Arlington is celebrating this morning. After decades as the largest U.S. municipality without mass transit, the city now has a bus service. So park your Ford Excursion and prepare to retire your warmed-over gibes about Arlington as the ultimate suburban wasteland.
All done? OK, now bring them back out of retirement. Metro Arlington Xpress (MAX for short) is entirely composed of a single bus route.
The bare-bones nature of the bus system isn't the fault of Arlington officials. It's the fault of Arlington residents, who have thrice in recent decades rejected proposals to fund a more robust public transit network. City leaders were left to scrape together enough money and good will from DART and The T, Fort Worth's transit agency, for a two-year pilot that will connect the University of Texas at Arlington and the Trinity Railway Express' CentrePort Station.
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This is good news for UTA, whose students and faculty can now get to or from Dallas and Fort Worth without a car. For the vast majority of Arlington's 374,000 residents, however, the bus service will mean very little, since it neither picks up nor stops where any non-college students live.
There is some indication that a successful MAX could spur the further growth of public transit in Arlington. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram suggests Arlington could join either DART or The T, or it could spur the creation of a "single, region-wide entity to oversee the area's bus and rail system."
But expansion is far from certain. The former option would require buy-in by Arlington voters, the latter by the transit agency's governing boards. Both would be a tough sell. Which means all those Arlington-as-suburban-dystopia insults will remain as fresh as ever.