Great cities have great transit.” That was a quote from Scott Mahaffey, the chair of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the “T,” at the celebration of Fort Worth’s obtaining the full funding grant from the Federal Transit Authority in December 2016. This critical grant is for construction of TEXRail, the commuter line from downtown Fort Worth to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
It’s true. In Texas, the City of Dallas has the largest light rail system in the United States, Houston recently completed a $1.2 billion transit upgrade to its extensive transit system, and even El Paso is building a $97 million vintage streetcar system to enhance its downtown economic development potential.
Tarrant County needs to have more mobility choices for its citizens, rather than relying on the automobile.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has said many times that we cannot build more highways to accommodate the growth that will occur in Fort Worth and Tarrant County in the next few years. The T developed a Master Plan in 2016 to begin addressing the needs of its growing population.
And, while important changes have been implemented since then, such as the new “Where Is the Bus” app; planning for a circulator between the Southside, downtown, and West 7th Street; more frequent service; and expanding service areas, a great deal more needs to be done.
Three champions of transit in Tarrant County - Tarrant County College, the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, and the T - recognize the need for better mobility and implementation of the T Master Plan. They are forming a transit advocacy group and committing funds to educate the public and elected officials about the benefits of transit.
Eugene Giovannini, the new Chancellor of Tarrant County College, said early in his assessment of the network of the campuses that the issue he was most surprised about in Tarrant County was the lack of public transit.
“Transit is vital to getting the students to and from the classroom and to their jobs. Fort Worth simply must have a better transit system.”
The Real Estate Council has long been supportive of mobility and transit as a catalyst for economic development. Its executive director, Karen Vermaire Fox, says, “It’s a proven fact that investment in our transportation infrastructure, particularly public transportation, drives growth, attracts development and increases property values along its corridors.”
The process of providing more choices in car-centric areas is a journey, but the benefits of connecting our neighborhoods to each other, restaurants to diners, landlords to renters, employers to employees, and families to local stores can help build a great city.
Jeff Davis is chairman of Republic Title, past chair of the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, and an ardent advocate for transit and mobility in Fort Worth and Tarrant County. The Real Estate Council writes this column for each issue of FW Inc.