Transit investment in the Fort Worth area is much lower than in most current peer cities. Consequently, transit ridership is also lower.
In 2015, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority published their well thought out and studied Master Plan. Since the plan’s publication, no new funding mechanisms have been established from the city.
Funding for the T, which operates the city’s bus service and some regional transportation independent from the city, has come from a half-cent sales tax approved by voters 34 years ago. In 2017 that was about $68 million in revenue.
Just for comparison, in 2018 San Antonio has budgeted to spend 4.1million out of their general fund for new public transportation routes. Their funding mechanism is similar to ours, and their city realized that the half cent is simply not sufficient to fund their transit system. Nashville, a finalist for the Amazon HQ2, also provides funding for public transportation out of their general fund (and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s President & CEO Paul Ballard helped build that system when he worked for them!)
WHY IT MATTERS RIGHT NOW
Our region is growing - Fort Worth is on track to become the Nation’s 12th largest city by 2019. By 2035, Tarrant County is projected to grow from 1.8 million residents to 2.8 million. With this growth, comes traffic congestion and further wear and tear on our infrastructure. While public transportation options are not cheap, building more roads is even more expensive. Improved public transportation allows cities to efficiently and equitably move people from one place to another, allowing for our city to expand and meet the needs of our growing population.
Our demographics are changing & our workforce is leaving - The number of millennials in the workforce in comparison to the number of Generation X and Z-ers is decreasing – there are more jobs and less workers. This is already creating competition in the jobs market as cities compete for workforce talent. Location decisions for major companies today start and end with “do they have the people we want?” Millennials want transportation options, and better transit options will be crucial to attracting and retaining this key demographic. At the same time, Baby Boomers are reaching retirement. In Tarrant County, the population of older adults is projected to increase by over 185,000 residents – from just 9% of the population in 2010 to 17% of the population in 2030. This large population of older adults will require safe and affordable transit options to stay active and engaged in their communities and access daily services and medical appointments.
Economic Development - Amazon’s HQ2 requests for proposals illustrates the competition between cities for workforce and the importance of public transportation options. As mentioned before, companies are researching and relocating in search of young, qualified talent - GM left the suburbs of Connecticut to Boston, McDonald’s moved its HQ to downtown Chicago, Expedia moved from Bellevue, Washington to Seattle… this is just to name a few.
An Equitable City - Residents in the Fort Worth region spend over 25% of household income on transportation. In fact, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metro area is in the top 20 regions in the country for the highest annual transportation costs. Transit provides an affordable transportation option for those who depend on public transportation and those who choose to ride it. Building safe and efficient public transportation systems helps people get to work and school.
We need to prepare our city for the future - Autonomous vehicles and other future technologies are coming, which will allow for even more connectivity. But these are not going to replace the systems we are setting into place. Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit will serve as the spine to these transportation systems, with driverless buses replacing driven buses, and smaller vehicles traveling along the corridors we establish today, but with the ability to adjust for the last mile
TAKE A STAND FOR IMPROVED PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION!
Last Fall, our Fort Worth City Council leaders said they would look at the interim budget to see if there are savings that they could re-direct to improving the transit system. On Tuesday, January 30 at 7:00 pm, supporters of transit in Fort Worth will head to City Hall again to remind our elected officials of this promise and to make sure our transit systems stay a priority.
We want to use public transit, but it is infrequent and will not go where we need to go. We need funding to help improve the service, make it faster and easier to ride, and expand its reach. We HAVE to start today.
Increased funding allows for more frequent stops and longer hours, expansion of service areas, and the connection of urban villages and other city centers. This is the backbone of the system - a frequent transit network.
The T Masterplan is a well researched roadmap to make this happen. We have already moved into the Northside, the next step, based on research of demand centers, is to move into the western quadrant. This requires $4.4million for operating funds and $7million for the busses. The next quadrants are the Southside and the Eastside. This is to help build the base of the system and develop a frequent transit network so our community is best served and we can connect our city’s activity centers. This means building more service, which requires more funding.