Fort Worth

No Expanded Bus Service in Fort Worth as Council Members Skip Public Hearing

A last-minute push to expand public transportation in Fort Worth is dead in the water. That's because a few city council members think the proposal breaks a promise to taxpayers.

The City Council had called a public hearing Friday to talk about expanding bus service out on the west side. But there weren't enough council members present to take a vote. A quorum requires six, but only four showed up, and that was intentional.

A couple members skipped the meeting because there's already been a budget process, where the council took public comment and decided how much to cut property taxes. The boycotting members say it's too late to change.

There's nothing as important as the bus, if it's your only way to get around.

"I'm a pretty regular 'T' rider, because I don't have my own transportation right now," said Fort Worth resident Roger Higgins. "It beats walking or waiting on somebody to pick you up."

But does it beat a property tax break? That's what the Fort Worth City Council was set to decide on Friday.

Council members had already voted to cut property taxes three cents on the dollar for next year. A late-in-the-game proposal would have taken back up to one cent of that to pay for expanded bus service.

"I don't see it as a bad thing, per se, as far as taxes for transportation expanding," said West Side resident Bruce Stallworth. "My only concern is if you promise me something, I'd kind of like to have it."

Councilman Cary Moon agrees the promised tax cut has to stay as is. So much so, he decided to skip Friday's meeting, which meant the council didn't have enough members present to vote on a change.

"We've had that process, we've committed to a three-cent reduction, and at the last minute an idea came out of left field to not honor that posted tax rate, so I'm going to stick to my guns on that," Moon said.

East Side small business owner Wanda Conlin is happy to hear it. She sees a host of other priorities the city could spend money on, from revitalizing East Lancaster Avenue to growing public transit of another kind.

"I think it's gonna happen," Conlin said. "I'm not sure it's buses. I think it's gonna be more like DART and trolleys and trains."

Moon agrees with that, too. Part of the idea for expanding public transportation was to attract Amazon's new second headquarters to Fort Worth. The company has said it wants mass transit on site at whatever location it chooses.

"If we want to really look at public transportation," Moon said, "Let's everybody get in a room together and generate good ideas that the public will support and fund something serious that will attract Amazon HQ and connect to other transportation systems, as opposed to throwing in something last minute from left field that won't address the overall concerns for public transportation."

He thinks the focus should be on commuter rail and believes the city is better off using the money that would have gone to expanded bus service as a sort of down payment for a loan for rail service.

But there's likely no time for another public hearing. The council has to vote on the final 2018 budget before Oct. 1.

Councilwoman Ann Zadeh raised expanded bus service as a way to improve public transportation and address a need to make the city more connected.

"I think it's very disappointing," Zadeh said. "We had a vote to have these two additional public meetings, and the majority of people at that vote voted to allow this conversation to continue, and I appreciated that, and then for people to not come and fulfill the requirements of a quorum today to do that is very disappointing."

A group of community members came to share their views Friday, but when the council members didn't show, they didn't get to speak, disappointing those who'd pushed for a change.

"I thought that this showed there was a lot of support in the community," Zadeh said. "I think it brought out a lot of pent-up support for transit. I've been hearing from people who believe, like I do, that this is something we need for this city for our economic development to handle our growth."

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