On the road: Fort Worth transit agency outlines expanded service plans

Fort Worth Transportation Authority


Improved West Seventh district bus service is only the beginning.

Under transit plans recently unveiled by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, not only would the Fort Worth entertainment district enjoy expanded bus service, but so would the Alliance area in far north Fort Worth and many other locations served by The T.

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“This map is an outline of where we think we need to focus on building transportation in the next five years,” said Paul Ballard, CEO of an agency with big ambitions but limited finances.

That realization has Ballard seeking ways to fund what the agency calls its Master Transit Plan, aimed at improving existing transportation – and adding new options – as the commuter population grows and rail, train and bus service rise to meet its demand.

According to information Ballard presented at the Nov. 2 Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition’s monthly meeting, Tarrant County’s population is expected to grow from 1.8 million in 2015 to 2.6 million in 2040, with Fort Worth growing from 812,000 to 1.2 million in that time.

Meeting the transportation needs of that growing population saw the agency spend last year hearing public response to determine how services could be improved and how people could be encouraged to use transit in Tarrant County. Active community involvement played a major role in the process.

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Residents stressed a need for reliable transportation to and from work, as well as new options for reaching recreational destinations in and out of Fort Worth. Ballard hopes to meet those needs by pursuing private-public partnerships to fund different parts of the plan. Forming those relationships with area employers and municipalities is a key point in the funding quest.

The T runs on a half-cent sales tax provided by residents of Fort Worth, Richland Hills and Blue Mound. Its planned TEX Rail commuter rail project is partially funded by a 3/8-cent sales tax in Grapevine and funding in North Richland Hills.

Still, the Fort Worth agency lags behind several state transportation organizations in yearly transportation funding. For instance, Dallas Area Rapid Transit received $480 million in such funding in 2014 compared to $61 million for The T in sales tax revenue.

“Sales tax has bounced back nicely … closer to $70 million [this year], so we are seeing that growth,” Ballard said.

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Still, Ballard said The T continues to seek alternative options in fulfilling its plan. Some plans are proposals, while others already have been implemented.

Among proposals are adding stops downtown and in the museum district as part of serving West Seventh Street.

“We feel like we actually could be in service by April,” Ballard said.

Other changes follow the agency’s strategy of splitting Tarrant County into four quadrants.

“We’ve targeted the north quadrant and have been focusing on that area,” said Ballard, referring to north of downtown and as far north as north of Loop 820.

Plans call for adding bus routes north of downtown and some into far north Fort Worth. Those include a new route to Tarrant County College’s Northwest Campus. It would run along Northeast 28th Street, Angle Avenue and Marine Creek Parkway in serving the Fort Worth Historic Stockyards, the TCC campus and 930 units of four apartment communities.

New routes also are planned for River Oaks Boulevard and Long Avenue. For River Oaks, the route would run along Northwest 25th Street, Ephriham Avenue and River Oaks Boulevard, among other thoroughfares, while serving the Historic Stockyards, the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Ridgmar Mall, the area’s Target retail store and two Wal-Mart stores.

For Long Avenue, the new route would provide a crosstown connection in serving JPS Diamond Hill Clinic and the Wal-Mart on Jacksboro Highway.

As the agency eyes other new routes and improved existing routes, it’s also promoting the NextBus real-time app for customer smartphones.