Few transit options for Fort Worth-area college students
Nearly 50,000 students take classes at Tarrant County College's five campuses, but only 300 ride the bus. At the University of Texas at Arlington, transit ridership is even lower the city doesnt have a full-fledged bus system but officials are trying other approaches to give students, faculty and staff alternatives to driving alone.
For example, charging stations are being built at two garages to encourage the use of electric cars. On Wednesday, leaders from those schools as well as Texas Wesleyan University and Texas Christian University gathered to brief area transportation leaders on what can be done to make campuses more walkable and eco-friendly.
All four institutions would benefit from a more thorough regional transit system, they said. But they cautioned that students will only use buses and trains if the service is frequent, logical and reliable. Students want to know they are contributing to a bigger idea. I think its important to say, this is important to the quality of life in our community, Don Mills, TCU vice chancellor for student affairs, told members of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition.
About 300 TCC students ride buses at the South and Trinity River campuses. Previous attempts to run buses to other campuses failed for lack of interest, TCC Northeast president Larry Darlage said. Those campuses feature huge, sometimes overcrowded parking lots. Bus service typically works at colleges where fees are charged for parking, he said. Students would use buses if the cost was negligible and service was frequent, he said. Youd have to have a number of bus stops on campus, Darlege said. It needs to be convenient, close to home, time saving, and there needs to be marketing. For students, things have to be cool. It has to be something they really want to do. TCC also has a FareAid program to offset bus fares for students, he said. That program provides 700 to 1,000 day passes per semester.
In addition to building electric car charging stations, officials at UTA are exploring the feasibility of building a compressed natural gas station on campus. Fifteen years ago we converted vehicles to CNG but the infrastructure wasnt sustainable, said John D. Hall, UTA vice president of administration and campus operations. Its key to get the infrastructure in place. About 76 people are taking part in a ride-sharing program, and another 97 are sharing cars, he said. But 69 percent of students drive to class alone. More than 4,200 students live on campus, and walk to class and that group would benefit tremendously from a transit system that connected Arlington to other cities in the region, he said.
During the past 20 or so years, parking at TCU has been pushed to the outskirts in an attempt to make the campus more walkable, Mills said. Four of every 10 students is from out of state including many from California, Illinois and New York, where transit is a more popular option. TCU does have regular fixed-route service provided by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Also, the T hopes to develop a commuter rail line from southwest Fort Worth to Grapevine and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, with a station at Berry Street and Eighth Avenue, less than a mile from TCU. The T also began experimenting this fall with Friday and Saturday night bus service from TCU to the West Seventh area, where shops and restaurants are popular with students.
About 85 percent of Texas Wesleyan Universitys 3,300 students commute to class each day, said Deborah Roark, director of grants and research. The law school benefits from proximity to the Ts Trinity Railway Express station, but the main campus suffers from the citys neglect of East Rosedale Street, she said. Its rather bumpy, she said. You might want to dodge a pothole but be careful because theres another one you might wind up in. Pedestrian safety is also an issue in the area, and better crosswalks are needed, she said. The city has created a Polytechnic/Wesleyan urban village in the area, which could lead to safer traffic and pedestrian patterns, as well as redevelopment of vacated buildings in the area.