Reporting Bud Gillett
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Major changes could be coming to Dallas Area Rapid Transit, as North Texas cities that never became part of the system could soon be getting service. This includes Arlington, the country’s biggest city without its own public transportation network. Those in Arlington who wish to travel on DART must head to the TRE’s CentrePort Station in Fort Worth, the closest connection to the system.
Buses and trains at the Fort Worth station connect commuters with DFW International Airport and locations beyond. But city officials in Arlington would love for their citizens to better connect with that hub. So, at a DART board meeting being held Tuesday night, that proposal will be discussed.
Arlington voters have turned down mass transit proposals three times, not wanting lots of buses, according to the mayor. But now the city, the chamber, and UT-Arlington are ponying up 1-point-4 million dollars for a two year demonstration project: a single bus route running from the TRE to the UTA campus. They’re talking to both DART and the “T.”
DART spokesman Morgan Lyons tells us, “We’re developing a recommendation that’s joint with the “T” in Fort Worth, they’re also looking at private providers, and then they’ll make their own business decision.” Lyons tells us Tuesday’s meeting is not a straight up-or-down vote, rather a discussion on negotiating points.
But it has sparked a larger issue of what kinds of mass transit services should be offered to non-member cities, if any.
“And so that equity discussion will be a big part of that broader board discussion on policy,” according to Lyons. Some DART member cities have been paying a one-cent sales tax to DART for decades. Irving has collected a billion dollars over 30-years, according to mayor Beth Van Duyne.
“Irving’s mayor and I have talked about it,” says Arlington’s mayor Dr. Robert Cluck, who adds he’s sensitive to the perception of disparity.
“So there’s an inequity here that I recognize–that we all recognize—so whatever we do we’ll have to work out negotiations with them, making sure they’re whole, making sure we have good service.”
DART will likely want a much deeper commitment if a demonstration project proves a success in any city.
“And at some point they would have to make a decision about joining DART or another transit agency and contributing at some level of membership,” says DART’s Lyons.
Arlington city councilman Robert Rivera adds, “Ultimately the city participating with any level of public transportation will require citizen support.”
Arlington commuters would first connect to DART using buses, which would then carry those travelers to the train stations.
The plan would come at an annual cost of $700,000. Ann Killen lives in Arlington, and is just one of many commuters who first drives into Fort Worth to reach a job over in Dallas. “I wouldn’t have to get up quite as early,” she said.
The board meeting at DART headquarters in Dallas is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night.
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