While the first week of my car-free adventure was all about getting to know the system, the second was all about what is inaccessible with the current system. Last week, I didn’t go out beyond my ‘zone.’ It took slightly longer to get to where I was going, but it was time I didn’t mind taking. What are 20 minutes in added commute if I can read the whole time and catch up on emails?
The bus, one of the best places to catch up on emails (or nap).
Last weekend when I went to have dinner with my family, I ended up spending the night at their house because they live out in Benbrook where there are no transit options. This week began with me skipping out on attending an event because it would have taken an hour and a half to get there (there being the Lena Pope Home, a relatively central location). On Wednesday, I had an event that required me to schlep a big cart full of materials and a large foam sign. There was no way I was going to try to maneuver those things on a bus at 6 in the morning! On Thursday after working out, I decided I had earned a post-workout beer and ran into some friends. I ended up having to Lyft home because I stayed out past 9! Finally, on Friday I had a meeting at Texas Health Resources in Bedford. When using the google transit planner, I discovered that there were zero transit options for me to get there. It would have taken me an hour and a half to get on the bus to get on TEXRail to North Richland Hills, and I still would have had to use Lyft to get the rest of the way there. I ended up using Lyft (a $22 ride) to get to where I was going and getting a ride back from a friend.
The First and Last Mile
This experience made me think about when Uber and Lyft first really came into the City of Fort Worth. I heard a presentation where someone (I now can’t remember who it was) mentioned how important these services were for certain areas of our city where taxis historically would not go. Not only were there now options for those folks to make a little money, they now had increased access to the city. However, these options aren’t exactly economical. One of my Lyft drivers mentioned to me that he usually works in Arlington and just recently gave a woman and her adult son a ride around town to do their grocery shopping. It was a $50 ride. Can you imagine needing to pay $50 just to run your errands?
Getting to the Doctors
The lack of access in Bedford got me thinking on another issue facing our region. Access to healthcare for our citizens. While there are some supplementary services, many are only for those age 60+ or who require paratransit services (the exception is Catholic Charities who do not limit their rides to any particular age or ability). These services are also typically relatively small and require you to call in at least 24 hours in advance. As the population ages, the number of people who will need transportation assistance will go up. I’m not convinced that this current system is sustainable. Let’s add on to all of this that frequently these supplementary services have a very limited service zone. If you need to get from one municipality to another, say, because your doctor is in the next city over, you would likely need to coordinate between multiple services.
A Regional Approach
Improving access in just our central city is expensive enough, especially given what little we have invested. However, when people move around our metroplex, they aren’t just staying in one part of the city. They are crossing city and county lines, going from one service area to another, and you wouldn’t even know it unless you relied on these systems.
Think about it - when driving, do you know where the city streets end and the county roads begin? If you needed to coordinate travel between cities in Tarrant County without a car, do you know how you would get there? Do you know which services might be available to you? At the moment, you can spend time online doing research, maybe call a service like MyRide Tarrant County or 411, but what if you didn’t have to worry? What if, just like driving between city streets and county roads, the ride transition was seamless?
It is possible - It just takes coordination between the transportation agencies and cities in our region - and the conversation has been moving in that direction. However, there are still several cities who aren't convinced that they need to buy-in. I’m not offering any solutions in this post. It is going to take great leadership and investment from our leaders to make something like a regional system happen. However, what we CAN do is continue to have these conversations - why improved transit services are vital for us and our neighbors, what the system is now and what it could be - and we can try to dispel myths about public transportation by trying it. Find the route that is closest to your home, work or school and see where you might be able to go without a car... and then try it out. Try taking the train with your family to Dallas or Grapevine or the Airport. Allow public transportation to become a tool in your transportation toolkit. Then tell people about it.
Car-Free Counter - 04/12/2019
Miles Walked = 25.7 mi Bus Rides = 11 Rides Received / TNC Rides = 10
Bonus Puppy-Tax: One great thing about taking transit and walking everywhere is
the average number of puppies I have pet has gone up significantly.