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DART received $7.88 million in federal stimulus money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Such money is typically reserved for capital purchases, such as buses or buildings, in keeping with federal law. Operating expenses are usually covered by local revenues such as property taxes and bus fares.
However, Congress allowed for 10 percent of the ARRA money – nearly $800,000, in DART’s case – to be used for operations. That substantially softened this recession’s blow to DART’s operating budget, which has suffered from flat tax revenues and declining fare collections.
DART spent more than a third of its ARRA money on seven new Orion buses, which rolled onto DART’s property in March and hit the roads quickly thereafter. The buses, along with 13 additional buses purchased with separate federal funding, went a long way toward updating DART’s fleet, replacing 16-year-old buses that break down more frequently and are more than twice as expensive to maintain.
The stimulus money will also help DART equip its fleet with GPS technology, such that staff and riders will have access to real-time information about the buses’ locations. This will help DART planners make the routes more efficient, and riders will need look no further than their cell phones to see when the next bus will be by their stop. DART went to bid for this project this spring and expects the system to be in place by the summer of 2011.