Saturday, November 23, 2013

Max Bus Service is a Feeble Beginning

By Faith Chatham - Arlington, TX - Nov. 21, 2013
RIDE THE MAX is a two-year pilot program linking Arlington to the Dallas DART and Fort Worth T Systems. It is a controversial start to mass transit service for Arlington, Texas. I see it as necessary, but feeble beginning.
Currently there are two MAX bus stops in Arlington for the service operated by DART which connects Arlington with the TRE at the Centerpoint Rail Station. The service runs 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. It does not run on Saturday when most of the games are played at the Dallas Cowboy Stadium.
The Entertainment District stop was only added Nov. 4th. The location, in my opinion, is wrong. It is located at Andrews and Collins, where there are no benches and no covered shelters. Andrews is four blocks North of the Cowboy Stadium and about a block South of Lincoln Square.
In our neighborhood, two blocks west of the Cowboy Stadium on Webb Street near Randoll Mill Road, there are twelve benches and four shelters. This infrastructure already exists and Arlington taxpayers have already paid for them. I wonder why we have to stand out in the rain and don't have a bench to sit on while we wait for the bus when there is existing under utilized infrastructure on another near-by street!
During the week, when the MAX buses run, these benches and shelters on Webb Street, and the adjacent Cowboy Stadium parking lots, are TOTALLY deserted This already existing public infrastructure (facing an Arlington street and situated on public right-of-way) is very under- utilized. These benches and shelter are used, at the very most, three to five hours a week during football season.
The benches and shelters on Webb Street are two blocks from the Cowboy Stadium, one half block from Randoll Mill Rd, two blocks from Walmart, one block from Walgreens and are adjacent to neighborhoods which have numerous apartment buildings and small single-family homes and duplexes. This is my neighborhood.
,Many of the residents of my neighborhood favor mass transit because we need it. Some of my neighbors have cars which cannot stand up to regularly commuting to Dallas or Fort Worth. Riding an affordable bus with connections to the .TRE and DART or T systems can open up better job opportunities for many people. Better jobs for Arlington residents means more money to spend locally, and that improves our city's economy!
I am a MAX bus rider. Like many of my neighbors, I can walk to the benches at Webb Street, but current bus stop is seven blocks farther away, and that is much harder for me and my neighbors. As a mobility impaired person, I have to have a place to sit down while I wait for a bus or I wait for Handitran to pick me up and take me home..
Richard Webber and other critics of the MAX service have pointed out that the AISD charter bus contract is for $70.00 an hour while the DART contract for MAX service is $150.00 an hour. When accounting for the value of the service, I think it is important to consider that the DART contract includes fares for passengers' connecting service to the TRE and either Fort Worth T systems or the Dallas Dart systems. The AISD contract only includes payment for where the bus goes -- and does not include the right to connect to the T or DART system. You cannot weigh the per hour charge between the AISD Charter Contract and the MAX contract because they are not similar services. One is only for the bus transportation. The other is for the bus transportation and for transportation on the TRE Train and 24-hours of connecting service with the Fort Worth T and Dallas DART systems.
There is a very organized group of Arlington citizens who oppose mass transit of any kind. There are as many, probably more, Arlington citizens who favor it. However, those who favor it are unorganized and not as vocal as the opponents.
The opponents frequently argue against any subsidy of mass transit. They claim, as tax payers, they deserve to be able to drive their cars without having buses on "their streets." They fail to acknowledge that every taxpayer in Arlington subsidizes them when they put their automobile onto a public highway or city street. Their car taxes, gas tax and inspection fees do not generate enough money for the State of Texas, U.S. Government or City of Arlington to build and maintain pubic streets. Transportation is already subsidized  for people driving private automobiles.
It is past time for Arlington to join the modern world and and create a mass transit system which will augment existing modes of transportation (currently only private automobiles). This system must move more people more efficiently between where they live and work, worship, serve, and go to school and  play! We cannot afford to continue exercising public domain to acquire more right-of-way to expand more roads and streets. We cannot afford the pollution from more and more automobiles. We cannot afford the time spend in gridlock because there are too many cars for the capacity of our streets and highways.
Arlington's golden days were the 70ies and 80ies when its location between Dallas and Fort Worth on the DFW Tollroad and its proximity to DFW Airport were it's major selling points. Few other adjacent cities had mass transit then. Now Arlington is the only major city in the region (except for Grand Prairie) which does not have mass transit. Today, it is less attractive to industries seeking places for expansion or plant relocation.
When visitors come to Arlington one of the first questions they usually ask is "Why don't you have mass transit!"  We need to solve this so that when they come here, they'll see what we have instead of being bewildered about why we don't have a system which will efficiently move people throughout the city and connect to other places in the region.
It is time that Arlington moves beyond the resistance of the nay sayers and we roll up our sleeves and seriously find a solution that will allow us to fund a mass transit system which will serve all quadrants of the city.  The MAX is a beginning. It's a feeble beginning, but it is a beginning.
I ride it several times a month. Today there were ten people plus the driver on the bus. My $2.50 gave me a ride on MAX from the Entertainment District to the Centerpoint Station. It allowed me to ride the TRE train to and from Dallas. If I'd wanted to, I could have connected to any DART bus or rail line and ridden all day. If I had wanted to, I could also have ridden the TRE to Fort Worth and gone anywhere on the T System all day. As a rider, it was affordable and a good deal.
Usually I am riding with people who are going to work, going to college in Dallas or Fort Worth, or are going to a museum, sports event or concert.   I'd like to see the MAX service expanded to include days when the Cowboys and Rangers are playing. The more people who come on buses, the less traffic we have in our neighborhood.
Connecting bus service on the weekends between Arlington and Centerpoint could help  attract more hotel guests. As it is, guests who stay in Dallas or Fort Worth hotels can easily travel to sites throughout the Metroplex without taking Taxi cabs or Limos or renting a car. There are no mass transit options for Arlington hotel guests cannot get into or out of Arlington on the weekends to visit tourist sites in neighboring cities or for hotel guests of other cities to come here. Arlington would get a better share of the tourist dollars which are being spent in the restaurants, malls and shopping centers in neighboring cities. if it made mass transit, easy and accessible seven days a week. For Arlington to regain its edge of being conveniently located between Dallas and Fort Worth it must have a mass transit system. Without mass transit in 2013 Arlington is between Dallas and Fort Worth but it is  no longer convenient and it certainly is not competitive!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2013 is off to an exciting election year

