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.
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.