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Organizers say ‘bus bridge’ plan helped North Texas score nine World Cup matches

With nine 2026 FIFA World Cup matches allocated to Arlington, North Texas needed to develop a transportation plan to allow visitors to get to and from AT&T Stadium efficiently.
Sandra Sadek
Fort Worth Report
With nine 2026 FIFA World Cup matches allocated to Arlington, North Texas needed to develop a transportation plan to allow visitors to get to and from AT&T Stadium efficiently.

Weeks after learning that North Texas secured more 2026 FIFA World Cup matches than any other host city, Michael Morris credits his transportation plan — and its “special sauce” — as the reason the region scored high with the organizing agency.

Morris, who heads the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ transportation department, revealed the special ingredient is nothing more than a “bus bridge,” or a bus service that serves as a backup if trains are full.

The bus bridge is part of a range of transportation options, focused on repetition and planning for all scenarios, that impressed FIFA, Morris said.

“We think we have nine events because they must have liked the stadium, the region, the hotels and, I think, the transportation plan,” Morris said. “They quickly realized how comprehensive this particular vision is, which I think is what sort of blew them away.”

Regional planners have tested the use of managed lanes and buses over several major events, including WrestleMania 38 and Super Bowl XLV, to bridge the trackless expanse between the TRE CentrePort station in Fort Worth and Arlington’s Entertainment District.

“We went to four Super Bowls before we put the transportation plan together for our Super Bowl, Super Bowl 45,” Morris said. “So (FIFA’s) hearing from someone who’s done this before, versus they go to a lot of U.S. cities and those plans haven’t even been put in place in those cities.”

The road to 2026 focused on four areas: getting people to the stadium, risk management, other services, and a gap analysis of which services are missing. Morris compared the analysis to a college relay race.

“Is there enough wayfinding? Is there enough shade? Is there water? (Are) there restrooms? You don’t want to lose anything in a baton pass,” Morris said.

The Regional Transportation Council, the independent transportation policy body of NCTCOG, will use $17.5 million from the city of Arlington to fund improvements around the Entertainment District that include updating signs, sidewalks and streets.

Driving personal vehicles remains an option. Using toll lanes and premium parking at AT&T Stadium are ways to improve that experience, but Morris said he doesn’t expect many people will be driving, given the international audience of this major sporting event.

“These (people) are from other countries; they drive on a different side of the road. They’ll be nervous driving anyways, and we hit that really hard in our presentation, and I think (FIFA) agrees with that,” he said.

Instead, North Texas plans to capitalize on public transit in a city where there is no established transit agency.

The solution? Charter buses.

At this time, a request is out with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a national waiver that would allow public sector transit vehicles to run outside their designated routes during the event to supplement the charter buses that will move people.

However, Morris said, the Council of Governments will prioritize securing more charter buses rather than relying upon existing public transit buses, given the shortage of workers and buses in that sector at the moment.

“Even if granted a waiver, you may not have enough public sector people to provide that particular service,” Morris said. “Given where we are with the transit agencies desperately trying to get regular bus drivers. I’m not sure we will be exercising public sector fleets to substitute on transit routes when the transit agencies are desperately trying to serve the transit reps they currently have.”

During the Super Bowl, Morris said, 800 charter buses were used to move 30,000 people.

Similar to the Super Bowl, World Cup charter buses will have to adhere to a predetermined route from the hotels to the stadium. However, in the past, charter buses tried to deviate from predetermined routes. That will be remedied in the contracts.

“I’ve already told the (Dallas) Sports Commission, if (the buses) don’t run the route that we tell you, you’re not gonna get paid,” Morris said. “That’s why you test these events. What do you learn from these events? We learned the drivers didn’t follow the route.”

The buses will also supplement the Trinity Railway Express rail line, bringing people coming from Fort Worth or Dallas to the CenterPort station onto the stadium.

“This is the special sauce we added to our presentation, and we call it a bus bridge,” Morris said. “We will stack public sector buses at our rail stations, so if the rail vehicles get full because we anticipate a significant international presence, we will put them directly on public sector buses and run them on the managed lanes just like the motorcoaches.”

Following the allocation of matches Feb. 4, many pointed to Arlington’s lack of public transportation as the main reason why North Texas did not win the final game. At this time, North Texas has not received feedback from FIFA on why AT&T Stadium did not receive the final game, said Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission.

However, that has not stopped the commission and its partners from continuing with preparations. A lot has been done since the Feb. 4 match announcement, Paul said.

“Right now, we’re really planning around the match schedule as best we can in all the standard areas that you would to put on an event from a staffing standpoint,” Paul said.

The main challenge at this moment is updating the baseline budget for the nine matches while finding various revenue streams to help cover some of the costs of hosting the event, including transportation to and from the stadium.

“We’re definitely in the process of figuring (it) out because while we had some baselines, one of the things on a budget standpoint we never put together was nine matches. We had six, four, five, eight, but never nine,” Paul said.

As North Texas waits to hear whether it will be hosting any national team’s base camp, the international broadcast center and the referees’ headquarters, one thing is certain: Dallas-Fort Worth is keen on making the most of their match allocation.

“I think nine matches shows that FIFA wants Dallas to be a central location, a hub. I think it makes their overall operation dealing with 16 different host cities and three different countries maybe be a little bit easier from a connectivity standpoint,” Paul said.

Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.