In North Texas, no place is booming like Plano. As sparkling new residential and retail hubs continue to sprout, companies like Toyota plan to bring in 15,000 new employees over the next year.
That’s a big business opportunity – and a big headache when it comes to moving all of those people around town.
Thursday, the folks who run the City of Plano, TxDOT, DART and the North Texas Transit Authority unveiled plans to ease those growing headaches. By the new Legacy West development off the Dallas North Tollway, for instance, traffic volumes have increased more than 500 percent since 2012, according to Plano officials.
Gary Thomas, the president and CEO of DART, said the interagency collaboration isn’t just about clearing up traffic jams.
“It’s about choices. We know as more and more people move to Plano, to the northern part of Collin County, and they come to work here, it’s about making sure people get to where they need to go safely, efficiently and effectively. It's about giving them a choice,” Thomas said.
The City of Plano has re-timed nearly 230 traffic lights to help smooth out traffic flow as well as added additional lanes in areas with greater congestion.
In March, DART launched a non-stop express bus, which runs from the Parker Road DART station across town to the Legacy business park off the Dallas North Tollway, close to where the new Legacy West development is still underway. The transit agency is also expanding its “GoPass” app so that it can be used to plan trips via bus, train, Uber or Lyft, and can be used to pay for those trips all in one place.
“It’s the ‘first mile-last mile’ connectivity that we’ve really got to be paying attention to. Whether it’s through a bus, whether it be through Uber, Lyft or bike shares, that’s where we think the app will solve those ‘first mile-last mile’ problems,” Thomas said.
The NTTA will also wrap up construction on the Dallas North Tollway by early next year. Those projects include widening the tollway as well as reconfiguring the exit ramps at the President George Bush Turnpike and DNT interchange.
Watch the full press conference
City spokesman Steve Stoler said fixing traffic in the area will take a concerted effort from everyone.
“Road improvement projects will only help to a certain point,” he said. “We need to shift 20 percent of our traffic involving single drivers to other forms of transportation. That means motorists must be willing to adopt new driving habits, and local businesses must consider establishing policies that will get workers off the roads in peak hours.”
To do that, the city is forming a Traffic Management Association – made up of business owners, developers and transportation agencies that’ll work together to cut down on single-driver trips. That could be achieved through telecommuting, offering flexible work hours and incentivizing carpooling and ride-sharing in the Legacy business area.
In car-centric Texas, though, Plano and transit officials are confident some of these initiatives will gain traction. According to a 2016 mobility study of the Legacy area, about 40 percent of those surveyed said they’d be willing to rely on public transit.
“They would be willing to park their car and try alternates if one, they knew it, and two, if they were available,” said Peter Braster, director of special projects for the City of Plano. “So that's what our focus is for the next year: educating that workforce and helping to provide them transportation options.”
Follow updates on these traffic projects at the City of Plano website.