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Fort Worth Transportation Authority will end Alliance-area bus route

A bus route from east Fort Worth to an AllianceTexas industrial area has been canceled after four years because of low ridership.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority is making arrangements for the few residents who still used the Route 69 bus, which traveled from East Lancaster Avenue to Westport Parkway near Alliance Airport, to take van pools or car pools instead.

"It had dropped from full buses to less than 10 riders. It wasn't cost-effective," T spokeswoman Joan Hunter said after Route 69 was canceled last week. "This appears to be a sign of the economy, with labor-force reductions."

Dropping the route is a setback for Fort Worth officials who are pressing for better public transportation in the bustling Alliance Corridor. But traditional bus service is a hard sell in the industrial area, which has roughly 28,000 jobs spread across 17,000 acres -- an area larger than Manhattan -- but most of those employers are not within walking distance of one another.

The T began Route 69 in 2006 primarily to serve Motorola, but the next year Motorola turned over its Alliance plant to Cinram, a Canada-based maker of DVDs and other multimedia products.

The bus operated every 12 hours, alternately picking up and dropping off workers at a shift change.

It was a 50-mile round trip between east and far north Fort Worth.

In recent months, Route 69 had averaged only 212 passenger trips per month, or one passenger for every 10 miles traveled, about a third of what ridership was at its peak.

T ridership records from earlier this year show that the route was costing the agency an average of $70 per passenger. The service operates mostly on sales tax revenue.

The low ridership may have been the result of changing commuter trends among workers in the Alliance area rather than a reduction of area jobs, said David Pelletier, spokesman for Hillwood Development, the company that master-planned the area.

"A lot of times, people use the bus when that's their first job. Once they start making some money, they go out and buy a car," Pelletier said.

For those who still want mass transit, Pelletier said, "the van pools work a little better."

If demand returns, the T is open to resuming the service, Hunter said.

Half the service was funded with a $1.1 million federal grant.

Fort Worth City Council members have criticized the T for offering little more than bare-bones service in many areas of the city and not doing enough to help minorities and disadvantaged residents gain access to good jobs.

"I don't want people in east Fort Worth or south Fort Worth cut off from the ability to gain employment in the Alliance Corridor simply because they don't have public transportation there," Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks said. "I am disappointed they had to cancel the service, but I understand. They let me know about the issues of low ridership. I hope in the future if there is a need and we have an interest in ridership going to Alliance, they will bring it back."

GORDON DICKSON, 817-390-7796

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