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Barron Ludlum/For the DRC

New Park and Ride site opens in hospital lot

A new Park and Ride location opened Monday in the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton parking lot for the North Texas Xpress commuter bus service to Fort Worth.

The route connects Denton and Fort Worth with stops at Alliance Airport and North Park and Ride, which is in north Fort Worth along Interstate 35W between Golden Triangle Boulevard and Heritage Trace Parkway. Service began in September and operates Monday through Friday.

The new Park and Ride is in the parking lot in the southwest portion of the hospital's campus adjacent to I-35.

North Texas Xpress is a joint service between Denton County Transportation Authority and Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also known as the T. The new Park and Ride opens following an agreement with the hospital to use its parking spaces.

"As part of our Transit Master Plan, we are committed to serving more people in more places," FWTA President and CEO Paul Ballard said. "Adding another Park and Ride option for the North Texas Xpress route will create more opportunity for riders to commute to and from Denton. We look forward to continued growth among students and employees."

Previously, riders could transfer from only Connect and UNT Shuttle bus stops. The Park and Ride is the only stop in Denton designated for riders to park their cars and board the bus for their commute.

"For those who maybe live farther away or maybe don't have access to those particular routes, we felt it was important to have a Park and Ride location in Denton," said Kristina Brevard, the vice president of strategic planning and development at DCTA.

Brevard said the Park and Ride always was in the plan for North Texas Xpress.

"We wanted to start the service even though we did not have a Park and Ride location secured yet, so we went ahead and began the service knowing we would be able to serve some of our market, just not all of them," Brevard said.

North Texas Xpress routes begin at 5:15 a.m. and end at 9:45 p.m. with trips throughout the day.

Fares range from 85 cents for a reduced, two-hour pass to $10 for a regional day pass. Detailed fare information can be found at RideDCTA.net.

Bus commuting offers multiple benefits for commuters, Brevard said, including reduced wear on vehicles and reduced stress.

She said as growth in Denton County increases, more people are looking for alternatives to driving.

"It really increases your quality of life because when you're on the bus, you have the opportunity to sleep, read a book, check your email safely or if you're a student, you have the opportunity to study. If you're working, you can get ready for a meeting, and you have the opportunity to multitask, so it increases productivity," Brevard said.

"Though the bus may be in the same traffic, it's a much more relaxed ride."

Increased ridership can also reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by taking cars off the road.

"If we can take 20 passengers instead of 20 single-occupancy vehicles into Fort Worth, if we can remove those cars and put the people on the bus, that provides less congestion for those who are driving and taking the commuter bus is not an option," Brevard said.

DANIEL BURGESS can be reached at 940-566-6875 or via Twitter at @DanielKBurgess.