The Denton County Transportation Authority shared the latest details Tuesday on its upcoming on-demand transit service, GoZone, which will replace many of its fixed bus routes and services with over two dozen vans in hopes of expanding coverage areas, times and accessibility.
DCTA CEO Raymond Suarez and Vice President of Mobility Services Nicole Recker presented the upcoming service’s latest developments at Tuesday morning’s Denton County Commissioners Court meeting. Their appearance came months in advance of the launch of the shift, slated for September.
Recker said the agency has two main goals for the service: expanding geographic availability and extending the days and times that service is offered.
“Passengers will now have more area that they can cover, and they can cover it more days of the week and more hours of the day,” Recker said.
DCTA selected the service’s provider, the New York City-based Via Transportation, back in January. At last month’s board meeting, the agency approved a potential four-year contract — a two-year term with two one-year options — for a total amount not to exceed $33,520,691.
Under the proposed service, Via will deploy a fleet of 30 minivans, each with seating for six passengers. Using a mobile app, those passengers can book rides to and from anywhere inside mapped-out zones, and Via will utilize the number of vans necessary to meet demand. The service’s first phase includes two primary zones: one covering Denton and one covering Lewisville and Highland Village, for coverage of all three DCTA member cities.
Recker explained that passengers will not be able to book a ride from one of those zones to the other, with the reasoning that those passengers can use the pre-existing A-Train route — unaffected by GoZone’s launch — to cross the gap. In subsequent steps after the launch, DCTA will expand those zones and create new ones, including a Denia neighborhood extension for the Denton zone and a Business 121 zone for Lewisville and Highland Village.
As part of the new service, several fixed routes and services will be slashed as the agency downsizes its bus fleet. While the University of North Texas shuttle service will remain unchanged, only Routes 3 and 7 in Denton will remain for the first six months, after which the agency will examine their long-term future. Routes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6, as well as Lewisville’s Route 21 and 22, will be discontinued two weeks after GoZone’s launch.
DCTA projects the switch will substantially increase service time for a small increase in cost, going from an annual 73,000 service hours at a $4.2 million budget to 99,000 service hours at a $4.3 million budget. For passengers, a permanent fare structure will not be set until later, though existing fare passes will include promotional GoZone access for its first six months.
GoZone is now in its required public involvement period, which gives citizens the chance to weigh in on the proposition’s service area, days and times active, fare structure and give any other desired feedback. That period will conclude next month and the DCTA board can then approve the final service plan in July prior to its planned September launch.
The service drew mixed opinions from local officials as it began to take form at the beginning of the year. Tuesday, Suarez said GoZone is a part of a larger DCTA initiative that will help it deal with the increasingly lower ridership it has experienced over past years, a trend exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Travel patterns have changed significantly,” Suarez said. “Ridership is down nationwide. We’re on the precipice of a major transformation and we think it’s going to bring ridership back significantly.”
Residents can view the specifics of the proposed GoZone plan and provide feedback at dctafeedback.net.