Beginning Thursday, four bus routes with nearly 800,000 combined riders annually will serve the new Sierra Vista Transit Center.
But southeast Fort Worth advocates hope the new facility at East Berry Street and Riverside Drive is much more than a glorified bus stop.
Instead, their goal is for the $500,000 transit center - paid for mostly with a federal grant - to become the centerpiece of a grander plan to convert the worn-down sector of Fort Worth into an urban village.
"There's still a way to go on that, but with this transit center and opening of a Wal-Mart up the street we're starting to get that synergy going," Allen Smith, executive director of Southeast Fort Worth Inc., said Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center. "There's a great need in this area."
The Berry/Riverside neighborhood is one of about 16 areas identified by city officials as an urban village. The long-term goal is to create transit and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with a mix of commercial and residential uses that is attractive to developers.
Berry/Riverside has a lot going for it - including its geography. It rests just below the Rolling Hills neighborhood, with Cobb Park nearby and plenty of vacant land available for whatever uses might be suitable - perhaps another grocery store, a pharmacy, clothing shop or restaurants and family entertainment.
A developer, Vertex Asset Partners, L.P., plans to redevelop the former Oak Brook Mall site across the street from the transit center into modernized retail development, according to information on the city's urban village page.
But it's also a neighborhood that more than its share of run-down buildings - and a reputation, deserved or not, for crime and vagrancy.
"We certainly have the challenge of bringing in small businesses that can stay," said Andre McEwing, board secretary of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also known as the T, and a long-time advocate for the area. "This community needs basic services."
But with Thursday's first official full day of service at the new Sierra Vista Transit Center, bringing foot traffic to the area shouldn't be a problem.
The area will be served by four bus routes, T president Dick Ruddell said. They include: Route 3 Riverside/TCC South campus; Route 5 Wichita/Glen Garden; Route 8 Riverside/Evans; and Route 24 Berry St.
Those four routes carry a combined 775,000 riders per year, T spokeswoman Joan Hunter said.
The bus transfers now to take place at the Sierra Vista Transit Center previously were handled at various stops along Riverside Drive, between Glen Garden and Berry, she said.
The plaza was partially funded by a $400,000 federal grant administered by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Also, in 2006, Berry/Riverside urban village received an $823,571 federal grant to master plan the area and make street improvements along East Berry Street between Yuma and Sycamore Creek.
The Sierra Vista Transit Center will feature numerous pieces of public art, some of which are scheduled to be installed later in the year. The place also features a marker in memory of Monique Pegues, the T's longtime government affairs director who died unexpectedly in 2010.
Fort Worth's new bike-sharing program kicked off Monday, and cyclists are hoping it will gradually change the city's car culture - two wheels at a time.
"All of you resonate the message that there is an acceptance of bicycles as an alternative," Mike Brennan, Fort Worth Bike Sharing board chair, told about 300 volunteers who gathered Monday morning at Burnett Park in downtown Fort Worth.
After a few remarks by Brennan and other leaders, the cyclists from various riding clubs then hopped on the 300 shiny, red Trek touring bikes and rode them to the city's 28 new bike-sharing stations. Brennan noted the eclectic mix in the crowd - whose clubs include colorful names such as Bicycle Betties, Night Riders and Manly Bulge Bike Club.
"There's a group for every type of rider out there," Brennan said.
Bicycles are available for rent at 28 stations mostly in downtown, the Near South Side, the cultural district and at Texas Christian University. More stations will be added during the summer, officials said.
Riders typically use a credit card to rent the bikes. Regular users can pay an $80 annual fee for unlimited use. Others can pay various rates that start at $8 per day, with additional fees for rides lasting more than 30 minutes.
The idea is to rent the bike at one location, and return it to a bike-sharing rack at the end of your trip.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority - also known as the T - created a non-profit organization to run the program and accept donations.
The effort was boosted by a $1 million Federal Transit Administration grant awarded in July to set up the stations.
Among the volunteers who rode the bikes to their new stations was Don Koski, director of planning and project delivery for the Federal Transit Administration's Region 6 office in Fort Worth.
"We see bike-sharing as an extension of the transit system," Koski said. "There are people who ride the bus or the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) and use a bike for the final leg of their destination."
Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns predicted that the ready availability of bicycles will motivate people who work in the central part of the city to get out of their "dim, flourescent-lit rooms" and go for a ride.
"There's an incredible community spirit," Burns said, "and a focal point for us to get together."
Top photo: Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and about 300 helpers kick off Fort Worth's new bike-sharing program by riding bicycles to their racks.
