For now, Fort Worth’s private sector is riding to the rescue of one public transit service. That’s good news, as far as it goes.
Earlier this month, downtown businesses agreed to subsidize Molly the Trolley, removing an unpopular, short-lived $5 fare, making a ride on the iconic, trolley-style buses free again. The trolley route is bordered by Commerce, Second and Houston streets and Lancaster Avenue.
About 15,000 people rode the shuttle around downtown for free every month until August, when Trinity Metro started charging $5 for an all-day ticket. Ridership was cut in half, so downtown businesses recently donated $136,800, or a year’s worth of fares, to make Molly free again. But Sundance Square, the hotels and others providing the money only gave enough cash for a year.
What happens after that? It’s good to know because Trinity Metro is launching another transit service also receiving short-term funding from businesses.
It’s called the Dash. The business community believes that new bus service will become a vital link between the restaurants, bars and museums along West 7th Street and the central business district.
Set to start later this year, the Dash will use sleek, all-electric buses and run every 15 minutes between downtown and the near west side and the Cultural District, with a focus on late-night service to the restaurants and bars during the week and on weekends. Businesses also hope the buses will be attractive to a younger, hipper, transit-oriented user.
The merchants and museums are raising $200,000 to keep tickets on Dash to about $2 a ride. It will cost about $1 million year for overall operations of the new bus line.
It’s good to see the business community get behind Molly and the Dash. It’s also logical since most public officials agree that mass transit is a driver for any future economic development. The campaign to land Amazon made that abundantly clear.
Both fundraising campaigns are examples of how important the private sector believes mass transit is to Fort Worth’s overall economic health. We applaud their efforts. But the city and Trinity Metro can’t continually rely on merchants’ largesse to subsidize these crucial services a year at a time.
The city and Trinity Metro must develop a plan for expanding and financing transit. In January, City Manager David Cooke presented the Fort Worth City Council with options for coming up with additional dollars. So far, all we’ve heard is talk and not much else.
The annual “dash for cash” isn’t sustainable. It puts us at risk for missing the bus — and other public transportation opportunities.