DENTON COUNTY (CBSNewsTexas.com) — Denton County Transportation Authority saw its highest ridership since 2019 this fiscal year, making it one of the few transit agencies in the country that has fully recovered to pre-pandemic totals, according to DCTA.
"I think the growth of Denton County, the population moving here, as well as our responsiveness and innovation in terms of things like microtransit, has been key to our recovery," said Paul Cristina, the CEO of DCTA.
Between a traditional bus line in Denton, the A-Train and GoZone, DCTA delivered more than 2.9 million passengers to their final destinations in fiscal year 2023. Overall, DCTA saw 33% more riders in 2023 than in 2022.
GoZone, the agency's on-demand rideshare service, helped drive the growth.
"You don't have to be very close to a fixed route bus or train," Cristina said. "It will meet you where you are and take you exactly where you want to go. Our riders these days demand that kind of flexibility and responsiveness."
It is like Uber or Lyft, but the fares start at just $1.50. Riders can schedule a pick-up through an app or over the phone.
"We might have three riders that order a ride, and the system is smart," said Lakeatha Rhoden, a GoZone driver. "It picks up that there are three people in this area, and this is kind of in the middle, so it creates a virtual bus stop right here."
GoZone operates in Denton, Highland Village and Lewisville.
Ridership has more than doubled since it was initially launched in 2021, according to DCTA. The rideshare service typically sees abouts 70,000 trips a month.
It will also play a key role in keeping up with increased demand as people continue to move to Denton County.
"[We're] now the country's sixth fastest growing county...having just surpassed a million residents over the course of the last several months actually," said Cristina.
DCTA says other cities in Denton and Collin counties have expressed interest in bringing GoZone service to their area, and the agency is continuing to explore ways to expand.
"I do think it's the way of transportation in the future, I do," Rhoden said.
GoZone ridership grew at a 38% clip over last year, completing over 853,000 rides in FY2023. DCTA bus services drew 37% more riders in 2023. Ridership aboard the A-train grew by more than 28% over 2022 with over 225,000 riders boarding the train in 2023.
DCTA's other services, including Commuter Vanpool, ACCESS Paratransit and various regional on-demand services, all saw increased ridership.
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