A Way Forward: Designing a Flexible Transportation Network that Advances Opportunities and Connectivity for Arlington and Grand Prairie, Texas

The cities of Arlington and Grand Prairie, Texas, are among the most rapidly-growing suburban communities in the country, with growing populations of commuters, university students, older adults, and others with a wide range of transportation needs and expectations. In spite of this rapid and diverse growth, the two cities lack any form of structured, fixed-route transit. Arlington has been the subject of particular national interest, often touted as “America’s largest city with no fixed-route transit” and is thus ripe for deeper study. While the reasons for this absence of traditional transit are longstanding and complex, the end result remains that Arlington and Grand Prairie are missing out on vital economic and quality-of-life advantages due to not investing in transit that connects residents to jobs, healthcare, educational opportunities, and other means of seeking their own prosperity. When compared with similar cities in Texas and other states that do operate a transit network, the missed opportunities become clearer and more concrete. This report, undertaken at the behest of the Texas Legislature, will identify the current transportation needs of the two communities, as well as the economic disadvantage facing the two transit-free cities, and will then propose a model transportation network that meets these needs in a fair and cost-effective manner. The report will identify specific areas and populations to be served by the proposed network, and will also estimate the costs and potential funding sources for the network’s construction and operation. The area is presently home to several small-scale, flexible transportation options, and these will be described and integrated into the proposed future network. In addition, the area’s current economic situation – including job centers, commuter patterns, real estate development, and draw as a university community – will be assessed both in its current (disadvantaged) form as well as in its potential (and improved) form once the proposed transportation network is designed and analyzed. Taken together, this project seeks to tell the story of what these two communities have lost by not having public transit of any kind, and what advantages they might someday regain if they implement a diverse network of transportation options that meets residents’ mobility needs, economic desires, and preferred levels of public expenditure. As more suburban communities grapple with the complexities and expenses of operating mass transit networks, the need for studies of this nature is sure to grow. A future-oriented transportation network, like the one this project will propose for Arlington and Grand Prairie, will incorporate a mix of traditional transit practices as well as innovative new approaches driven by the private sector. This project will ultimately be of use to suburban communities and elected officials seeking to improve personal mobility and economic competitiveness while also remaining focused on flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and the economic vitality of the broader integrated region.