T Master Plan brings major changes to public transit

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For Nick Pesetsky, getting from point A to point B is anything but simple. Pesetsky relies on public transit.
According to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, he isn’t alone. Their survey found that 56 percent of Fort Worth residents use public transit at least once a month. However, progression of the transit system has stood still for many years.
By 2035, Tarrant County is projected to grow in population by over 50 percent, according to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. That means 1 million new residents. With a growing population and economy, the Fort Worth region depends on efficient, reliable, and affordable transportation choices.
Photo Courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Photo Courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

These demands have led to a master plan for Fort Worth transportation.
Curvie Hawkins, assistant vice president of planning for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, said the transit system is outdated.
“With the growth in population and employment in our area, our transit system has not kept up with that growth,” he said. “We have doubled in population between 1980 and 2010 but our service area as far as transit still looks like it’s back in the 1980s.”
Jennifer Wieland, the principal consultant for the master plan, presented the 5-year strategy to attendees at a public meeting.
“We can see that the areas of significant demand are projected to grow,” she said. “We established a vision and goals and the 5-year recommendations are how we want to achieve those.”
The plan has several proposals. These include:

  • A more robust system with more frequent service that operates for more hours
  • The expansion of service to new areas
  • New rail services
  • The development of Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, in major corridors
  • Transit Emphasis Corridors that would provide very frequent service between major activity centers
  • Simpler, straighter, faster service
  • The consolidation of stops to make service faster
  • The development of outlying transit centers as focal points for outer area services.
  • New crosstown services
  • Rebranding some services to improve legibility
  • Expanded park-and-ride opportunities
  • Better matching service levels with demand

According to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, among Texas’ major transit systems, the T receives the least local funding.

Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

However, the T has a record of using funding efficiently for cost per service hour. This makes project leaders say they are confident in investing in improvements.
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority

Leaders of the T Master Plan are attempting to engage the community during the process.
The public has several opportunities to add input, including community meetings.
Pesetsky said one of the major disadvantages of using transit is longer travel time.
According to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, there are many causes of this, including indirect routes, buses stuck in the same congestion as regular traffic, and frequent stops and short distances between bus stops.
Strategies to reduce the time differential between transit and driving include operating more direct service, providing priority to transit, and consolidating bus stops where possible, according to the master plan report.
A more direct service would include simplifying routes.
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

 
Currently, many of the T’s stops are spaced very close together, and there is a greater emphasis on reducing walk distances than providing faster service.
However, according to the T Master Plan, the success of Spur rapid bus service has shown most passengers prefer a greater emphasis on faster service than on shorter walks.
The consolidation of stops can also provide significant travel time savings. According to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, on average, it takes a bus about 20 seconds to slow down, stop and pick up a passenger, and accelerate back up to speed.
A consolidation from nine stops per mile to six can save one minute per mile, or five minutes on a five-mile trip. It also provides a more comfortable ride, as it reduces stop-and-go operation, according to the master plan report.
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

Hawkins said they still want public input.
“These are our recommendations based on the research, but we want the public to be involved with the final product,” he said.
More information about public meetings, online surveys and project reports can be found that the T Master Plan website.