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Nelson’s bill deserves support

We’ve always believed there is a need for Denton County Transportation Authority’s A-train and that time and service refinements will continue to boost ridership.

There are many reasons why we feel that way — continued population growth, worsening traffic congestion, gasoline prices that remain stubbornly high and declining air quality.

Hey, the 1950s are long gone, and sooner or later, those gas-guzzling vehicles — many occupied by just one stubborn motorist — may well run out of gas. It might not hurt to have an alternative mode of transportation available.

We understand the reluctance of some to hop aboard the A-train — schedules don’t accommodate all needs and desires, cost may not be attractive enough to convince drivers to leave their vehicles at home (although we argue that initial investment, insurance, maintenance and other expenses should be considered along with the price of fuel) and some of us don’t have the time or patience to plan all the connections necessary to work the train into our travel plans.

But we’ve also watched as the DCTA has tweaked its system and ridership has slowly increased.

Recently released ridership numbers showed overall growth for the agency, with the most notable increase coming from the A-train.

The agency experienced a 3 percent growth during October, November and December in comparison with the previous year.

The A-train carried 42 percent more passengers during that period. The growth continued to be seen in January’s monthly ridership report, with the A-train carrying 43 percent more people than the previous January.

In August, the agency added midday rail service, closing the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. gap in the schedule and expanded Friday night and Saturday service. In January, a weekday evening southbound A-train departure was added to better serve university evening classes and later work schedules.

Based on ridership numbers, we’d say those changes struck a positive chord with the public, and we believe new legislation filed by State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, may also help strengthen support for the DCTA.

Senate Bill 948 would allow DCTA to increase representation on its board of directors and ensure that cities assessing sales tax or exercising another financing agreement with DCTA would have a seat on the board.

The bill would make it so any new town or city that elects to fund the transportation system has a seat at the table. Under current rules, if a small city jumps on board financially, it wouldn’t necessarily have direct representation on the board.

Another part of the Senate bill would clarify that DCTA can hire or contract for fare enforcement officers.

Dee Leggett, vice president of communications and planning for DCTA, said officials are looking for the best time to approach area cities about future membership. Officials will also be addressing capital needs and maintenance of the system and studying ways to improve the passenger experience with better amenities and expanded bus and rail services, Leggett said.

“If you look at what commuters will face in the upcoming months … gas prices, I-35E construction — those two together will make transit a very affordable and reliable commute option,” she said.

We believe Nelson’s bill is a good idea — it would give the DCTA additional authority to provide effective service in the community.

And helping ensure that the agency can continue to improve its services and make mass transit a more viable option should be of interest to everyone.