Your Commute

Why so many college students are (seemingly) suddenly riding Trinity Metro buses

Tarrant County College student Alexandra Lopez shows off her identification card, which she uses for free Trinity Metro bus rides.
Tarrant County College student Alexandra Lopez shows off her identification card, which she uses for free Trinity Metro bus rides.

Alexandra Lopez is taking a full load of classes at two Tarrant County College campuses.

It’s an aggressive schedule that she might not be able to keep if it weren’t for the free rides she gets each day on Trinity Metro buses.

“My main transportation is the bus,” said Lopez, a sophomore who lives on Fort Worth’s Southside and is studying social work. She takes classes at TCC’s Trinity River campus in downtown Fort Worth and also at the Southeast campus in Arlington.

“I work at the TCU bookstore, and I can take the bus there,” she said. “I take the bus wherever I need to go.”

The number of TCC students using Trinity Metro buses has skyrocketed in recent months.

In May, Trinity Metro (formerly the Fort Worth Transportation Authority) began offering the bus rides free for students. Their fares are paid by TCC.

Ridership gradually rose during summer months, but quickly began rising when fall classes began. In September, TCC students logged more than 11,000 rides.

In October a whopping 14,130 student rides were logged on Trinity Metro buses. That’s roughly the equivalent of 3 percent of all passengers on Trinity Metro buses.

For many college students, the cost of buying and maintaining a car is impractical. TCC Chancellor Eugene Giovannini is a big believer in the importance of providing easy access to classes.

“It is gratifying to see what a major impact our partnership with Trinity Metro already is having on our students as they work to pursue their higher education goals,” Giovannini said. “Providing our students with free transportation to every TCC location through our Ride On Program furthers our goal of being a student-ready institution and removes a significant barrier to completion for many of our students.”

Eugene Giovannini, Tarrant County College chancellor DeeDra Parrish

To initiate the service, TCC and Trinity Metro collaborated earlier this year to come up with a student identification card with a magnetic strip. Students swipe the card as they board a Trinity Metro bus.

TCC is billed $1.50 per ride (a 25 percent discount over the full-price fare), up to a maximum of $60 per month. After that threshold is reached each month, the students can continue to ride the buses as much as they want for free.

“Because TCC students enjoy unlimited rides, they also benefit by having convenient options for getting to the grocery store, medical appointments or weekend entertainment,” said Paul Ballard, Trinity Metro president and chief executive. “The success we’re seeing so far shows that the program is working.”

Paul Ballard, of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, talks about transit funding and other topics while riding the Route 2 bus down Camp Bowie Boulevard on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017.

More than 100,000 students take classes at TCC, making it one of the 20 largest colleges in the United States. The two-year college was established in 1965 and has six campuses in the Fort Worth area.

Lopez said her goals include earning an associate’s degree at TCC, then pursuing a bachelor’s degree and possibly a master’s degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

At some point in the next year or two, she said she will probably invest in a car.

But for now, she doesn’t need to worry about finding a ride to class.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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