What began as a grassroots effort to improve transit connections among Fort Worth’s busiest and most popular hubs, is scrambling to the starting line.
If all goes as planned, The Dash will begin making rounds between downtown Fort Worth and the Cultural District, traveling through the West 7th corridor by the first quarter of 2019.
Plans for the 15-minute circulator service received a boost when the Trinity Metro Board of Directors approved the purchase of five new electric buses for The Dash operations. These will be the first electric buses in the transit agency’s fleet.
“We’re expecting the TEXRail train to begin operating on New Year’s Eve and The Dash buses to arrive in March 2019,” said Mike Birch, vice president and chief operating officer of Trinity Metro, formerly known as The T.
While stops along the route of The Dash have yet to be determined, buses will stop at the two downtown Fort Worth train stations – the T&P Station and the Fort Worth Intermodal Center – where Trinity Railway Express and TEXRail trains will pick up and deliver passengers.
TEXRail will be a 27-mile commuter line that operates between downtown Fort Worth and Terminal B at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Besides the two downtown and airport stations, six new stations will be built along the route, including two others in Fort Worth, two in North Richland Hills and two in Grapevine.
While The Dash isn’t connected to the TEXRail funding or operations, the transit services will work hand-in-hand to move tourists and local residents among Fort Worth’s top dining and entertainment districts.
“There has been strong support for transit options that make it possible for people to get around without the hassle of driving a car and finding a parking space in congested areas,” Birch said.
The circulator service has widespread community backing, with the city, Visit Fort Worth and the four major museums in the cultural district contributing toward matching funds for three years of The Dash operations.
“Fort Worth has long been renowned for its Cultural District, yet access to its attractions from downtown has always been difficult for visitors without cars,” said Eric Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “I’m thrilled that (Trinity Metro) has recognized and is addressing this challenge and look forward to welcoming the audiences that will benefit from this service.”
The Dash will operate similarly to Molly the Trolley, a free circulator service that operates between the Fort Worth Convention Center and Sundance Square seven days a week. Molly is subsidized by Sundance Square, Visit Fort Worth, Downtown Fort Worth Inc. and downtown hotels.
Unlike Molly’s vintage-looking trolley cars, The Dash buses will be sleek and modern with LED lighting on the outside “so you can see them from about a mile away,” Birch said. The vehicles will be equipped with cell phone chargers and Wi-Fi.
Perimeter seating, as opposed to traditional row seating, is being considered as an option to encourage riders to engage with one another, Birch said.
Trinity Metro will buy five electric buses at $860,000 per 30-foot vehicle for The Dash service. The alternative green energy buses will be purchased from New Flyer of America, one of the three leading global electric bus manufacturers.
Birch said Trinity Metro had bids from three companies but chose New Flyer for unique features such as removable side panels that are quickly interchangeable should the vehicle be involved in an accident. The New Flyer buses also had the most robust air conditioning system among the bidders, Birch said.
New Flyer’s electric buses can sustain a charge of 140 miles compared to other models that hold a charge for less than four hours, Birch said.
Last year, Trinity Metro received a matching grant from the North Central Council of Governments. The total $6.2 million grant includes a 20 percent contribution from the transit agency, officials said.
The Dash will offer a hop on, hop off service for a $5 daily fare, which also allows passengers to ride any of the other 43 buses in the Trinity Metro system. A single ride will cost $2.
The circulator service is estimated to cost $1,445,805 per year with Trinity Metro picking up 75 percent of the annual cost. The remaining amount of nearly $400,000 per year will come from other public and private contributors. The City of Fort Worth has already committed to $150,000 per year for three years and the Fort Worth CVB has committed to $25,000 per year for three years.
The funding campaign is still short about $63,000 per year for the three-year cycle.
“We’re very close,” said Brandy O’Quinn, one of the organizers of the grassroots effort behind The Dash. “We may do some type of kick-starter campaign to raise the rest of the money and get the word out.”
O’Quinn, currently public affairs senior manager for the Blue Zones Project, was formerly president of the Camp Bowie District Inc. and director of local business development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
“There is a group of us who believe that Fort Worth must have a robust transit system, or the alternative is that we will turn into another (Los Angeles) as a result of all the growth we are experiencing,” she said.
The City of Fort Worth’s Blue Zones Project is an enthusiastic supporter and financial backer of The Dash.
“Transit fits in with our goal of community health and wellness, but this initiative is important because it will make West 7th safer for cyclists and pedestrians by removing some vehicle traffic,” said Matt Dufrene, vice president of management and administration for the Fort Worth Blue Zones Project.
The UNT Health Science Center located in the cultural district will also benefit in a big way from The Dash service.
“It will help with the flow of students, prospective students, faculty members and researchers connect to the train and the airport,” said Monty Mohon, senior vice president of innovation and brand for UNTHSC. “We have people coming and going from here all the time, so transportation is very important to us.”
Mohon said UNTHSC will contribute to The Dash funding operations but has yet to decide how much.
Max Holderby, a board member of the Fort Worth Cultural District Alliance and president of Urbantown Inc., said The Dash will be especially important when the new Dickies Arena opens in 2019.
“It will make it so much easier and convenient for people to efficiently use public transportation and not have to worrying about driving or parking their cars,” he said.
Proposed Operating Schedule:
Sunday-Thursday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
ty of Fort Worth: $150,000
Fort Worth Convention & Visitor’s Bureau: $25,000
Crockett Row: $20,000
Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth; $15,000
Fort Worth Blue Zones Project: $10,000
Museum Place: $10,000
Amon Carter Museum: $10,000
Kimbell Art Museum: $10,000
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth: $10,000
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History: $10,000
Westwood Contractors: $1,000
Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel: $5,000.
Total remaining to be raised: $63,506