By Faith Chatham - Arlington, TX - Nov. 21, 2013

I write when I have something to say. From 2011-present I didn't blog a lot. It was usually about the air, water or an EPA hearing. It was usually more germane to "About Air and Water" or "DFW Regional Concerned Citizens" of "Preventable Pipeline Hazards" so it went on those blogs. Even though a lot happened with insurance and healthcare,  my own hospitalizations and surgeries prevented me from covering those issues. But this is a new year. It's a new election cycle.

It is obvious that 2013 is off to an OUTSTANDING start. From the moment Senator Wendy Davis rocketed into the minds of people around the world standing in the Texas Senate in her pink running shoes, it has been obvious that this is definitely not a "business as usual, boring old election cycle."

More Democrats have declared for office in Tarrant County, especially in Districts in Arlington, than I have witnessed since Ronald Reagan took office! The caliber of expertise and credentials and campaigning skill displayed among most of the first-time candidates impresses me. The Republican Primary is also lively. Tea Party candidates are challenging Republican Incumbents. Non- Tea Party Republicans are challenging Tea Party incumbents. A lot of races this year are worth watching.

Some of my favorite candidates from previous election cycles have already declared their intention to run again. Maria Luisa Alvarado, 2006 Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor is already campaigning hard. She launched her campaign website ONE TEXAS FOR ALL.NET.

 Sen. Leticia Van de Putte has announced for Lt. Governor. For the first time in the history of the Texas Democratic Party, two strong Texas women who are both proven leaders will b. e going head-to-head, each presenting her case as to why she is the best choice for Texans as Lt. Governor. I'm enthusiastic about this race. I expect both women to expand the base of people voting Democratic with their campaigns.

Dale Henry has decided to try again to show Texas voters why they should elect a person with his knowledge and expertise in preventing Oil and Gas spills and water contamination to the Texas Rail Road Commission instead of the people that Republicans have chosen to fill those slots for decades. Each time Mr. Henry has run, he has educated Texans on the industry and the importance of sensible regulation to prevent water depletion and /or contamination.

Reclaiming the Texas Turf and Grassroots News U Can Use are two blogs where we'll be covering some of these very interesting races. There are a lot of other progressive political blogs in Texas. Perry Dorrell's Brains and  Eggs is one of my personal favorites.  David Van Os blogs as Notes from a Texas Patriot.

When it comes to issues, there are a number of excellent environmental writers. Texas Sharon remains among the best with BlueDaze.  Here in the Barnett Shale, there are a number of citizens who have turned activist and are communicating by blogs. Some of the best include:  Westchester GasetteFishCreek MonitorFort Worth CanDo,   Dallas Drilling Blog, Dallas Residents At Risk Fort Worth Follies.

On transportation, there is the Texas Democratic Pork Barrel Caucus which is a private facebook group which Texans who vote in the Democratic Primaries can ask to  join. Out of San Antonio there is a "non partisan" pac lead by Republican Terry Hall called Texas Turf. In addition to some of Texas's "Innovative financing -leveraged toll projects proving to be unprofitable and projected to go "belly up" by the summer of 2014, there are other interesting developments with Texas Roads. The wear and tear from gas production vehicular traffic has worn out a number of Texas' Farm to Market Roads. TxDOT proposes to widen them and to convert paved roads to unpaved roads.  The folks who live on those roads and have to drive long ways to shop and go to work and to the doctor and to school are "none too pleased" to say the very least at the prospect of their roads being converted to a gravel like asphalt composite because the state has mis-managed the funds they charged the gas drillers and/or transferred those dollars to other uses rather than maintaining existing roads. We'll cover that in more depth later.

Join us and KEEP WATCHING! It's already off to an exciting year.

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The Arlington Texan, a portal to news and coverage of issues and events of and about Arlington, Texas. DFW Regional Concerned Citizens is a sister-site of Grassroots News You Can Use. Visitors can subscribe to issues-specific and county specific action alerts using a simple form on the site. About Air and Water focuses on DFW Regional air quality and water/gas drilling issues. We welcome your feedback.