By Will Reisman, @WillReisman

Molly the Trolley Fort WorthLast year, I documented my trip to Montreal for the America Public Transportation Association’s annual Rail Conference. I attended the event as part of my participation in APTA’s Early Career Program, and the trip to Montreal allowed me to experience that city’s world-class public transportation network.

A one-year endeavor, the Early Career Program—which connected me with industry mentors and fellow peers from across the nation—reached its conclusion during the APTA Bus and Paratransit Conference in Fort Worth, Texas earlier this month. Again, I had the opportunity to test out the public transportation network in a new city, although I didn’t have quite as much time to explore Fort Worth as I did in Montreal.

The main public transit agency in Fort Worth is the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, commonly known as the T. The T is comprised primarily of local bus services, although the agency now helps to run the Trinity-Express Railway (TRE), a commuter rail network that connects Fort Worth with Dallas and is jointly operated by the T and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). The T is also in the beginning stages of planning for its TEX-Rail service, a 27-mile commuter rail line that is tentatively scheduled to open in 2018.

Although I intended on travelling on the TRE during my stay in Fort Worth, my busy schedule—I had to rehearse and perform a 15-minute presentation along with three others as part of my final project for the Early Career Program—prevented me from travelling on the rail system. However, I was able to sneak away on Sunday for a bit to test out the bus systems operated by the T.

Many of the T buses start and finish their routes at the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center, a downtown transit complex that also includes Amtrak and TRE services. On Sunday, I made the short walk from my hotel to the transportation center, although I did have the option of taking Molly the Trolley, a free bus shuttle that operates every 10 minutes and makes three stops in downtown Fort Worth (San Francisco residents would probably note that it’s really a bus just dressed up as a trolley, but it’s still pretty charming.)

Before arriving in Fort Worth, I had read great things about the Kimbell Art Museum, a famed institution specializing in modern art that was designed by world-renowned architect Louis Kahn. Fortunately for me, the T’s Route 2 travels directly between the Intermodal Transportation Center and the museum, with the bus line offering hourly service during the weekend.

Kimbell Art Museum Fort Worth

As a participant of the APTA conference, I was able to travel on the T’s system for free during my stay in Fort Worth (round-trip bus fares normally cost $3.50.) Upon boarding Route 2, I was greeted by a friendly operator, and when I told her where I was headed, she said she’d let me know when I was getting close to my stop. The trip from the transit hub to the museum stop took about 15 minutes, and for a Sunday afternoon, the bus was surprisingly full.

Many of my fellow passengers seemed well-versed with the T system and its operations (they instructed me to push a large vertical button to indicate my desired stop when I was confusingly looking around for something to pull on.) The buses were clean, spacious and easy to board and disembark.

After departing the bus, I walked across the street to the Kimbell (and was pleasantly surprised to find that admission to the museum was free.) I checked out the Picassos, Rothkos and other modern artists (along with some ancient Asian and African relics) at the museum for about an hour before going back to my stop and getting picked up by the same kindly bus operator. The trip back took about 12 minutes, and the Route 2 seemed a bit emptier this time.

Overall, my experience on Fort Worth’s public transit system was limited but pleasant. With its ambitious expansion plans, the T is banking on the residents of Fort Worth to transition from private automobiles to transit. Based on my experience, that seems like a pretty easy choice to make.

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