February 7, 2014

New bus route could reduce gridlock, increase passenger ‘quiet’ time

There are a few things that can start off the average workday on the wrong foot. A hellacious commute is one of them.

There are a few things that can start off the average workday on the wrong foot. A hellacious commute is one of them.

Many of Fort Worth’s suburban dwellers find this scenario all too familiar, as never-ending highway construction coupled with steady population growth have made many roadways resemble parking lots during morning and evening rush hours.

In the perpetual quest to reduce roadway congestion throughout the region, Fort Worth Transportation Authority officials have a plan that should provide Interstate 35W commuters with a little breathing room — and maybe some downtime to boot.

The T has proposed creating a bus route between a new park-and-ride lot on the southbound side of I-35W (between Golden Triangle Boulevard and Heritage Trace Parkway) and downtown Fort Worth.

Riders would be able to catch one of three express buses each morning and evening, instead of making the approximately 27-mile round trip on their own.

The bus service would ease some commuter traffic and provide riders an extra 35-50 minutes of reading, sleeping or just sitting in silence, instead of quietly seething behind the wheel in gridlock traffic.

Per T Board policy, any new route must not disproportionately burden minority or low-income populations; the board’s analysis found that the proposed plan will not.

In fact, the board found that “future plans to possibly expand service to Alliance may result in ‘benefits’ to these groups,” as the area continues to grow.

Joan Hunter, a spokeswoman for the T, said while it typically takes time to build ridership, a study by the North Central Texas Council of Governments estimated that this route could serve 26,000 people or more annually by 2025.

The proposed bus route is not yet official. The T must hold a public hearing before any major change in service policy, and that hearing is scheduled, with comments encouraged, at noon Monday at the Intermodal Transportation Center, 1001 Jones St.

But if all goes according to plan, the new service should be up and running by late spring, shuttling scores of commuters to and from downtown Fort Worth every weekday.

Until the construction on I-35W is completed, this solution will offer a needed reprieve.

It might even encourage more residents to make public transportation a regular part of their day.

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