Lane closures, construction zones and freeway “parking lots” could become memories – or at least fewer in number – when Interstate 35W renovations end and a new bus service begins.
But any improvement hinges on Texans and their intimate relationship with the four wheels parked in their garage.
“Our biggest competition is the car,” said Kristina Brevard, vice president of planning and development with the Denton County Transportation Authority.
“It’s going to take something like this to get people out of their car and onto the bus,” said Brevard, referring to proposed bus service from the Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Fort Worth to the University of North Texas in Denton.
Speaking at the 35W Coalition’s June 8 quarterly meeting, Brevard told the group of business and political leaders advocating transportation improvements that adding new bus service – and persuading motorists to use that service – is critical to unraveling area freeway congestion.
The service would start slowly, with only one bus providing up to five trips per day. But officials with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or The T, and DCTA, view the plan as a first step in connecting Tarrant and Denton County public transportation systems.
Brevard pointed to luxury bus service between Dallas and Austin as an example of how luxurious such passage can be. With reclining leather seats, an attendant serving sandwiches and cookies, the transportation official said the Tarrant-to-Denton service eventually could feature WiFi and charging stations for cellphones and laptop computers.
The service reflects a changing population, whose younger residents demand more travel options and fewer hours behind the wheel.
“The next generation are not living like we lived growing up. They want technology, they want things at their fingertips, and what better way to travel than a first-class bus,” Brevard said.
To that end, the DCTA is developing mobility on demand, a service new to the transit industry that’s similar to Uber or Lyft services. The agency already offers on-demand service for riders requesting service 24 hours in advance, but mobility on demand would require reservations with only two hours’ notice.
“We believe this is a solution many transit agencies are looking for,” Brevard said.
The service is expected to be available as a mobile application, reflecting a commuter population always on the move.
“It’s about providing options and choices for the passenger,” Brevard said.
Those passengers undoubtedly would welcome smoother area travel, a concept that appears on the horizon with the North Tarrant Express 35W project halfway complete, according to Heather DeLapp, a spokeswoman the North Tarrant Infrastructure, lead developer of the ongoing project.
Expected to reach completion by late 2018 is reconstructing I-35W from downtown to Loop 820. Reaching completion even sooner is expected to be I-35W from Loop 820 to near Heritage Trace Parkway. That could reach completion by late 2017, officials said.
The $1.6 billion 35W effort includes a section ranked sixth on the state’s most congested roadway list. That’s along 6.5 miles of I-35W from north of Interstate 30 to north of Loop 820, including the I-35W/I-820 interchange in Fort Worth. The project includes reconstructing main lanes and the addition of TEXpress managed lanes.
Fort Worth residents wanting to learn more – and comment – on proposed bus service to the city of Denton may attend three public meetings on the issue. The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or The T, is hosting two of the gatherings at 7 p.m. Wednesday June 15 at North Park YMCA, 9100 N. Beach St. in Fort Worth, and at 6 p.m. Thursday June 6 at the Intermodal Transportation Center, 1001 Jones St. in Fort Worth. A public hearing to receive comments will follow the June 16 public meeting.
A third public meeting is set for noon June 14 at the Denton County Transportation Authority, Lewisville administrative office, 1955 Lakeway Drive, Suite 260, Lewisville.
Those unable to attend meetings may submit comments via email at Tboard@fwta.org, traditional mail at FWTA, 801 Cherry St., Suite 850, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or by calling 817-215-8793.
The deadline for submitting comments by email, telephone or mail is 5 p.m. Friday June 17.
– A. Lee Graham