Southern Dallas Business Expands Transportation Service To Help Carless Workers

Southern Dallas Business Expands Transportation Service To Help Carless Workers 

Story by Leah Walters, Dallas Morning News 

When Karla Mayfield, 32, and her 13-year-old son left Louisiana for better job prospects in Dallas, she didn’t realize how hard it would be living and working in a huge metroplex.

“I was able to get hired,” Mayfield said. “But I had an issue getting back and forth to work because I didn’t have a car.”

Mayfield’s warehouse job in Ennis, which paid good money, was about 30 miles from her home in Oak Cliff. She heard through word of mouth about a man named Curtis Corbins whose bus service gave people rides to work.

“Mr. Curtis was a ray of sunshine for me,” Mayfield said. “Rain, sleet or snow, he showed up. He made sure I was at work. He made sure we were able to get back home.”

Mayfield is one of thousands of clients who have used Corbins’ transportation service, Southern Dallas Link, since its founding in 2015. The service helps residents whose jobs often are outside public transportation routes get to work.

For residents in southern Dallas County without a vehicle, getting to work can often be a burden too high to overcome, a need that spurred Corbins to start his own business to help his neighbors.

After COVID hit, Corbins said some DART bus stops in southern Dallas closed down, adding to the transportation desert in the area. “I hate seeing people struggle and suffer because of the system,” Corbins said. “It’s just a never-ending cycle for them.”

Many of Corbins’ clients are single moms struggling to make ends meet. Without a transportation service, Corbins said his clients would be stuck in poverty because they wouldn’t be able to get to work.

“Transportation seems to be one of the biggest vehicles that has helped a lot to be able to get over that hurdle,” he said. Southern Dallas Link— which started as a one-man operation with a borrowed van — has grown into a reliable and robust fleet of buses, helping get more than 2,000 people a day to the grocery store, doctor appointments and work.

“We get started every morning at three o’clock and we go up until one o’clock in the morning,” Corbins said. “It’s just nonstop.”

Corbins’ staff also provides a shuttle service when the Dallas Regional Chamber takes tours of the southern sector to show off business opportunities in the area.

“There’s this myth that anything on the southern side is not good, but there’s a lot of good going on,” Corbins said.

During a recent tour, Corbins met Marcelo Mills, emerging markets president at American National Bank of Texas, who walked away heartbroken at the lack of investment in southern Dallas.

“If you go on this southern Dallas vision tour and you don’t leave a little bit angry and inspired, then you weren’t looking hard enough,” Mills said.

The most striking revelation for Mills was how underbanked the southern sector is, a financial desert for small business owners like Corbins who face growing demand for their services.

Southern Dallas Link recently secured a contract with DART, adding 30 buses to the service’s fleet. But the DART contract wouldn’t start paying for months, spurring Corbins to look for financing to support his business’ growth.

Mills said it was a no-brainer to connect Corbins with financial options to help cover the gap before DART paid out. Corbins had tried—without any success — to get a loan from other banks.

“I’ve done a lot of rewarding loans in my career,” Mills said. “When you help small business owners, it’s always rewarding. But to help Mr. Corbins was extremely rewarding. I just couldn’t believe that he had had so much trouble to that point.”

Mills helped Corbins close on a $500,000 revolving line of credit to support his new contract with DART.

A revolving line of credit works just like a credit card but with a lower interest rate. Customers borrow what they need and, when they have repaid the loan, they have access to those funds once again.

“That allows us to pay our staff, our drivers, take care of fuel costs, whatever costs we incur until we start getting our monthly deposits from DART,” Corbins said. “So without that line of credit, we probably would have had to walk away from the contract because we wouldn’t have been able to sustain it until the deposits started coming in. So the timing was just perfect.”

By the end of next year, Southern Dallas Link will have a contract through DART for all its paratransit services. Corbins also hopes to soon launch an app where riders can schedule transportation like they can with Uber or Lyft.

“The need is out there,” Corbins said. “It’s just a matter of having a reliable company that can come in there and provide the services. That’s what we plan to do, is to come in here and fill those pockets and get the people in the southern sector the mobility that they need.”

Leah Waters, Equity Reporter | Leah Waters is the equity reporter and former multiplatform editor for The Dallas Morning News. She reports on North Texas’ equity crisis from a human-centered perspective that takes into account the historical contexts, structural barriers and public policy that have contributed to its growth. Topics: Housing, Homelessness, Public Policy, Growth