Voters in Richland Hills are being asked to consider a question on the ballot that could determine the future of train and bus service in the city.
Voters will answer Yes or No to the following question:
“Shall the Fort Worth Transportation Authority be continued in the City of Richland Hills?”
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If the answer is “No,” there is not yet a clear answer from the Authority, which oversees the T bus and Trinity Railway Express train, of what will happen.
“We will make a decision on that after the election,” said Laura Hanna, Communications Manager of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
When asked if it is possible that train service will bypass the lone TRE station in Richland Hills, along Handley-Ederville Road and just south of Texas 121, Hanna was more specific.
“TRE trains will continue to stop in Richland Hills for the foreseeable future,” she said.
As for bus service?
“We will address that after the election,” Hanna said.
Richland Hills, along with Fort Worth and Blue Mound, is one of three FWTA member cities. It pays for its service through a sales tax.
Every year since 1992, when Richland Hills joined the FWTA, the Authority has paid back a portion of its sales tax money — about $200,000 — to pay for road repairs. But this past summer, the head of the FWTA announced it will stop that tax rebate moving forward. The editorial board of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called that decision a “ripoff.”
This is the fifth time since 1992 and the second time this year that voters in Richland Hills have been asked whether to continue the city’s relationship with the FWTA. In May of this year, as in the previous years, the vote has always gone “Yes.”
But the elimination of the street refund money came after the May 2016 vote in favor of staying with the FWTA, as were three other changes to service in Richland Hills, according to City manager Eric Strong.
In a statement to NBC DFW, Strong noted that the FWTA also announced it would no longer provide its airporter service, which provided on-demand trips to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for $10.
In addition, Strong said that the FWTA eliminated a dedicated school transport service that provided buses for kids who were otherwise ineligible for transportation through the school district.
Lastly, until this fall citizens of Richland Hills could request a T bus pickup at their homes via a “door-to-door” service. But that system was recently replaced with a “stop-based” service, Strong indicated.
“Following the announcement of those changes, the City Council received a petition signed by residents,” Strong said. “The petition required the council to place the item of continued FWTA membership on the ballot again for this November.”
“If residents elect to withdraw from the FWTA, state law does not require [the Authority] to cease service at the train station,” Strong noted. “We anticipate that service at the station would continue, although that is not a decision that is up to us.”