Richland Hills again looks for exit from T

This is getting old: The Richland Hills City Council has voted to hold another citywide referendum on its membership in the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

Richland Hills initially joined the T after a 1992 election showed 59 percent voter approval. Discontent on the council led to another vote in 2004, when 68 percent of voters supported the T.

Same song, third verse came in 2010, when the vote was 61.7 percent for the T.

The next vote is expected to be May 14, 2016. City Council members continually question whether Richland Hills gets its money’s worth for the $700,000 to $800,000 a year it sends to the T.

This time around, some also are upset about the city losing its seat on the T’s board. And they’ve heard concerns about obligations of a corporation formed by the T to explore public-private development partnerships.

The biggest benefit Richland Hills residents get is a station on the Trinity Railway Express commuter rail line. They also get on-call door-to-door bus service and discount taxi rides to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

The T has to ask questions, too. Thirteen years after the start of full TRE service, more than 100 acres of prime transit-oriented development property adjacent to the Richland Hills station remains an empty promise, despite hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

Meanwhile, about a half-mile to the east, Fort Worth has established a 1,800-acre tax increment financing district that’s estimated to bring more than $659 million worth of private commercial and residential development over the next 17 years.

Part of what’s proposed for the Trinity Lakes development is a TRE station. It’s really too close to Richland Hills for another stop on the rail line, but the Richland Hills station could be abandoned if the city pulls out of the T.

The developer of Trinity Lakes is Ken Newell, who is a T board member. He’ll need to bow out, but the T should explore its alternatives should Richland Hills choose to exit. The grass and dollars might be greener at Trinity Lakes.