Give mass transit a shot

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    I’ve become a die-hard Stars fan in the last month.A few weeks ago, I went to Big D to watch the Stars demolish the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. It was a good game. And the best part was that afterward, my friends and I jumped on the Trinity Railway Express and let somebody else deal with Dallas traffic.

    I’ve driven Dallas enough to know that I hate doing it. Usually the only cheap parking to be found is on the highways during rush hour.

    According to my scientific research (Google Earth), it’s a 40-minute, 30-mile drive between the downtowns. For me, that’s about two and a half gallons of gas ($5 to $6) and about $10 for parking. Throw in the amount it would cost to drive around downtown for dinner or other late-night activities and I could easily spend $20 just by bringing my car.

    The TRE, as well as Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the T buses in Fort Worth, is free with a student ID.

    In 2004, 2.16 million people rode the TRE. To me, this says Metroplex residents generally like the idea of mass transit. The TRE is a clean, fast, efficient and inexpensive method that connects Fort Worthians with DART’s growing network of trains and buses. Do the math and that’s about a million cars taken off the roads.

    In addition, Joan Hunter, communications manager for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, said ridership for the T, Fort Worth’s bus system, is up, thanks to higher gasoline prices. What’s more, Hunter said ridership hasn’t decreased with gasoline prices, meaning more people are using, and liking, mass transit.

    Congratulations, to both Fort Worth and Dallas, on a job well done.

    But where do we go from here?

    Dallas’ DART system is large and efficient. So what is Fort Worth doing to improve its system? Hunter said plans are in the works to dramatically expand and improve the T over the next 25 years.

    One idea calls for added bus service in “Alliance corridor,” helping cut down on congestion along Interstate 35, north of town. Another would give buses the ability to hold traffic lights at green, making buses more efficient and faster. She said there are also plans for express buses and for new passenger shelters for protection from the elements.

    As early as June, Hunter said, we could see a new “transit plaza” near the downtown convention center. This area would add green space to the city and make it easier for riders to transfer buses and access downtown.

    The biggest change, which could be several years away, would be the addition of service, possibly a rail line, between southwest Fort Worth (near Hulen Mall) and the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

    None of this can be accomplished, however, without public support. Hunter said that by using the T just once a week, students and Fort Worth residents can make a major impact by reducing pollution and taking cars off roads.

    This week, make it a point to take mass transit somewhere. It’s a 13-minute ride from TCU to the Cultural District, a 35-minute trip from downtown to the airport or an hour-long train ride to Dallas. And the best part: It won’t cost you a dime.

    Brian Wooddell is a senior news-editorial journalism major from The Woodlands.