When Trinity Metro’s Hershel R. Payne Transportation Complex opened in 1996 to run the city’s bus operations, it was a state-of-the-art facility.
Now, more than two decades later, the site remains frozen in time and is in desperate need of upgrades to continue meeting the needs of Fort Worth’s growing population.
Trinity Metro’s February 2021 Transit Asset Management Plan ranks 85% of facilities with a rating of 3, which means they are within their useful life but will need repairs.
As the director of facilities, Carrie Weir’s job is to make sure it runs smoothly.
Some days, one of the compressors stops working. Most days, the original 1996 generators don’t have enough power to sustain all the electrical demands of the facilities on site. Several charging stations for the buses don’t work.
Most of Weir’s staff works hard to make sure the equipment required to run and maintain city buses functions properly. But the hardest part is making sure it holds until the next inspection.
“It’s like your 18-year-old water heater. It’s not functioning great, but it’s working,” Weir said. “Then tomorrow it breaks, so you go and duct tape it back together and get it working again until the next inspection.”
An allocation of nearly $6.5 million from the federal infrastructure bill will help replace outdated equipment at the bus yard while also upgrading Fort Worth Central Station and T&P Station. Federal dollars allocated toward the improvement of these facilities will improve safety, operational efficiency and accommodations.
“Over the years, we focused so much on operations that we’ve unfortunately set aside the maintenance that’s needed on the facility side,” said Chad Edwards, vice president of planning and development at Trinity Metro.
Documents shared with the Fort Worth Report show Trinity Metro originally requested $8 million worth of projects from the federal government. The projects ranged from replacing equipment to upgrading lighting fixtures.
Bill Lambert, director of maintenance, said the projects selected for the grant came from a mix of employees and passengers bringing attention to the issues.
“These are the most important, most needed for functionality and providing service to our public. So I’m sure we’ll continue to seek out more grants and keep improving and trying to be better,” he said.
Among the equipment needing upgrades are two main generators that each power the main office building and the vehicle maintenance bay. Both generators are the same ones from when the complex opened in 1996.
Weir said the generators provide the bare minimum energy to supply both sites and prevent them from using the entire refueling station.
“We need something that will run everything because, right now, all it does is run our radio control in (the main office) building. Most of the lights don’t work. Most of the outlets don’t work,” Weir said. “If we don’t have power, we really need to be able to maintain all of our buses.”
Trinity Metro owns 143 buses. The organization is expected to replace 16 buses over the next five years and is potentially looking to purchase eight additional buses to accommodate high-intensity routes. This means additional space will be needed in the parking and maintenance areas.
The complex’s parking lot was re-striped just eight months ago to more efficiently use the space, which now accommodates 177 buses compared to 159.
Despite the reorganization of the lot, Weir said Trinity Metro is “still outgrowing the space.”
Beyond the equipment repairs, Trinity Metro wants to use the grant to upgrade the appearance and functionality of some of its facilities. This includes adding break rooms and upgrading equipment in restrooms and station lobbies.
For example, employees who work at the refueling station in the transportation complex do not have access to a break room nearby, which often leaves them to deal with weather elements — rain or shine.
Although the money is already allocated, the million-dollar grant won’t be awarded until June 1. The federal money must also be locally matched. Trinity Metro will provide $1.6 million in matching funds from the Unrestricted Cash and Cash Equivalents fund, according to documents provided to the Report.
“Happy employees make for happy customers ultimately,” Edwards said. “If we have a good morale and if people enjoy working here, then that translates to smiles on the buses and elsewhere.”
Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.