ARLINGTON — International students at the University of Texas at Arlington say they have been waiting for years for mass transit, but for them, Metro Arlington Xpress isn’t going to cut it.The bus, also known as MAX, will pick passengers up from the campus’s eastern edge and drop them off at CentrePort Station near Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, where they can catch a train to Dallas or Fort Worth. The bus service won’t operate on weekends.That leaves students at UT Arlington without other means to get around the city. They would like to see a bus system that can take them to the grocery store, the movie theater, the mall.“We’ve been hoping we’d get a bus in Arlington for the past three years,” said Muhymin Islam, a graduate student who lives in an apartment near the university. “When I came here, if I needed to go to the Texas driving office, I needed to find a ride.”Islam, who is pursuing a doctorate in electrical engineering, was able to save up money for a car a year ago. But his wife, Joyita Mostafa, doesn’t know how to drive, leaving her stranded if her husband isn’t around.“I have no options without depending on him,” she said.No car, no luckArlington approved a $700,000 annual contract with Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to provide limited commuter bus service during a two-year pilot program.The city will pay half of the annual contract, and UT Arlington and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce have pledged to pay the other half. About 300 to 600 riders are expected each week, city officials say.MAX fare is $5 a day, $25 a week and $80 a month, though students receive 50 percent discounts. At the end of the contract, the parties involved will decide the future of the service.By November, officials hope to implement a third stop that would take passengers to Arlington’s entertainment district, which includes Six Flags Over Texas, AT&T Stadium and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.Bahar Momeni, who recently moved to the United States with her husband from Iran, is excited about the new bus service. But while her husband pursues his doctorate in organic chemistry, Momeni sits in their apartment near the university, eager to explore the city.Currently, the couple relies on friends with vehicles. Momeni said it’s hard to interrupt them to take her to the store while they are busy working. She considered hiring a taxi before she found out how expensive it is.“Here, without a car, you can’t do anything,” Momeni said.Students can rent a car through a program, Connect by Hertz, whose rates start at $8 per hour and $62 per day and include gas, insurance, GPS navigation, roadside assistance and more. But for students on limited budgets and no licenses it doesn’t offer much of a solution. The university also offers a bus program for international students from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays called the Mav Mover Shuttle Bus. Fare is $2 one-way, and the bus takes students to Aldi, Parks Mall and Target every one to two hours. But many students don’t think it is enough.Weekend serviceJesal Shah, a biomedical engineering graduate student, said when classes start next week he and his peers won’t have time to go anywhere during the week, so MAX is pointless for students like him if it doesn’t operate on weekends.Shah said he would like to see an inner-city bus that takes students to places such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Payless, Academy and AT&T stores. He said the Mav Mover needs to use three to four buses that should run every 15 minutes to a half-hour, and offer more station drop-offs.Rohit Warrier added the buses should be easily accessible, something he doesn’t find with the MAX.“If we had this type of transportation system, we wouldn’t need to be dependent on other people,” said Warrier, an electrical engineering graduate student.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST