North Texas Daily

New DCTA city representative sees GoZone as supplemental to bus routes

New DCTA city representative sees GoZone as supplemental to bus routes

New DCTA city representative sees GoZone as supplemental to bus routes
November 04
12:38 2021

The Denton City Council has appointed council member Alison Maguire to its chair on the Denton County Transportation Authority board of directors, removing incumbent Chris Watts.

Maguire, elected to the city council last May, said Watt’s removal came after the former mayor ignored a campaign organized by Denton residents to prevent the axing of six Denton Connect Routes.

“Watts continued to push forward with his intention to cut six bus routes and so my colleagues and I felt we didn’t want him to remain on the board,” Maguire said.

The North Texas Daily could not reach Watts for comment.   

The board of directors approved a motion back in July to replace Denton Connect Routes 1, 2, 3 and 4 with GoZone, an on-demand ride-share service. The board has until March 2022 to decide whether it will also eliminate Connect Routes 7 and 3. Maguire said she opposes eliminating any bus routes. 

GoZone launched in September to a mixed reception, with complaints regarding the app’s GPS system and the service’s pickup and drop-off situation. Maguire said performance fixes are on the way, as well as an increase in the fleet size, though she does not know if there are any plans regarding pricing beyond the current $0.75 rate per ride.  

“I think GoZone has potential,” Maguire said. “My concerns, which are being addressed, of not meeting demand will be improved as we refine the program. I was concerned GoZone would reduce ridership on Connect Routes. Data shows that isn’t happening.” 

The data Maguire refers to was presented at last week’s board of directors meeting, which shows Connect ridership regularly outpacing GoZone. For example, an average Thursday in September saw just over 6000 rides on Connect Routes, in comparison to under 2000 via GoZone. 

“It doesn’t seem [like GoZone] is serving as a replacement,” Maguire said. “It’s serving as a supplement.” 

Maguire also pointed to data comparing Connect Route and GoZone boardings by location. She said the data showed Connect Route boardings well away from GoZone pickup locations, save for “a significant overlap” on Route 7. 

“To me, that’s evidence we need both,” Maguire said. “For people on campus, they want options.” 

The bus routes and GoZone utilize different workers, which Maguire called “contentious.” While GoZone uses contracted drivers, DCTA employs members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, an international labor organization representing transit employees in the U.S. and Canada.

“There has been a lot of talk around since last year about eliminating [bus drivers’] positions,” Maguire said. “They aren’t sure their positions are safe, so they’ve been leaving. That’s one of the reasons I was so forceful at our last meeting, I wanted to protect their positions.” 

The potential elimination of bus routes spawned No Bus Cuts Denton, a grassroots group formed by local citizens and bus drivers in opposition to the changes. 

Joshua Hatton, a member of No Bus Cuts and also a part of the Texas State Employees Union, said the organization stands in solidarity with the unionized bus drivers and is against the GoZone contract for a number of reasons.

“We know that many people who use the buses in Denton and Lewisville are financially struggling and don’t have access to a phone,” Hatton said. “If these cuts go through, they will be excluded from public transportation.” 

Tuesday, No Bus Cuts Denton issued a press release calling for the elimination of the GoZone contract, the preservation of bus routes and including the community in a “new, truly participatory progress” for determining Denton County transportation. 

The status of university routes, which are managed between the university Transportation Services and DCTA, has also been up for discussion. George Stieren, communications specialist for Transportation Services, said changes in DCTA board leadership “should not impact discussions on future UNT-DCTA service agreements.” 

“UNT negotiates all such agreements with DCTA leadership and board members do not participate in this process,” Stieren said. “The board’s involvement only comes at the end in approving agreements, as does the Board of Regents on the UNT side.”

Pamela Burns, DCTA director of public involvement and communications, said further decisions regarding fare structure and GoZone would likely be made at the Dec. 2 board meeting. 

“DCTA is committed to providing transit service for its member cities and will continue to serve UNT,” Burns said.

Featured Image: A flyer for No Bus Cuts Denton is displayed at the Downtown Transit Center on Sept. 12, 2021. Photo by Meredith Holser

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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