The ballots have been counted, and Richland Hills voters have decided to leave the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
So what happens now? Here are some answers to questions transit riders and other area residents may have in the wake of Tuesday’s election in which more than 55 percent of Richland Hills voters said they wanted out of the T.
Will the Trinity Railway Express continue to stop in Richland Hills?
The train service will continue uninterrupted for the foreseeable future, said Paul Ballard, Fort Worth Transportation Authority president. Even though the station is in Richland Hills, it’s part of a region-wide system that serves many neighboring cities.
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“The vote in Richland Hills doesn’t impact TRE service,” he said. “That station serves a much wider customer base than just the residents of Richland Hills. You can see how full the parking lot gets.”
There should be no lapse in service.
Eric Strong, Richland Hills city manager
The T owns the train station property and in 2011 spent $2 million expanding the number of parking spots to 480 and realigning Burns Street to make the intersection safer and potentially friendlier for commercial development (although there hasn’t been any).
The Richland Hills station, which opened about 15 years ago, is halfway between downtown Fort Worth’s Intermodal Transportation Center and Bell Station near Hurst, and it’s one of the most popular park-and-ride spots along the TRE line. About 700 people per day board trains there, and most of them live outside Richland Hills.
TRE connects downtown Fort Worth to Dallas, running trains Monday through Saturday.
What about bus service?
If the Richland Hills City Council canvasses the election results during a meeting Nov. 22, the T’s regular bus service (the “fixed routes” that run in the city on a schedule) will stop either at the end of that day or the next day, Ballard said. The precise time the buses will stop running is still being determined, but it will be within a matter of hours after the council’s vote.
It will be a bit different for mobility-impaired transit service shuttles, which can be hailed by people with disabilities. Ballard noted that MITS users often make reservations 24 hours in advance, so it’s possible that service could continue until Nov. 23, to honor those who have already arranged trips.
700 Average number of people per day who catch a train in Richland Hills.
After that, Richland Hills will need to arrange its own intracity bus or shuttle services. City Manager Eric Strong said city officials are already working on plans to get some temporary bus service up and running by Nov. 23.
“On a temporary basis, we will have something in place,” Strong said. “On a long-term basis, we anticipate taking proposals for an ongoing service that would be available for mobility-impaired residents and senior citizens. There should be no lapse in service.”
What about the taxes?
The half-cent sales tax collected by the T at Richland Hills retailers will continue to be collected until existing contracts are paid off, Ballard and Strong said.
Both men said they don’t yet have an estimate for how much Richland Hills will have to pay to leave the T. Earlier in the year, one estimate was that it would be about $600,000, but that figure could have changed.
If that figure were accurate, it would indicate the half-cent sales tax would need to be collected for about six months. The Richland Hills sales tax typically generates about $1.3 million to $1.4 million during a rolling 12-month period, Strong said.