‘Microtransit’ Connects Southern Dallas County Employers with Workforce

Group Seeks Members to Continue Pipeline

by Dave Moore, Staff Writer

This is the story of how a wellspring of jobs in Southern Dallas County connected with a workforce in search of good-paying jobs.

More specifically, it’s about how the Dallas County Inland Port, which encompasses 75,000 acres and is a base to more than 100 employers, connected with the local transit agency and Uber to transport workers to jobs they might not be able to reach on their own.

“If you think about it, there’s all this investment that’s here at the inland port, and all of these jobs,” said Laura Freeland, executive director of the Southern Dallas Inland Port Transportation Management Association. “But how do you get people… to these jobs?”

Freeland recently spoke to the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Southern Dallas County Task Force, which convened at the Commemorative Air Force at Dallas Executive Airport.

Most of Freeland’s discussion centered on the growth of the inland port, and how it has worked with the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC), employers in the port, and others to reach a last-mile transportation solution for workers and employers. Freeland said there’s a growing number of well-paying jobs in the port, with another 6,000 positions expected within the next three years.

Some of the many Inland Port employers include FedEx, Amazon, and Whirlpool.

Employer User Group Survey 

To define the scope of the problem, the inland port worked with the DRC’s Research and Innovation Department, which surveyed employers on their workforce logistics issues. The survey found that about 90% of all inland port employees live outside of the port area.

To answer the challenge of connecting people to jobs, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and Dallas City Councilmember Tennell Atkins brought together the many organizations that operate within the inland port. As a result, Dallas County government, the City of Dallas, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) agency, Star Transit, and area employers formed the Southern Dallas County Inland Port Transportation Management Association (IPTMA) to extend transit routes and ride-sharing services.
DART, Uber Fill the Gap 

The solution is termed “microtransit”: on-demand rides (through DART shuttles, Star Transit, or Uber vehicles) that take riders where they want to go, when they want to go, without the need for conventional fixed-route transit services.

GoLink works like Uber, except riders can schedule rides using the GoPass app or by calling 214-515-7272, DART vans — rather than privately owned cars — provide the rides.

A $1 million federal grant from NCTCOG enabled the start of the microtransit service, she said. That’s enough funding for about three years of operation, to allow the IPTMA to generate enough membership to sustain it.

The results are promising, so far. Ridership in the inland port tripled between January 2021 and April 2022. Meanwhile, average wait times have held steady at about 12 minutes.

Transit Option Seals the Deal 

The Southern Dallas Inland Port is encouraging employers to join the association, so the enterprise can be self-funded. Those that do will receive transit pass subsidies or vouchers for employees, among other benefits.

DRC Senior Vice President of Research and Innovation Duane Dankesreiter said the association will play a key role in further developing the inland port’s economy.

“That day when we land a 5,000-person manufacturer at the inland port, having transportation options within that pitch is super important,” he said.

Southern Dallas County Inland Port employers, learn more information about joining.