Pilot bus project could begin rolling in Arlington by August

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- Buses could begin shuttling commuters between downtown Arlington and the Trinity Railway Express CentrePort Station as soon as August, a city administrator told the City Council on Tuesday.

With financial pledges from the business community and the University of Texas at Arlington, the city is ready to select a transportation provider, such as Dallas Area Rapid Transit or the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, to operate limited commuter bus service during a two-year pilot project.

City officials hope the buses will transport 300 to 600 riders a day Monday through Friday between selected downtown locations and the rail station south of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

The pilot bus project would cost an estimated $700,000 a year to operate.

The goal of the project is to create "connectivity between Arlington and the rest of the North Texas region" and "not about creating a citywide transit system," Jim Parajon, community development and planning director, told the council.

Arlington does not have a comprehensive public transit system but does offer low-cost transportation to the elderly and disabled through Handitran and rides for low- and moderate-income workers through the Ride2Work program.

A shuttle service would not only open up opportunities for people without personal transportation to get to jobs in Dallas and Fort Worth by connecting them to bus or rail service, but also could draw visitors and their wallets to Arlington shopping and entertainment destinations, supporters said.

"Moving people into and out of your commercial area is just critical to sustaining economic activity," Chamber of Commerce President Wes Jurey said.

"If this region is going to develop a true regional rail system, Arlington needs to be not just at the table but to be a player at the table and provide resources to be part of that regional rail system."

For the new pilot program, the city envisions contracting with a provider to operate three or four buses that would run every 30 minutes during peak weekday commute times and once an hour during non-peak times, such as midday, Parajon said.

The goal is to have the ride between destinations take no longer than 30 minutes.

"Anything longer than that, and we have a challenge in maintaining ridership or growing ridership," Parajon said.

UT Arlington has offered to pay a third of the project's costs, or $230,000.

"One strength of UTA is that it is in the heart of North Texas. When you have the proximity to D/FW Airport, people can come here from all corners of the globe," said Kristin Sullivan, the university's media relations assistant vice president.

"Accessibility opens up your university to everything; it opens it up to the world. That helps attract talent both in terms of students and faculty and employees. It can only benefit the university and the region overall."

Half of students who live in on-campus residence halls do not own their own transportation, she said.

In addition to the university's contribution for the two-year project, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce board of directors pledged to raise $120,000 a year from the business community. The city has set aside $350,000 from its natural gas revenue to match contributions.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @susanschrock

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