FORT WORTH, Texas — The new TEXRail line had a big test Friday, as it started charging passengers for tickets for the first time.
The line connecting downtown Fort Worth with DFW Airport launched in early January after years of construction and anticipation, and ridership has exceeded expectations with more than 100,000 passengers so far.
"We're really seeing the market develop," Trinity Metro President Paul Ballard said. "We've had over 10,000 passengers on a couple of Saturdays."
TEXRail's star attraction is the direct connection to the terminal at DFW. A trip from downtown to the airport takes 47 minutes.
"And that's a consistent 47 minutes, whether it's rain, snow, sleet or whatever," Ballard said.
But in addition to passengers carrying their roller bags destined for the airport, TEXRail has also seen a surge in people who are using the train as an alternative to their car commute.
"The stress that it takes off you has been the biggest part for me," passenger Dionne Moten said. "The traffic can be pretty hectic."
Moten lives in Fort Worth and works in Grapevine as an accountant. Since she learned about TEXRail, she's been using it daily to commute. She said she has to drive in the morning to drop her young son off at daycare, and the TEXRail ride gives her a little time to herself.
"I can check email," she said. "I don't have to worry about the bumper to bumper traffic. It's definitely worth the cost."
Starting today, tickets cost $2.50 for one-way service and $5 for an all-day pass that includes access to other Trinity Metro services. Ballard said exact ridership numbers from Friday won't be available until tomorrow, but anecdotally they have not seen a big drop off in passengers.
"Even though we're charging folks are coming out and riding," he said. "We think this is going to make a permanent change to the way people think."
Moten paid $5 today for her all-day pass, and she plans to keep riding the train in the future.
"I am sticking with it," Moten said. "It has definitely been worth it to me. I'll be riding it as often as I can."