In its second year of operation, the TEXRail commuter rail that runs from downtown Fort Worth to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has seen a significant decline in ridership. It is operated by Trinity Metro, the transit service of the greater Fort Worth area.
The number of riders this year has dropped from a high of about 43,795 in January to a low of only 10,478 riders for the month of April.
From February to July 2019, TEXRail provided service to 222,569 riders. For that same period in 2020, only 122,506 riders used the service, a decline of 45 percent.
While the stay-at-home orders related to coronavirus were still in effect when the lowest ridership occurred in April, the numbers had only recovered to 15,064 by July, a drop of more than 60 percent compared to the same month in 2019.
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.
Tarrant County has a population of over 2 million residents.
According to the American Public Transportation Associations 2020 Public Transportation Fact Book, ridership on modes of public transit across the nation has been declining since 2014.
In spring 2016, a Texas transportation poll conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that 93 percent of Texans rely on their personal vehicles as a primary means of transportation.
Trinity Metro approved an operating budget in September for $125,765,000, with less than six percent of that number coming from operating receipts and the vast majority from a combination of sales tax revenue and grant funding.
Regular fares on the TEXRail are $2.50 per ride or $5 for an all-day pass, although Trinity Metro is waiving fares for voters from now until November 3.
The voter need only show a voter registration card or valid Texas identification to take advantage of the fareless ride offer.
Tarrant County approved $20,000 to help cover the cost of these fareless rides.
“We are trying to give every eligible voter in Tarrant County the ability to vote in the November 2020 election,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said.
Trinity Metro’s capital budget included an outlay of $16 million toward a TEXRail project.
The “Transit Moves” plans for TEXRail service include extending the service south of downtown Fort Worth into the medical district.
According to a presentation given at a Fort Worth City Council budget workshop, this two-mile extension will cost about $140 million. It will be paid for by a combination of federal grant funds and local funds.
Eventual plans for the TEXRail include extending it into Johnson County near Cleburne.
Trinity Metro did not reply to The Texan’s inquiry.
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Kim Roberts is a 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.