Bernadette Hoffman is a security officer who normally takes the No. 5 bus route, but when she went to make her usual commute Tuesday, it was different.
Trinity Metro unveiled the A Better Connection project over the holiday weekend, with new routes that started Sunday.
The new system is supposed to offer “more frequent routes, direct travel, routes to destinations without transferring through Downtown, better connections to TEXRail and consistent evening and weekend service through a budget-neutral redesign,” according to the website.
Trinity Metro Chair Jeff Davis said the last time Fort Worth reimagined routes, 30 years ago, many routes remained the same.
“It was time to begin looking at more frequency for routes that we could justify it,” Davis said. “And in our jargon, what frequency means is freedom, and you increase ridership with more frequency.”
A Better Connection added frequency for some buses, removed some connections and helped some crosstown routes avoid transfers. The goal for how frequently a bus runs is 15 minutes, Davis said.
On Tuesday, Hoffman was glad she stayed on the bus longer than she usually would because the stops were different, and it was her first day on the new route. The route she normally takes does not run on the weekend, so Tuesday was her first experience with the change.
Bus rides will be free through Sept. 11, according to the Trinity Metro website. Fares will be $1 for one-way rides and $2 for one-way ACCESS rides from Sept. 12 through Oct. 31.
The city giving rides for free while people figure out the new system is nice, Hoffman said.
“So far I haven’t had any issues,” she said. “But it’s hard for them to not tell us what stop is going to be active and what’s not.”
Trinity Metro worked to get community input instead of just working with a consultant to modify the routes. Trinity offered community meetings, surveys and social media engagement to get opinions from residents, Davis said.
But rider Gabriela Varela liked her old route, she said Tuesday on the bus. She now has to take a bus to downtown and then switch to another to get to her job at the Grand Plaza, which she said will cost more.
She also uses the bus to get to her classes at Tarrant County College South Campus, and Valera said the stop to do the bus transfer isn’t always safe at night or early in the morning when there are not a lot of people around.
A Better Connection is a good move for the city, Vice Chair of the Tarrant Transit Alliance Onyinye Akujuo said.
“Having ABC implemented should help to optimize routes, which go to the places our riders need and should be straightforward,” she said. “We want to focus on more initiatives to get people to use transit.”
The goal is to help decrease congestion and improve quality, Akujuo said. A Better Connection can be the first step to those changes.
Fort Worth is growing, and transit needs to grow with it. The routes also need to address urban sprawl and reach the suburbs, too, she said.
“People who live there still need to connect to these key places, and there is no fast, efficient, regionalized way to do that,” she said. “It’s time that our system pivots to the positive changes that are happening right and improve more frequent, faster and efficient routes that can help us get to work, to fun, help us do our errands and other things that we like to do.”
Future of public transit in Fort Worth
A Better Connection is not the end goal for Davis; he said he wants to see more invested in public transit in Fort Worth.
“We’re not getting to all communities on the west side, and we’re not even getting to all communities on the east side,” he said. “There’s a great demand for more service in east Fort Worth in north Fort Worth. We’re just not spending enough money to have the kind of public transportation our community deserves.”
Hoffman would appreciate the stop sites being more precise to show which bus is stopping where to improve her commute, she said.
Akujuo sees a lot in the future of public transit in Fort Worth: the possibility for something like a small high-speed rail system, a better grid system and optimizing routes further.
“Having transit is optimal as the city grows to become the 12th-largest city in the country,” Akujuo said. “If you do comparisons to other cities in the nation that are 11 and up, no other city is, I would say, transit-weak, or transit-poor like us. All of them have better grid systems than we have, that have regional connectivity. And I think a lot of the issues come from people looking at the cost of things.
“But they also have to see what the future holds and the longer that we wait to invest, the harder and more expensive it’s going to be to build,” she said. The time to build is now. But again, it has to be done under the best leadership, and other groups of people who understand how to find more finances for these projects.”