Three years after local elected officials sacked and replaced all nine board members at the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the local transit agency has a new vision of where it needs to go and how to get there.
The “how to get there” part, of course, is built partly on faith that money will be found to pay for it.
Still, the board and Paul Ballard, hired a year after the board shakeup to bring new energy as president and CEO, have researched and produced a solid master plan that could very well transform the way people in Fort Worth and other Tarrant County cities view public transportation.
And if the plan is a success, far more people will actually use it.
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Scott Mahaffey, board chairman since 2013, is blunt about what’s been wrong.
“We’ve had substandard service for too long,” he told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board. While Fort Worth’s population has doubled from 400,000 to 800,000 since 1980, its transportation system has failed to serve that growth.
Plans for the next five years include:
▪ Improve existing services through greater frequencies, longer hours and better crosstown service, employing technology to make services easier to use and move people from place to place faster.
▪ Expand to new communities.
▪ Develop a “frequent transit network” running from early morning to late at night on major corridors.
▪ Begin premium services like bus rapid transit and complete the TEX Rail commuter line to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
▪ Branch away from requiring cities to devote a specified portion of their sales tax, offering instead a menu of services that cities can self-select and pay for.
The master plan shows routes to key areas in Arlington, which does not have citywide public transit.
By executing these and other, longer-term steps — and with some creative re-branding — the authority hopes to change its image from that of a system for those with no other choice to that of a modern transportation service provider.
“We need the coat-and-tie guys to be on our buses,” Mahaffey said.