By Chris Watts
More than two years ago, as mayor of Denton and the city’s representative on the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) board, I and other board members became concerned that sales tax contributions from the member cities were increasing while bus and A-train ridership was decreasing.
These contributions totaled nearly $30 million per year from founding cities Denton, Lewisville and Highland Village, yet systemwide pre-COVID, the bus transported about 1,300 people each day, and fewer than 750 people rode the train per day. (The bus ridership data does not include students at University of North Texas, which has a separate contract with DCTA.)
During a DCTA strategic planning session in 2019, the question was asked, “What is the mission of DCTA?” Answers ranged from environmental stewardship to economic development, both strong, essential goals that go hand-in-hand.
My answer, however, was more basic: To move people.
Without more riders, our environmental and economic aspirations will never be achieved. DCTA is a public transportation agency. If we are not constantly improving the rider experience to attract more riders, we are failing.
We at DCTA knew we could do better.
So, the DCTA board and staff leadership embarked on a two-year process to explore a solution that would improve service, increase convenience and serve a larger population for lower cost than the current fixed-route bus system.
With the help of a nationally renowned transportation consultant, DCTA created GoZone, a new, on-demand public transportation service designed to meet the needs of thousands more people in Denton, Lewisville and Highland Village.
Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7, the promotional fare is $0.75 per GoZone ride. This fare will remain in effect for the first six months. Many more pickup and drop-off locations will be available to expand access and convenience for riders. Visit www.dctagozone.net for more information.
In response to those concerned about the loss of current fixed-route bus service in Denton and Lewisville, DCTA will continue to operate buses concurrently with GoZone through December 6, 2021. In addition, during September and part of October, DCTA brand ambassadors will be riding buses to answer questions, gather ridership data, and help riders transition to GoZone,
Questions and concerns have been raised about bus riders who may not have smartphones, are unbanked, or do not have other technology with which to purchase and book GoZone rides. DCTA shares those concerns as well and has created multiple ways for riders to book rides. In addition, a special portal is available to social service agencies, so they may book rides for their clients. DCTA wants everyone to have the capability to ride GoZone.
I encourage you to book a ride on GoZone. Give it a try, then let us know your experience.
DCTA will continue to closely monitor GoZone, the latest step in the evolution of public transportation in Denton County, and will be open to modifications based on rider feedback. Your participation and input are key to its success.
Chris Watts is board chair of DCTA. He served as mayor of Denton from 2014 to 2020.