ARLINGTON — Express bus service is coming to Arlington this summer.On Tuesday, the Arlington City Council unanimously approved a joint contract with Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to provide limited commuter bus service starting Aug. 19.During the two-year pilot project, buses will run Monday through Friday between downtown Arlington and the Trinity Railway Express CentrePort Station, where commuters could catch a TRE train to Dallas, Fort Worth or other destinations. The colorfully wrapped buses will be known as the Metro ArlingtonXpress, or “MAX.”Arlington will pay half of the $700,000 annual contract while the University of Texas at Arlington and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce have pledged to pay the other half. The city has made no commitments to funding bus service beyond 24 months.“We expect this to be a real success story over the next couple years,” Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said. “A lot of people don’t think so. We’ll show them.”Representatives from UT Arlington and the chamber of commerce and a few residents attended the council meeting to show support for the project.“It’s time that Arlington not be the largest city in the country without public transportation,” supporter Robert Knezek said.Resident Richard Weber was the only public speaker to oppose the contract, saying he did not want taxpayers to subsidize the bus service.Student-friendlyJohn Hall, a vice president at UTA, said supporting the creation of a public transportation system could help attract even more students to the university. A bus stop is expected to be downtown near UTA’s College Park District.“We know the students who live on campus in our residence halls, only about half of those students bring a car to campus,” Hall said. “How many other students in the Metroplex would attend the University of Texas at Arlington if there was some form of mass transportation.”The service would transport a projected 300 to 500 riders a day, said Jim Parajon, director of community development and planning. Bus riders would pay a $5 fare, which would also let them access the TRE without having to pay more to take the train east or west.Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon, vice chairwoman of the Regional Transportation Council, said the bus service will help create a long-needed connection between Arlington and the regional rail system.“I want to be on the first bus,” Wilemon said excitedly.Gauging public interestThe council did not discuss last-minute changes to the contract made by DART last week. DART’s board amended it so that a local government corporation — not DART itself — could be employed to manage its interest in the pilot project.Arlington had voiced opposition to that idea.The pilot project will help gauge residents’ interest in public transportation and connect Arlington to the rest of the region.Under rules adopted by DART in March for nonmember cities, contractual bus services would end after two years unless Arlington agreed to begin preparing to pay for permanent service. Those rules would require the city to hold a referendum within four years on whether to commit 1 cent of its sales tax to DART membership, which is what other cities have paid for years.That 1-cent sales tax is the equivalent of $50 million a year, Arlington officials said.City voters have rejected raising sales taxes for transit three times since 1980.“We will have to entertain the probability of a vote,” Cluck said. “We will take it one step at a time.”Councilman Charlie Parker was absent. This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock