Sunday, May 19, 2024

On Thick Ice: Behind the scenes as DCTA maneuvered through the 2023 North Texas ice storm

As January gave way to February, a major winter storm blanketed North Texas with a sheet of ice and presented slippery challenges for anyone trying to get around town. For Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), the challenge consisted of managing and moving multiple fleets of vehicles, and moving people safely, or not at all.

During the four-day ice storm, DCTA managed to keep the A-train commuter rail line running, and mostly on time at that, thanks to crew members who not only cleared train station platforms and tracks, but also lit up railroad track switch heaters to ensure those switches would remain operational and that the trains could continue to pass safely. The A-train managed to move over one hundred commuters a day during the week despite the adverse conditions.

Understandably, DCTA’s efforts to keep fleets moving proved more difficult when it came to vehicles with rubber tires.

The GoZone rideshare service successfully ran on all but one day of the winter storm, including the completion of over 700 trips on the first full day of the sleet sheet.

Those 700 rides represent 700 people who needed to get somewhere. There were people that didn’t have food in their houses, and they needed to go to the grocery store.

In another big win for DCTA, the Access Paratransit service stayed in operation every day throughout the storm, delivering an average of 50 patients daily to-and-from their medically necessary appointments without incident, although there were predictable delays.

Behind the scenes, the DCTA leadership team had begun preparing for the storm the week prior, as the forecast for freezing precipitation became clear. DCTA leaders assembled an emergency response group which held situational update calls every 6-12 hours. Those calls gave DCTA the ability to assess the changing situations, formulate plans, react to new updates and give operators time to adapt to agency plans for dealing with the conditions in real time, as well as plan for the next 24 hours of operations. The cadence also allowed DCTA to inform the public of ongoing and changing plans for those riders who needed to get around.

Complicating matters, DCTA had to manage other situations, such as ensuring vehicle operators got their federally-mandated rest periods between assignments, getting hotel rooms for personnel to stay close to their assigned positions instead of traveling long distances to their homes, and making sure people on the team got fed, given the lower availability of food during the ice storm.

Safety was the overriding factor influencing DCTA decision-making. For example, Via, GoZone’s operating company, advised its drivers to report road conditions whenever they went out, and not to feel compelled to work if they saw that driving conditions were too risky.

In the end, DCTA continued operating two modes of transit, A-train and Access, on full schedules during every day of the winter storm. A third mode, GoZone, only missed one day of operation, allowing DCTA to move people despite maneuvering over a massive ice rink.

Throughout the winter event, the DCTA team remained vigilant to conditions and to safety. All of this happens because of the dedication of our people to our mission of driving Denton County to a better future, and we can’t be more proud of the way our people responded to this challenge.

(Sponsored content)

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

Related Articles

Popular This Week