When I announced that I was heading to Texas to lead Trinity Metro, my colleagues and friends in the Northeast would smile and joke about how Texans love their trucks. I hear the same refrain from residents in Fort Worth and Tarrant County. They have beautiful big trucks, and managed (toll) lanes can whisk you from one part of the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to the other at 70 mph. However, public transportation is key to the region’s future.
Fort Worth is ranked as the 13th largest city in the United States and is the fastest-growing among the nation’s biggest cities. The growth shows no sign of slowing down. Transit ridership is strong and growing quickly with consecutive all-time monthly ridership records on Trinity Metro TEXRail, our commuter rail line between Fort Worth and the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. The notion that people only want to move about by highway, though, is outdated and does not reflect reality for the millions who live in our region.
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker has leaned into the challenges that come with growth such as improving access to employment and educational opportunity, addressing social equity and maintaining our high standard of living. She maintains unequivocally that Fort Worth can and must strive to be a world-class city.
We have the makings of a world-class city to be sure. Our airport is now the second busiest in the world. We are home to the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. Our top-rated museums include the Kimbell Art Museum, which features the first known painting by Michelangelo, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, featuring exceptional works of art from the 1940s to the present. Our downtown bustles with nightlife thanks to top-rated restaurants, live music in Sundance Square, and touring events at the nationally distinguished Bass Performance Hall.
World-class also means a community built on diverse people and ideas – and a certain dynamism where people come together to live, love and create. Public transportation enables this in incredibly important ways. Buses and trains are public spaces where people from extraordinarily different backgrounds encounter one another. These interactions are important to social well-being as well as vibrant neighborhoods and a strong local economy.
There is ample research showing the creativity and productivity of a city is linked to the ease of getting around. The less friction of movement that exists, the greater the productivity. Time on transit is productive time, but it also increases the mixing of different people and ideas, allows companies to access talent, and creates a positive feedback loop with many other benefits. Creative and productive cities become magnets for new residents with diverse skills and experience, leading to further gains in population and commerce.
How we get there
In Fort Worth and Tarrant County, we are beginning a conversation about the future of our community. We are proud of our Texas heritage, but growth and opportunity don’t mean doing away with what we have. It’s about introducing new mobility options and leveraging our strengths while maintaining our unique identity.
Our journey starts with bringing back our riders. As of October 2022, 81 percent of riders have returned to our bus, rail and on-demand services, but we are aiming even higher and are finding success in a number of ways. We are planning a re-grand opening of TEXRail in 2023, creating a loyalty rewards program and reimagining our bus stops.
Engineering will soon get underway on our 2.1-mile TEXRail extension to the medical district, and planning continues for Trinity Metro’s first bus rapid transit line along our busiest corridor. And we are thrilled to launch our first high-intensity, guaranteed transit line between East Fort Worth and the Alliance Innovation Zone. New electric coach-style buses will run from underserved residential areas through downtown to the burgeoning area of development and job opportunities to the north. The buses will use the managed lanes on I-35 and customers will receive an automatic refund if the bus is late.
We are embarking on a value-proposition study to quantify the important benefits that Trinity Metro brings to our region. To borrow from APTA’s Transform Conference theme, we need to tell our story in a way that makes sense for all stakeholders. We must convey the message that public transportation is not only important and relevant to Fort Worth and Tarrant County today; it is foundational and essential to our aspirations to be world-class.
Finally and most importantly, we are reaching out to transit riders, elected officials, business leaders, real estate developers, and many other partners to understand their goals, wants and needs. We are grateful for the feedback from our transit colleagues throughout the industry for their counsel, particularly those who recently completed successful transit initiatives. We understand the path to success begins with listening and understanding and taking nothing for granted. We are a public service enterprise, so our plan must enable and support the goals of those we serve.
My newly adopted hometown is a welcoming diverse community with big dreams for what comes next. Trinity Metro will be there to help make it happen.
Richard Andreski is the president and CEO of Trinity Metro. He took on this position in April 2022.