Commitment to Our Riders
The mission of DART First State and the Delaware Transit Corporation, an operating division of the Delaware Department of Transportation, is to design and provide the highest quality public transportation services that satisfy the needs of the customer and the community.
We aspire to be a premier transportation organization with accessible facilities and interconnected services incorporating state-of-the-art technologies. Our well-trained workforce, using clear communications and beneficial working partnerships, will enable us to connect people to their destinations in an affordable, safe, and efficient manner.
DART First State: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
DART, Delaware's multi-modal transit system, had its origins 150 years ago when on June 30, 1864, the Wilmington City Railroad Company initiated horse and mule-drawn 20-seat trolley service along several Wilmington streets. The first line connected Delaware Avenue with Market Street, similar to DART's Route 10 service today.
In 1888, Wilmington City Railroad introduced the state's first electric trolley car system. The first motor bus began service in 1925. In 1938, the Delaware Coach Company began operating trackless electric trolleys that replaced the older steel wheel system.
Delaware Coach replaced the trackless trolleys in 1958, continuing to operate its bus system for another decade. There were several other privately owned services, including the Short Line, that served Rehoboth Beach seasonally, Oxford, Kennett Square and West Chester, but those operations ceased during the early 1960's.
In 1969, the Delaware General Assembly created the Delaware Authority for Regional Transit, DART, to assume bus operations provided by the former Delaware Coach Company. Initially, the service operated under the Greater Wilmington Transportation Authority, but the governing agency was replaced in 1971 by the Delaware Department of Transportation.
Other transit services functioned under the Delaware Transit Authority, including Central Delaware Transit (CDT) in Dover, and Resort Transit in the beach area, both began bus operations in 1990.
In 1994, the General Assembly created the Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC) to manage and operate DART along with the Delaware Administration for Specialized Transportation, Delaware Railroad Administration, and Commuter Services Administration. DTC operates DART statewide bus services, and also contracts with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) that provides regional rail service in New Castle County.
Today, DART provides transportation services statewide with over 500 buses and 70 bus routes including its 8 Resort Transit seasonal routes, and demand response paratransit service. DTC transported 12.4 million passenger trips in fiscal year 2013. DTC also provides Delaware RideShare that matches people with rides throughout the state.
Future plans include the upgrading of bus stops and passenger shelters, adding more hybrid electric buses to its fleet, providing real time bus information, developing new services for persons with disabilities, and expanding its current system of fixed route bus services.
DelDOT's Early Years
The face of transportation has changed dramatically since the General Assembly first passed laws governing the use of automobiles in 1903. These laws, which required that all automobiles be equipped with a horn, bell or similar device, and that drivers slow down their automobiles when approaching a horse or mule-drawn carriage, may seem to be anachronistic today. But in that same year, the General Assembly also passed a State Aid Law, providing for joint state-country funding of new road construction, thereby providing the basis through which a modern-day highway department could have been developed.
The repeal of the State Aid Law due to public disfavor in 1905, however, represented a failure in the first attempt to centralize highway construction and postponed the development of a highway department in Delaware until 1917. In the meantime, the use of automobiles slowly started to increase. The first registration laws, which required vehicle owners to supply their own tags, file a declaration of competence to operate the vehicle, and pay a two dollar fee, were passed in 1905, and were soon followed by the issuing of operators' licenses for the first time in 1907. Only 313 cars were registered in 1907; by 1917, this number had grown to 10,702.
It was in this year, 1917, that the Delaware Highway Department was formed. In response to the 1916 Federal Highway Act, which provided financial assistance for highway construction only to those states with an organized highway department in place, Delaware's General Assembly passed the Highway Act of 1917. This act formed a centralized highway department with the authority to build and maintain a "permanent" highway system extending throughout the state. The Act encouraged the building and preservation of new highways, rather than the maintenance of existing dirt roads.
One of the major accomplishments of the young highway department was the completion of a boulevard stretching from a point near Wilmington to the Maryland line. This boulevard, initiated by General T. Coleman duPont in 1911 and now commonly known as Route 13, was completed entirely with private funding under the agreement that it would later be turned over to the state. Though the cost of the project, at $3,917,004, was financed privately, and the initial construction was completed by duPont's privately run corporation, the Highway Department took charge of the boulevard's construction in 1917 and finished it in 1924.
Although the Highway Department was freed from the expense of its first major project, it nevertheless had some difficulty in financing some of the state's other early roads. With the onset of the first fuel tax in 1923 (one cent per gallon), the state began to gain the revenue necessary to efficiently initiate further highway construction. Using this revenue, the Highway Department focused on consolidating, widening, and otherwise improving the state's primary roads from 1926 until 1935, while simultaneously developing a secondary road system. With its foundation in place, the Delaware Highway Department, now known as the Delaware Department of Transportation, began its now 85-year-old mission of designing, constructing, and maintaining safe transportation options for all of Delaware's residents and visitors.