Arlington Leaders Say Lack of Public Transit Leaves City Open to New Ideas, Technology

You can't catch a bus around the city of Arlington. But if a transportation advisory committee's recommendations come true, you could soon try an on-demand shuttle system or even automated pods on an elevated track.

But is that realistic?

Right now there is just one bus route in Arlington. It's called the Max, and it picks up on the University of Texas at Arlington campus then connects to other transit at Fort Worth's CentrePort Station. But even that route is set to expire at the end of the year, leaving Arlington commuters searching for other options that will work — now.

"It's really tough on everybody that don't have transportation and just walking to find work," said Max rider Anthony Ward.

To replace the Max, the next wave of transportation technology is moving in, with a proposal to start an on-demand rideshare shuttle service by the end of the year.

"It's like Uber and Lyft, but it's for transit," said John Dugan, director of community development and planning for the city of Arlington. "Certainly a newer technology, which is very adaptable."

Three times in the past, Arlington voters have rejected paying for large-scale bus service. But Dugan says there is demand for public transit, and starting from scratch gives the flexibility to try something new.

"I think it's an asset. We don't have anything that holds us back," Dugan said.

Down the line, the transportation advisory committee recommends advanced ideas like automated pods that would run on an elevated track.

"Looks like something from the Jetsons maybe," said longtime Arlington resident Loretta Derby. "I'm not sure that that would work. I'm not sure that that's what we really need."

As an agent for A&A Travel, Derby helps coordinate transportation all over the world. She thinks basic bus service may be the simplest proven way to connect a sprawling city.

"Something that would be reliable and very useful for everyone," Derby said.

Across town, NBC 5 found Tavares Duckett using Arlington's Tesla charging station. As an electric car early adopter, Duckett thinks the city should skip the old-school building blocks of public transit.

"I mean, I think we should just jump right in," Duckett said. "There's been enough technology out there for a while to really know the pros and cons."

The Arlington City Council is set to vote soon on step one, the on-demand rideshare shuttle service. There's no clear picture yet of how much it would cost, but the city says any expense will be split between federal funding and the city's general fund.

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