Lee Kleinman and ask why his appointment for the new DART board is Vonciel Jones Hill, the former council member and blah blah blah. Why why why do we have to bring back these old members of the club? Hill was neither a DART incumbent nor the bearer of a fresh perspective and hasn’t done really much besides find ways to suck up and spend taxpayer dollars (both federal and local). I hate to use that word, “temperment”, but it’s like her mood is Kleinman’s twin. As D Magazine put it:

If anything, Hill, the former head of the council’s transportation committee, was a symbol of a political history that goes a long way toward explaining why Dallas’ transportation is in the mess it is in. When asked about how her experience would help her on the DART board, Hill boasted about roaming the halls of Congress scaring up federal funds to pay for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. When Monica Alonzo asked Hill if she used DART, Hill responded that she loved trains.

“When I lived abroad, I was always on the trains,” Hill said. “I use my car. I think public transportation is something that everyone ought to have. And I think if we can get the suburbs to get some buses that would be a good thing.”

Hill was among four of the 14 nominees who received three votes in the second round of committee voting, but in the end the committee couldn’t agree on a full slate of seven nominees to present to the city council. As a result, the full – and newly rejiggered – Dallas City Council will choose from the remaining 10 nominees to fill the final three spots on the DART board.

See, this is who you all elected. A little background: the Dallas City Council now gets to act on four major projects that could shape the city for the next 100 years. One of those four projects is Dallas Area Rapid Transit, DART, the regional transit agency that runs what they brag is the largest light rail system in the country, but also the country’s most inefficient and unreliable system. Just last night we watched the DART line at Fair Park stop with 7/8ths of the seats empty at 10:00 pm. A friend who took the train to the Fair Park Meeting was later than we were driving from Preston Center by car. (Even with Candy driving!) Last week, the Dallas City Council selected new candidates for all of Dallas’ seven spots on the 15-member DART board.

And Lee Kleinman,taking ten steps backwards, chose Vonceil. We wonder if her swimming pool looks better these days and sure hope Kleinman is not using her pool service.

Who would I have selected? Oh, someone one new, fresh, with no connections to the inbred swamp of Dallas politics, someone from the district (two residents I met while campaigning come to mind, one a New England transplant, attorney by training, who loves public transit, another a neighbor who uses DART daily… for starters).

Let’s see what happens tomorrow: I like what I heard from the fresh new candidates, and this is what I would have looked for in an appointment:

Catherine Cuellar spoke about how low ridership meant that (empty) buses often run ahead of schedule, meaning they arrive and depart spots ahead of their allotted time. DART should improve the tools available for riders to track buses, she said, as well as implement a system to “true up” routes along the way so the people who ride DART’s inefficient buses aren’t hit with the double frustration of missing their buses because they departed too soon.

Jon-Bertrell Killen said he takes the Red Line to work 30 to 40 percent of the time, dropping his daughters off at day care on the way, but added that his commuting routine is made more difficult when appointments force him to travel to the Dallas North Tollway corridor. He also referenced the recent University of Texas at Arlington study that linked transportation costs and poor public transit to Dallas’ lack of economic mobility.

Patrick Kennedy revealed that he has spent his first five months on the DART board reviewing every single route in the bus system and finding redundancies that may allow for service reallocation. His hope is that he can free up resources to create high volume bus service corridors that will offer more reliable and efficient transit while offering an opportunity to plan development or housing policy around established routes. He said a re-imagined bus system could be rolled out in nine to 12 months, rather than the 10 years DART staff says it could take.

“I think there has been a long-term pattern of chasing demographics, too much emphasis on trying to make the perfect route,” Kennedy said. “But transit can’t be everyone’s personal Uber.”

Wednesday should be an interesting day.

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