Dallas Could Lose DART Board Seats

Rodney Schlosser speaks at meeting
Rodney Schlosser speaks at meeting | Image by City of Dallas

Dallas’ stagnant population could result in the city losing majority control of the 15-member Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors.

Rodney Schlosser, one of the City of Dallas’ board members, warned that population growth among DART’s other member cities, along with a possible change in state law, may mean the end of Dallas’ majority representation on the board as early as next year.

Schlosser’s comments came during a joint meeting of the DART board and members of Dallas’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on April 15.

“As you can see … the population trends would suggest that by the end of the decade and perhaps sooner — meaning at the 2025 timeframe — there could be enough of a shift,” said Schlosser. “You could see that the consideration for Dallas’ control of that eighth seat could change.”

Schlosser cautioned that “there are differences of opinion between what someone in Dallas might consider to be a priority and what someone in a suburb might consider to be a priority.”

The other cities with representation on the DART board are Plano, Irving, Addison, Carrollton, Cockrell Hill, Farmers Branch, Garland, Richardson, Rowlett, University Park, Glenn Heights, and Highland Park. Along with Dallas, the suburban members pay a 1-cent sales tax, and that revenue accounts for about 75% of DART’s roughly $1 billion budget.

The other Dallas board members are Flora Hernandez, Michelle Wong Krause, Patrick Kennedy, Carmen Garcia, D’Andrala Alexander, and Randall Bryant. Enrique MacGregor represents Dallas and Cockrell Hill.

“I think most of you know that DART’s existence is based on state law. And that state law is currently using a formula of population to allocate board seats,” said Schlosser.

“Now, I think everybody around this table thinks of Dallas as having eight seats of a 15-member board, and that’s actually only partially true because the state law is driven by population among the service area cities,” Schlosser explained.

According to the “Texas Transp. Code Ch. 452… [the] DART Board [is] to be reapportioned, if necessary, each fifth year as of September 1 after the census data or population estimates become available,” according to a document Schlosser shared during the meeting.

In 2020, the population in the agency’s service area was 2,514,441 — a 40% increase over the previous 10 years in the suburban cities, according to the document.

“You’ll see that if we look at our population here in the City of Dallas, it’s grown,” Schlosser said. “But our 12 sister cities have had a rate of growth that is faster. And I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. It’s much faster than the City of Dallas.”

“And if you carefully look at state law … what you realize is that Dallas actually has seven seats,” Schlosser added. “The other 12 cities have seven seats, and then that eighth seat, which becomes the 15th seat — but it is what gives Dallas a majority — is actually a fractional seat. And as long as Dallas’ proportional population is one person more than half of the eighth seat, then this city council will appoint all eight members of the Dallas delegation.”

Since 2000, Dallas’ representation on the DART board has decreased from 8.29 to 7.78 in terms of seat share.

“Once that number goes below 7.50, by state law and using publicly available population information, that eighth seat will fractionalize, and it will be controlled by a consortium of the suburbs,” Schlosser explained. “And that’s something that we probably all need to be mindful of because … once that shift occurs — if it occurs — it’s probably in perpetuity, and that would be a major change.”

Population isn’t the only factor that could potentially affect the number of seats on the board.

“There has been discussion about changing the allocation of DART board seats in Austin at the legislature so that it’s not based on population, but it’s based on sales tax contributions,” Schlosser said. “And if you were to take that approach — and there are members of the legislature who represent counties other than Dallas who take this position — you could see that Dallas [represents] less than half of total sales tax collected … between 2015 and 2020.”

Dallas’ allocation of DART sales tax collections was $407,844,270 out of the $834,358,335 total DART collected in the fiscal year 2023, making up 48.88% of the fiscal year total. This percentage marks a decline from the 54.89% that Dallas collected from DART sales tax collections from fiscal years 1984 to 2010.

“And that trend has continued,” Schlosser said. “And, again, just based on population, retail growth … you can see that with each passing year, Dallas is losing as a percent of the whole.”

Schlosser speculated that state lawmakers could amend the law to determine board representation based on sales tax collections instead of population.

“This is not to alarm anybody,” Schlosser said.

Regarding topics of utmost importance, such as ensuring DART buses arrive and depart on time, are properly maintained, and are safe, Schlosser noted that everyone on the board is in agreement.

“There’s near unanimity on that, but on many other issues now and in the future, I suspect there won’t be, and how we think about approaching key issues and key policies, we should think about the change in governance that might occur as soon as 2025 and perhaps later in the decade.”

Dallas City Council Member Cara Mendelsohn (District 12), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, challenged some of Schlosser’s assertions.

“You know, Rodney, we have talked about the governance structure and the appointees for Dallas and how, because Dallas is not growing — contrary to a narrative that people like to say how fast Dallas is growing — it’s not, and it hasn’t been for quite some time,” she said. “The question is, so you have eight seats today, but are you able to work together to support Dallas coming together as a majority? Because I question that.”

Schlosser asked Mendelsohn to “look at the public record based on the votes that occur.”

“I think you’ll see that the Dallas delegation is, in the vast majority of cases, voting to support the City of Dallas on a consistent basis,” he said. “The Dallas delegation is very unified on the vast majority of those issues.”

Mendelsohn asserted that she is focused on the work of the DART board, not necessarily on how each individual member votes.

“I’m less concerned about having the most members on the board,” she said. “I’m more concerned about actually having good service for our people. It’s a matter of bridging that because you have colleagues who feel very strongly about the majority. Well, it hasn’t worked out that well for us.”

DART was created by voters in 1983 and is governed by Chapter 452 of the Texas Transportation Code.

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