Honkin' Mad

Why is TEXRail planning to let its commuter train passengers ride for free?

What’s better than being able to take a train across North Texas, rather than fighting freeway traffic?

How about taking a train for free?

That’s the plan for TEXRail, a commuter rail service that is scheduled to begin service Jan. 5 from downtown Fort Worth to Grapevine and DFW Airport. Officials at Trinity Metro, the transit agency building the $1 billion commuter line, say they’ll offer free rides for anyone during roughly the first month of service — through Jan. 31.

“TEXRail is a premium service, and we want to give everyone an opportunity to ride,” Bob Baulsir, Trinity Metro senior vice president, said in an email. “From the day we open on Jan. 5 until the end of January, we won’t charge a fare.”

Even when Trinity Metro (formerly the Fort Worth Transportation Authority) begins collecting fares Feb. 1, the price won’t be that steep.

A one-way ticket from downtown to DFW Airport will be $2.50. A day pass, which provides access to all Trinity Metro trains and buses, will be $5.

For those who wish to transfer to Dallas Area Rapid Transit trains and buses, a regional day pass will be $12. Cheaper fares are available for children, students, seniors and people with disabilities.

Trinity Metro expects TEXRail to attract about 8,000 riders per day by the end of its first year. But all those passengers aren’t expected to show up on Day One.

That’s why the agency wants to offer an extended period of free rides — to help Metroplex residents become accustomed to the availability of the train service.

Much of TEXRail operates on the old Cotton Belt line, which cuts diagonally through Northeast Tarrant County.

On the western end of the 27-mile long rail line, riders can board at two train stations in downtown Fort Worth — T&P Station and the Intermodal Transportation Center. There also will be stations near the Stockyards, the Mercantile area of north Fort Worth and two stops in North Richland Hills (Iron Horse and Smithfield stations, respectively).

On the eastern end the train will stop at Grapevine’s historical Main Street as well as a DFW Airport-North station park-and-ride lot in the runway clear zone east of Grapevine. Finally, the train’s eastern terminus will be at Terminal B.

At Terminal B, passengers can either take a short walk to the passenger terminal or transfer to Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Orange Line at Terminal A — and ride trains all over the Dallas area.

TEXRail trains will operate seven days a week, almost around the clock — with the first train of the day departing Fort Worth at 3:25 a.m. and arriving at DFW Airport at 4:17 a.m.

TEXRail won’t be Trinity Metro’s first dalliance with trains. Trinity Metro and DART co-own the Trinity Railway Express, which operates Monday through Saturday from downtown Fort Worth to Dallas, roughly following the Trinity River past the southern end of DFW Airport (but not actually going into the airport, as TEXRail will).

But TEXRail will be the first commuter train completely under Trinity Metro’s control.

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.