Originally proposed as a measure to reduce congestion and improve connectivity in the fast-growing DFW region, the Federal Transit Administration estimated that TEXRail would average 8,300 riders per day or 250,000 per month.
But so far this year, the highest average daily ridership was less than 20 percent of that. According to a report released in November, June saw 1,651 riders per weekday. The highest monthly ridership came in September with 51,621 riders that month.
The DFW airport is the most popular destination for riders, whether on a weekday or a weekend.
In an effort to increase ridership, Trinity Metro’s board of directors created a task force to “promote and encourage greater use” of the public transportation services.
It plans a “Re-Grand Opening” in January to coincide with the fourth anniversary of TEXRail’s opening on January 10, 2019.
“TEXRail’s ridership continues to grow, and an event like this could generate interest from people who haven’t tried it yet,” Melissa Chrisman, Trinity Metro’s vice president of marketing & communications, said in a press release.
Other plans include a rewards or loyalty program in which participants would earn points and rewards.
The agency also is looking at some “behind-the-scenes efforts” like upgrading technology, mobile app integration, website improvements, security initiatives, and extending the reduced fare program to include veterans.
The single ride fare on TEXRail is $2.50, but revenue from fares is a tiny contributor to the overall budgetary needs of the Trinity Metro system. Trinity Metro often offers free fares, as it did recently on Veteran’s Day and during early voting and on Election Day.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, TEXRail fares accounted for $343,000. The overall Trinity Metro budget for FY 2023 is $138,091,000. Most of the revenue supporting operations comes from designated sales taxes.
TEXRail is planning a 2.1-mile extension from downtown Fort Worth southward to what is known as the Medical District. Construction is projected to begin in early 2024 and take about two years.
The two-mile extension will cost $167 million, according to an article by the Fort Worth Report. It will be funded by the City of Fort Worth’s $7.1 million, Trinity Metro’s $48 million, and $111.9 million by the federal government.
In February 2020, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX-12) announced that Trinity Metro was authorized by the Federal Transit Administration to use $38.9 million in federal funds remaining from the original project toward the completion of the extension.
The original TEXRail project cost estimate was $1.034 billion, but the project was completed about $80 million under budget.
At its October 24th board meeting, Trinity Metro also passed its legislative agenda for the upcoming Texas Legislature.
It plans to lobby to maintain “existing law relating to eminent domain authority to allow planning and development of new and/or existing infrastructure projects that are fundamental to public transit.”
It also opposes any efforts to prohibit taxpayer-funded lobbying, such as Senate Bill 175 filed by Senator-elect Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston).
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.