Reporting Joel Thomas
ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) – As a line of dignitaries stood in front of a colorful bus, with a blue ribbon and scissors in hand, a small group of spectators counted down to the ribbon cutting and to the city of Arlington losing a title it did not want.
“One, two, three,” the crowd chanted.
There was a cheer as the ribbon fell to the ground in pieces. Regional bus service would now begin. Arlington no longer holds the title of largest city without public transportation.
“If I’m asleep and dreaming don’t wake me up, because I like this dream!” Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said excitedly.
The Metro ArlingtonXpress (MAX) connects Arlington to the Centerport/DFW Station near DFW Airport.
From there, passengers can connect to The TRE to Fort Worth, go to the airport or go anywhere served by the DART network.
The service fills a gaping void in plans for a regional transit system. “We’ve got to have some way to join the Metroplex,” Mayor Cluck said. ”And as long as we don’t have public transportation to join the Metroplex we’re the hole in the donut and that’s not a good place to be.”
“This started in 1983,” DART Board Chairman John Danish explained. “Thirty years ago. This is the beginning of the next generation of what you’re seeing. You have young people here today arriving with their bicycles and getting on that bus. You had another gentleman show up with two suitcases — very first rider — who said ‘I’m going to the airport’.”
David Harding stayed with his Arlington friends over the weekend and used MAX to get to his Euless job Monday morning.
“What I would like to see are all the seats full all the time to the point we need more buses,” Harding said. “Because people are driving too many cars.”
After the ribbon cutting, University of Texas at Arlington student Jessica Van Pamel was looking over the bus schedule to use MAX to commute to UTA from Irving. ”It’s more cost effective than driving every day,” the freshman said. “It costs a lot less than gas.”
Initially, Arlington balked at efforts by DART to put in a commuter line. DART normally requires cities to commit to a long-term deal, including a sales tax hike to pay for it.
Arlington can’t afford the tax hike because it’s already near the state tax limit.
Instead, MAX is a two-year trial funded by federal grants, UTA and Arlington sources.
Any long-term deals for transit would have to go to a ballot and the city would have to find some way to fund it.
“We’re paying a cash amount of $700,000 a year for a couple of years and then we have to make a decision,” Mayor Cluck said. “Not me, us, the citizens. I’m sure we’ll have a vote and see if they’re willing to finance it and there are ways to do that.”
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