During the Cold War, West Berlin residents who wanted to go from one end of their city to another could take subway trains that briefly cut through portions of East Berlin. The trains were allowed by the East German government to pass without stopping, although armed guards kept a close watch to ensure nobody got off the trains (or, perhaps more importantly, to ensure no East Germans got on). As the trains made their way through East Berlin, they would pass through trains stations that had been closed since the Berlin Wall was built. These train platforms - ratty, creepy and abandoned except for the presence of the guards - became known as "ghost stations." If you ever saw one of these stations up close, I would very much like to talk with you for a news story.
Please call 817 390 7796 or send an email to email@example.com Whether you lived in East Berlin or West Berlin, or just visited, I would like to talk with you about your experiences. Please include a phone number or email address so I can get in touch with you.
Also, if you have experience riding the modern trains of reunified Germany, including the InterCity Express trains that today go 200 mph-plus, I would like to speak with you.
Again, please call 817 390 7796 or send an email to
Last year, I was fortunate to attend the International Transport Forum, an annual event held in Leipzig, Germany featuring renowned goverment officials and transportation experts from around the world.
That trip introduced me to Germany's passenger rail system. (Some of those Cold War "ghost stations," by the way, have been dramatically rebuilt and are now hubs of modernity in Berlin.) Today, I'd like to do a story comparing the German experience to the United States' effort to develop a more effective rail system. I am planning a return trip to this year's International Transport Forum May 22-24 in Leipzig, and I hope to explore the issue of passenger rail more in depth while I'm there.
But before I go, I need your help ...
Please spread the word to anyone you know who spent time in East Berlin, West Berlin or more recently in reunified Berlin. I would very much like to talk.
- Gordon Dickson.
Photo: Berlin Wall Memorial
Tarrant County commissioners have stated their position on high-speed rail. They want the 220 mph bullet trains to stop at DFW Airport - not at downtown Dallas and Fort Worth. Commissioners stated their position in the strongest terms during a meeting Tuesday that was aptly covered by the Star-Telegram's county beat writer, Steve Campbell.
Texas' first rail director is stepping down, nearly four years after state officials created the position to get the state up to speed with other regions of the United States in terms of passenger rail services.
Bill Glavin, who lives in Southlake but has spent most of his time residing in Austin since he took the rail director position in December 2009, confirmed Wednesday that he will be leaving the Texas Department of Transportation at the end of June.
Before entering public service, Glavin had decades of history with freight railroads, including Burlington Northern Railroad and North American RailNet.
"I turned 60. I qualify for railroad retirement," Glavin told the Star-Telegram in a phone interview, when asked why he is leaving the job. "Half my pay goes toward commuting between here and Austin and having ... to do all the things to make that work. (Retirement) just seems to make sense."
Glavin played a major role in preparing Texas for better passenger rail services that could be built in the next few years, including improved Amtrak service and a proposed high-speed rail line with 220 mph service from Houston to Dallas, rail supporters said.
"We've gone light years ahead in the past couple of years, compared to where we were the past couple of decades before that," said Peter LeCody, president of Texas Rail Advocates.
Under Glavin's watch, the state has made progress in a proposal to move Amtrak onto the Trinity Railway Express line in Dallas-Fort Worth, LeCody said. Also, a study of higher speed rail service from Oklahoma to Fort Worth and South Texas is under way.
State officials, the Union Pacific Railroad and Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway Co. also are working on a plan to improve massive freight congestion at the Tower 55, a notoriously busy rail intersection just southeast of downtown Fort Worth.
The state-owned South Orient Railroad corridor between Brownwood and San Angelo also has been improved, resulting in a dramatic increase in shipments in that corridor.
One particularly heart-tugging image seen in some highway work zones is an orange sign bearing the message: "Please slow down. My dad works here."
"We want the public to crank up their awareness," said Lonny Haschel, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman.
Haschel joined officials from the North Texas Tollway Authority and Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday at a work zone site along Interstate 20. Speaking on a newly built bridge over the interstate, the group called for motorists to bear greater responsibility for their actions on the road.
"There is over $11 billion in construction in the North Texas area, with more on the way," said Brian Barth, Fort Worth deputy district engineer for the state transportation department. "Your daily commute to work and school is changing on a daily basis and we need every driver to stay alert."
Work zone fatalities have fallen 39 percent during the past decade, said Elizabeth Mow, tollway authority assistant executive director of infrastructure.
Still, last year 134 people were killed statewide in work zone crashes.
"We need the public's help to complete the picture," Mow said.
Speeding and driver inattention are the leading causes of work zone fatalities, Haschel said.
Distractions such as talking or texting on a mobile device are also a major problem, Barth said.
National Work Zone Safety Awareness week is this week. The groups chose Tuesday's site for their press conference because it is part of the Chisholm Trail Parkway project, a 28-mile toll road from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne that is scheduled to open next year.
The Chisholm Trail Parkway project has created work zones across a swath of southwestern Tarrant County, crossing Interstate 30, I-20, Hulen Street and Texas 183 (Southwest Boulevard).
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