ARLINGTON — Arlington’s new MAX bus service is averaging about 250 riders per day in its first month, which the region’s top transportation official says is an amazing number for a new route in a city with virtually no tradition of public transportation.“I’ve never seen a bus route this quickly get up to 250 persons a day. It’s growing at a tremendous rate,” said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.The MAX service — which stands for Metro Arlington Xpress — began Aug. 19. It’s a partnership of the city, the University of Texas at Arlington, area businesses and two transit agencies.Buses make 18 daily departures, connecting the eastern edge of the UT Arlington campus near Center Street and East Border Street to the Trinity Railway Express train station at CentrePort/DFW Airport. By connecting to the train station, the service links Arlington to the region’s transit network, allowing transfers to any buses or trains run by Dallas Area Rapid Transit or the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.When the two-year pilot project was being planned earlier this year, forecasters predicted that about 300 to 600 riders would take advantage of the service each day.But they stressed that MAX wouldn’t hit that mark right away. Instead, they said, it would take months for area residents to become aware of the service and give it a try.If successful, the MAX service, which is being funded by $700,000 annual contributions from the city, university and businesses, could lead to the creation of a permanent transit service in Arlington.But first, city officials say they want to give MAX time to grow on its own terms.“For me, the biggest surprise is it’s not just students there,” said Arlington Councilwoman Sheri Capehart. “Some people use it to go to Dallas to go to work, and there’s a lot of people who use it to go to DFW Airport and catch a plane.”Regular fares are $5 a day, $25 a week or $80 a month. Students and senior citizens get a 50 percent discount.During the second week of MAX service Aug. 26-30, there were 1,219 passenger trips - an average of about 244 trips per day, Arlington spokeswoman Sana Syed said in an email. More recent statistics weren’t available last week.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson