This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2023 budget season, where we take a deeper look at where our government agencies are putting their dollars and what that means for readers.
Among the various transportation projects to be funded out of the city of Fort Worth’s Pay As You Go budget, less than 3% will be allocated toward transit initiatives.
For the 2022-2023 budget, Fort Worth is putting aside $1.7 million for transit initiatives out of its PAYGO funds. A portion will be dedicated to studying and developing smart corridors along McCart Avenue, 8th Avenue and Cleburne Road. This would create safe street cross-sections, better pedestrian and bike lanes as well as add internet connectivity, according to city staff.
The McCart Avenue, 8th Avenue and Cleburne Road corridor study will be a multi-year project. This corridor study will be similar to the upcoming project on East Berry Street, said Kelly Porter, assistant director for transportation and public works overseeing the regional transportation and innovation division.
What is PAYGO?
Pay As You Go, or PAYGO, is the city of Fort Worth’s General Fund cash pool used for some operations and capital programs.
Lauren Prieur, interim director of the Transportation and Public Works Department, said the city looks at different data sources to decide what gets prioritized in the budget.
“What gets chosen is largely up to the council members through this budget process, but the department, when we’re proposing suggestions to the council, we really look at our data,” said Prieur. “We’re also looking at customer surveys. The city does customer surveys to get your average citizens’ input on what they’d like to see better in the city as well. We get thousands of comments from residents each year.”
The other portion of the $1.7 million budget will be used to support Trinity Metro’s three-year plan to add shelters and benches at bus stops throughout the city. Residents in southeast Fort Worth have previously complained to City Council members about the lack of seating options or awnings at bus stops, according to KERA News.
“The bus stop is the first thing that a rider sees. And we have some very old infrastructure that we need to replace,” said Chad Edwards, vice president of planning and development at Trinity Metro.
Porter said all funds dedicated toward any transportation efforts in the city benefit transit.
“Anything we really do with transportation in the city, we’re thinking about all modes (of transportation),” he said.
While city funds allocated to Trinity Metro is a sign of the city and agency’s growing partnership efforts, more money never hurts, Edwards said.
How is Trinity Metro funded?
Trinity Metro’s revenue comes from two major places: Fares and Sales Tax.
Fares refers to the fees riders pay to use Trinity Metro’s transit options like commuter trains and buses.
The other portion of the revenue comes from Fort Worth’s half-cent sales tax. For every cent of revenue that the city makes from sales taxes, half of that cent goes to Trinity Metro. The other half cent goes to the city’s Crime Control and Prevention District, which helps fund the police department.
“Whatever the city provides to us and additional funding is very appreciative, and it gets put to good use,” he said. “Ideally, there would be more to be able to do that and expand our opportunity there. But I think we really just need to demonstrate to them our impact better, and then they’ll be able to say, ‘OK, I see why you’re asking for this.’”
Prieur said the city is anticipating that those funds will be matched with federal, state and local dollars along with Trinity Metro’s own budget.
“We look at the leveraging funding opportunities out there, and there’s a lot for transit. One of our thoughts behind this is we have the $1.7 million out there for a safe route to transit mostly. And then we also expect that to be leveraged with other grant opportunities out there along with Trinity Metro’s money to grow that impact,” she said.
The agency is constantly looking for other funding options to support its list of priorities, Edwards said.
“If federal funds can replace some of our local dollars, that means we can do more of these other things that are below that cutoff line,” Edwards said.
The rest of the city’s PAYGO funds will be dedicated to improving streetlights, pavement markings and street signals. Facility maintenance will also benefit from PAYGO funds.
“We’re definitely looking at how we can spend our money more efficiently and more strategically to bid on those,” Porter said.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19.
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