Until recently, Dallas was a city like many others in the U.S., covering a huge area, but suffering from a severe lack of public transportation. While things have significantly improved with the addition of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, better known as DART, don’t expect to find anything like you would in cities like New York or Chicago.
While it is now possible to get around Dallas without a car, you’ll need to stick to the major downtown restaurants, hotels and attractions. If you’re planning on visiting outlying areas like Fort Worth or Arlington, or checking out shopping centers in North Dallas, you’ll be better off renting a vehicle. All of the usual players, and then some, are available at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, including Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Advantage, Hertz, Alamo and more. If you’re staying right downtown, planning to do most of your exploring there, and your hotel doesn’t offer parking, public transportation is probably a better bet. Parking on the street in downtown Dallas can be expensive and a major hassle.
DART Buses and Light Rail
Dallas’ bus system is extensive, and will take you to just about anywhere you want to go. It offers local and express routes that serve 12,500 stops throughout central Dallas and the Metro area, but keep in mind that most trips will require multiple transfers that can result in lengthy travel times. The city’s light rail connects the downtown area to other places of interest, like Deep Ellum and University Park.
While single tickets can be purchased at any DART station, if you plan to be in the area for a month or longer, you may want to consider purchasing a pass.
Be sure to use the trip planner tool on the DART website, whether traveling by bus or light rail. It will help you find the best route to your destination and the site also offers regular updates on changes and delays.
If you just need to get around central Dallas, the M-Line Trolley is an old-fashioned electric streetcar that offers a free and fun transport option. It travels from downtown to McKinney Avenue in Uptown, making several stops along the way, including popular tourist sites like the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas World Aquarium and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Uber and Lyft both operate in Dallas. If you’ve got a smartphone, you can download the app for either service for free, set up a ride in advance or get a ride on demand (usually within minutes) and even get door-to-door service. If you haven’t used Uber or Lyft before, do a little online research first in order to understand how the pricing works, and compare rates with other options, like taxi service. During peak demand times like rush hour Uber’s “surge pricing” kicks in which often results in significantly higher fares.
If you’re used to hailing a cab in places like Manhattan, be aware that taxi service is a lot different in Dallas. While it’s easy to catch a cab from the airport, and you’ll often find them parked in front of some of the larger, higher-end hotels, you’ll generally have to call if you need one. They can be convenient, but often, they’re the priciest option outside of limo service.