Survey seeks reaction to proposed bus/trolley system in Fort Worth

03/24/2014 5:37 PM

03/24/2014 9:35 PM

An expanded bus or trolley system to connect downtown with several bustling city centers is being considered, but local officials say the plans are still taking shape.

The bus or trolley service would be a public/private partnership with Tarrant County, Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or the T, said Bill Begley, city spokesman.

The proposed “circulator system” would connect several areas, including the Seventh Street Corridor/Montgomery Plaza area, downtown Fort Worth and Sundance Square, the Hospital District, museums and the Cultural District, and the Magnolia Avenue area.

Begley said organizers are “leaning toward rubber-tire trolleys” like Molly the Trolley, a rubber-tired streetcar system, which was launched by the T in 2009 and operates solely downtown.

“They are still in the planning and discussion phases about the idea and ways to expand and improve mobility options in and around the central city,” Begley said.

To gauge how the public feels about the idea of a expanded trolley system, residents and visitors are being encouraged to complete an online survey about how much they use public transit, how often they visit these central city-areas and their thoughts on the proposed transit system.

“It is in the very preliminary planning stages, which is why they want the survey, to see what everyone is interested in,” Begley said.

Councilman Jungus Jordan, who has also served on the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition, the North Central Texas Regional Transportation Council, Rail North Texas and is president of the Texas Municipal League, said a rubber-tire service will be a good indicator of Fort Worth’s public transit needs.

“I think most cities that evolved successful transit systems have tested those systems with rubber tire in advance, and some found that rubber tire is all they need and others find that streetcar and light rail may be successful in the future,” Jordan said.

As the region and Fort Worth move forward with TEX Rail and potentially high-speed rail, Jordan said having a successful last-mile service in the city will be needed.

“We certainly want to see the independent results of the surveys because you have to test that ridership, but I would be supportive of a rubber-tire circulator system that connects with the bus service,” he said.

Fort Worth expressed interest in a streetcar project a few years ago but gave up a $25 million federal grant for the project because the city would have needed an extra $63 million to start the streetcar system and possibly $1.6 million a year in operating expenses.

The approximately 50-question survey includes sections on awareness and perceptions of public transportation and seeks information about the travel habits of respondents.

The survey also asks about the proposed “circulator system,” asking residents if the system appears to be flexible and convenient and if they would feel safe using it.

Some questions ask for detailed responses, such as explaining current trips made to downtown, and the other featured locations. Other questions use a rating system, asking residents to rate statements on the range of “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” about the convenience of current T stops, the cleanliness of bus and train vehicles, and feelings of safety when using public transit.

The survey, put out by Leadership Fort Worth, closes April 7, and Begley said the city should have more specific information about what is being proposed in about a month.

The popular Molly the Trolley service runs Monday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in a looped route downtown every 15 minutes. The trolley logged 98,959 passenger trips in fiscal year 2013, according to The T.

It stops at several hotels, the Fort Worth Water Gardens, the Intermodal Transportation Center, Sundance Square, the T&P Lofts and other spots of interest.

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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