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Getting There with Metro Arlington Express (MAX)

Last week my family spent the week at my childhood home in Arlington with my mom. We had a great week of organization, projects, and best of all: my favorite food from my childhood.

My mom lives in Central Arlington, southwest of UTA. I work near the TRE Centreport station, so I decided to try something a bit different:

I didn’t take my car for the entire week.

How did I do this, you ask? By taking advantage of an awesome new service in Arlington: the Metro Arlington Express (MAX). The line goes from the east side of the UTA campus, stops at Collins, and drops off at the TRE station, 300 yards from my work.

I thought I would review the experience for those who are interested in what it is like and may want to take advantage of it themselves.

What I liked about it:

  1. Bike rack on the bus. I was able to ride up to the bus, pull the bike rack down, and put my bike on the bus. It was a great experience for a cyclist.
  2. Riding through UTA and historic Arlington. I love the university feel of UTA. Every day I chose a new route to ride. The houses around UTA are also great to see. I enjoyed the scenery a ton.
  3. Simple payment. It’s $5 for a day pass. I had $5 bills ready to go and bought one a day. It was easier than a normal situation where the amount differs from factors you don’t understand. (A monthly pass is $70 to have access to all of DART.)
  4. Free internet. When I entered the bus, I opened my laptop and was able to get some work done or work on writing my blog posts. I felt like I was able to get back some time that I normally just spend in traffic.
  5. Flexible schedule for coming and going. The bus is running all day, so I can flexibly go back whenever I need to. I’m not locked in.
  6. Flexibility with minor tardiness. The bus driver will stop if you’re running up to it and have just missed the bus. This happened to others, and it happened to me as well. I was grateful for the grace that they showed.
  7. Someone was DRIVING ME TO WORK. This is a service that only the ultra-wealthy were able to enjoy just 100 years ago. But now for $5, someone else will drive me to work. It’s really amazing. I got to sit there, not worry about traffic, directions, safety, or even timing. All that was handled for me.
  8. Popularity. The buses were about half full, which is what you want. People really use this in their every day lives. I was scared that I would be the only person on a bus because Arlington hasn’t exactly been a mass transit friendly place. This wasn’t the case. There were plenty of people who use this for their everyday commute, but not too many to make it crowded.
  9. Better options. For me this is a choice I have made, but it was so good seeing people without cars freed up to go where they needed to go. One day I spoke with a lady and her two children. The lady was trying to find a school to attend so she could get a better job. I met so many UTA students when I was a student there who were just stuck in Central Arlington. They now have the option to go to Dallas and Fort Worth. I think this is a wonderful addition to Arlington.

What can improve:

Overall it was a great experience. There were only three things that bothered me even a bit about it:

  1.  Bus Driver Friendliness. Why are mass transit drivers so unfriendly? This is Texas. Smile, say hi, welcome. And when I ask you a question, provide a polite answer. I don’t think this is anything really bad about the MAX experience that is out of the ordinary. Just for some reason bus drivers usually seem like they are mad at someone. The exception to this was Chavez who was very nice to everyone.
  2. Internet Connectivity. The internet goes out during parts of the trip. So generally I had to do disconnected work like blogging in Word or email.
  3. Cost. The gas to drive me there is cheaper than the $5 round trip. So financially speaking it is not competitive for the MAX ride itself. It becomes worth it when you transfer into Dallas or Fort Worth. Since I didn’t do this, I wasn’t able to save any money. I did this to ride my bike to work and go without a car. I would have liked to have an option to make my situation financially competitive with driving.

If I lived in Arlington, I would definitely use the MAX every day instead of a car. It is a wonderful service that brings a component of transportation that has been lacking for many years.