The Denton County Transportation Authority is currently evaluating whether it will eliminate Denton Connect Routes 7 and 3, with a decision set to be made by March 2022.
Route 7 connects riders to the Downtown Denton Transit Center, the university and Rayzor Ranch. Route 3 connects to social service agencies in Denton and certain student apartments. The bus routes’ statuses are in limbo because of GoZone, DCTA’s new rideshare program set to replace a majority of the public transit services in the county.
“DCTA will be evaluating route ridership monthly with the board [of directors],” DCTA Chief Executive Officer Raymond Suarez said in an email to the North Texas Daily. “The DCTA Board has the option to extend or modify the route during the evaluation process.”
On July 22, the board of directors unanimously approved a motion to remove a majority of current DCTA on-demand services and replace them with GoZone. Denton Connect Routes 1, 2, 4 and 6 are set to run until Dec. 6.
Public health senior Victor Waboso commutes from Lewisville using the DCTA A-Train. After the A-Train stops at DDTC, he boards the Route 7 bus to get to campus. Waboso said it would be inconvenient for students, including himself, to pay for the GoZone flat rate since students get free access to DCTA bus services.
“I really hope they don’t take the bus [route] away,” Waboso said.
While the 12 university routes will not be affected by GoZone’s approval, university officials are aware of the concerns for students who use Route 3 and 7 to commute to campus.
“We let DCTA know we’re not in favor of eliminating Route 7 or Route 3,” Transportation Services Communications Specialist George Stieren said.
On Sept. 23, the DCTA board of directors meeting presented GoZone ridership data from Sept. 7 to Sept.17. The program initially ran a promotion allowing riders their first four rides for free until Oct. 7, with no data presented that shows what rides were part of the free promotion.
Less than 200 rides were used during GoZone’s launch day, according to data presented to the board of directors. Ridership steadily increased to under 600 rides per day. Javier Trilla, DCTA director of information technology, told the board data collected before Sept. 17 shows there have been around 7,000 total rides.
Trilla also compared the combined ridership numbers from DCTA’s connect fixed route and the university bus service route. Although the data shows a decline in bus ridership, the combined bus route numbers are higher than GoZone’s ridership numbers, according to the data presented to the board.
“DCTA strives to provide the best mix of services to accommodate our diverse service area,” Pamela Burns, DCTA director of public involvement and communications, said in an email to the Daily. “We are very pleased with the continuing growth in ridership on GoZone, but understand the value of Connect and University services.”
GoZone’s fare is still undecided, with a promotional rate for the first six months of the program set at $0.75 per ride. Burns said DCTA anticipates making a final determination of the student ridership fee in early 2022.
Student Government Association Vice President David Muñoz-Sarabia, who is also a member of the university transportation advisory committee, said students should not pay for GoZone services since DCTA bus services are free for students.
“We’ve been getting [bus services] for years for free,” Muñoz-Sarabia said. “I don’t think [charging for GoZone] is fair, especially for students that don’t have that financial support.”
Muñoz-Sarabia said he wants to collect more feedback from students with SGA senators to bring the concerns to the university transportation committee since the elimination of bus routes and creation of GoZone ridership fees may affect students who do not have another way to commute in Denton.
“Transportation is going to make sure we do everything we can to make sure students continue to get to class and continue to get to where they need to go,” Stieren said.
Featured Image: A route seven stop stands vacant in the late afternoon at a DCTA bus station on Oct. 1, 2021. Photo by Elizabeth Bulot