Other Voices

Let’s talk about bus rides for poor

A bus stop on East Lancaster Avenue.
A bus stop on East Lancaster Avenue. Star-Telegram

We are clergy and leaders in Fort Worth’s religious community who are deeply concerned that the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, The T, is making drastic changes in the ability of the city’s poor to access affordable transportation.

Since 2008, The T has partnered with local aid agencies to provide all-day bus passes for those who depend on public transportation to go to job interviews, work, home or shelter, to visit their doctors, meet with case workers or buy food and clothing. The program is known as FareAid.

FareAid’s cost to The T is in unrealized revenue. The cost of running the bus routes is fixed and covered — the buses run with four or 40 people.

Agencies pay The T and clients receive the tickets for free. Since it’s doubtful many of these folks would be able use the bus very often at full fare, it’s arguable that the T actually makes money off the FareAid program.

FareAid is one example of the shared vision, adopted by our mayor and City Council, of a public/private partnership to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

For the past seven years, we have been proud of the moral clarity of Fort Worth’s civic vision, consistent with the biblical injunction to pursue “the welfare of the city.”

Last year, The T announced plans to end FareAid. Initially, the authority did not intend to replace it, but in response to public outcry, it has recently announced a plan to provide two-hour bus passes at a 25 percent bulk discount to agencies that can afford it.

This much shorter bus trip, at much greater cost, undermines the city’s nearly decade-long commitment to addressing the needs of the poor; increases the workload of agencies while decreasing the likelihood of success; makes it more likely we will see more panhandling on the streets; and, worst of all, creates a much higher hurdle for those trying to improve their lot.

We understand and appreciate that the authority has business concerns it is trying to address. However, in its attempt to solve the problem, The T has not sought public input either from providers or residents.

In fact, the authority has actually rebuffed the offers of providers to meet to discuss the issue.

This is not the Fort Worth Way. The Fort Worth Way is for all parties to work together to hammer out solutions to challenging civic concerns.

As religious leaders, we believe in the power of cooperation, conversation and mutual understanding to achieve “the welfare of the city.”

We ask that The T respond positively to the requests of residents and aid providers to sit down at the table together to come up with a mutually agreeable plan to meet the transportation needs of our most vulnerable neighbors.

 

The Rev. Fritz Ritsch is chairman of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. He wrote this along with The Rev. Brent Beasley, senior pastor of Broadway Baptist Church; Daniel Freemyer, minister of missional engagement at Broadway Baptist Church; the Rev. Karl Travis, First Presbyterian Church, Fort Worth; the Rev. Melinda Veatch of Tarrant Churches Together; the Rev. Page Hines, executive pastor of First United Methodist Church Fort Worth; the Rev. Robyn Michalove, First Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Tim Bruster, First United Methodist Church Fort Worth; and Tom Plumbley, senior minister of First Christian Church.

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