FORT WORTH - At Wednesday's board meeting, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority signed off on the next step to push its boundaries to new limits in the far north parts of the city.
The next stop for The T will be the greener pastures in north Fort Worth. It's in the permitting process to build its first park-and-ride location north of the Loop 820, just north of Heritage Trace Parkway on the southbound service road to I-35W.
The T said the project is a top priority. On the drawing board since 2009, the 200-car lot is expected to open at close to capacity from day one in 2013. 26,000 riders are projected to use the lot for bus connections.
Planning Director Curvie Hawkins is already scouting out land for an expected overflow.
"I think a lot of the congestion you see on I-35W has led to a lot of people to call for additional bus service - more options for north of 820," Hawkins said.
The only other park and ride dedicated to bus service and owned by The T is 25 miles south on Alsbury Boulevard. The transportation authority contracts with churches and other property owners for other park-and-ride lots, but the Alsbury lot is consistently full, and The T expects the same for the north lot.
Planners say the north-side commuters could get used to public transportation and boost ridership on the TRE with easier connections that save time and gas money.
Nikki Anderson said bus and train commuting saves her close to $500 per month in gas. She also saves time by taking the train instead of taking her car.
"The other day, I drove to work and I was stuck in traffic for 44 minutes," she said. "I could have been home."
Neighborhood associations question the feasibility of the park and ride, saying I-35W is about to be upgraded with added lanes to ease congestion, but The T said the buses will get to downtown faster than personal vehicles.
The new highway will have managed lanes, essentially paid tollways for cars, but those lanes will be free for buses.
"When you're in the managed lane and you are in a bus, you're going to beat a single-occupancy vehicle between downtown and this new park and ride," Hawkins said.
Rusty Fuller with the North Fort Worth Alliance said the park and ride is a step in the right direction, but the coalition of neighborhood leaders would still like to see light rail and commuter rail options.
Fuller laid out some issues in an e-mail to News 8:
It has been our observation that any plan for a Park and Ride must have the following considerations:
- Long term view - commuter rail must eventually connect to this site to several sites in the city and to light rail that services to our east and north
- Last Mile Plan - For such a plan to be effective, regardless of whether it is serviced by bus or rail, where the service terminates and how people will disperse from those termination points to their respective work places is vital. We don't know the demographics of employment in our area. I would be surprised if there were sufficient demand from our area to central city areas of employment. Therefore, multiple points of termination ought to be in the plan
- Frequency of transport - cost-effectiveness is certainly an eventual goal, but the plan must eventually have sufficient frequency to make it convenient for folks to use for more than just getting to and from work.
Fuller said the alliance will meet with the transportation authority to get the latest plans on June 16.