Other Voices

Public transit: expanding choice, boosting economies

Riders, at the bus stop near the UTA campus to Centerport, take the MAX bus service in Arlington in 2016.
Riders, at the bus stop near the UTA campus to Centerport, take the MAX bus service in Arlington in 2016. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

Each morning, staring into a sea of red brake lights, I think to myself: I would rather be riding public transportation. If only that were an option for me.

As many of us who drive to work know, stop-and-go traffic is stressful. We have to be constantly alert and conscious of what seems like the ever-growing line of cars on the road. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

With a public transit option to commute, I would be able to catch up on headlines for the day, get some early work done, and prepare for the day ahead. Plus, I would start my day from a place of relaxation rather than the commotion of my commute.

Unfortunately, taking a train or bus on a daily basis is not a viable option for me. From my house in Lantana to work in Irving, it would take two hours door to door. I’d have to drive to the train, then transfer to another train and get on a bus. Since my drive takes only 45 minutes, there’s no real competition.

Though I am not as frequent a public transit rider as I would like to be, I am on the citizen advisory team of the Denton County Transportation Authority. I can use my time and energy to advocate for more public transportation options.

Because for me, public transportation is about so much more than a practical way to get to work.

It’s a way to connect with my son and explore the region that we call home. Like many kids who grow up fascinated by buses and trains, my son marvels at public transportation. A few times a year, he and I will choose somewhere that we have never been before and plot out how we’ll get around using public transportation. We visit museums, walk around historic districts, and go to local restaurants. For the two of us, our time spent on the bus or train is as much of an adventure as exploring a new area.

I would love to have more public transportation adventures with my son, but without transit opportunities in our immediate area, we have to reserve our exploration for special occasions.

If we had more public transportation options, it would be a different story. There are three transportation systems in the area, but they do not operate in all of the communities. This means that the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has spotty transit service, with some areas better served than others.

Regional mobility should be a top priority. When all of our towns offer public transportation service, people and communities reap the rewards. I truly believe that public transportation serves us all and creates thriving communities.

Many of the communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are growing quickly. Companies are expanding in the area, which means that people are moving to fill the jobs. And with more people comes more cars. As we continue to grow, expanding our public transportation options will help traffic from getting out of control.

It will also aid our economy, since transit comes with development. We need not look further than DART’s light rail expansion. Ever since DART implemented its light rail service a few years ago, apartment buildings and businesses have opened all along the route in the various communities that it serves. These cities and towns have benefited from the new economic activity that comes with transit development.

And for the economic centers that already exist, public transportation keeps business strong. Though Arlington is the home to the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Six Flags, it does not have public transportation options. Can you imagine how many more people would be able to make it to a game or the amusement park if they didn’t have to worry about parking? Not to mention the hordes of people that would come to the area’s many restaurants, bars and shops.

I am convinced that public transportation is what our communities need to handle population growth, spur economic development and provide people with transportation choices for how to get around. It keeps our quality of life high for everyone in the area.

To create public transportation systems that meet our needs and support our communities, we need politicians on the local, state and national level to get on board. Projects like the TEXRail commuter rail route from DFW Airport to downtown Fort Worth would not be possible without elected officials in all levels of government pushing for public transit funding on the national level.

As we continue to prioritize public choice in transportation, I hope that the people who represent us will make sure our public transportation projects receive the funding they deserve.

Paul McManus is a resident in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and a member of DCTA's citizen advisory team.