Denton County’s transit authority, which provides bus and train service, is one of the least efficient systems nationwide. Even worse, the agency’s board restricts public comment to only three minutes, once a year.
State lawmakers passed enabling legislation for the Denton County Transit Authority (DCTA) in 2001. Local voters approved its creation in 2002. It’s funded by three cities that dedicate a ½-cent sales tax, a commitment the county and all other cities in the region rejected.
The money paid by its member cities – Lewisville, Denton, and Highland Village – is uncapped. And those same city councils have no control over how the agency spends those tax dollars.
That’s because DCTA’s paying members don’t control its board. The three cities that fund its $50 million operating budget only appoint three of the 14 board members. In other words, despite paying for 100 percent of the local sales tax costs, the member cities only control 22 percent of the board.
The DCTA is a fiscal train wreck. The A-Train operates at a loss exceeding $22 per rider, among the highest in the nation, and fives times worse than Dallas Area Rapid Transit. DART is no shining example of efficiency; it’s one of the most inefficient urban systems in the nation, losing nearly $4.50 per rider.
In national rankings, according to federal government data, DCTA’s A-Train is the fifth most costly system per rider, out of 64 systems nationwide.
Ridership on DCTA’s train, bus, and van service continues to decline. Consumer demand is lower than it was four years ago in 2013, despite a population explosion of 9.3 percent in Denton County. Despite lower ridership, the agency has doubled its staff from 18 to 36 employees over the same time period. That’s due, in part, to the fact that they agency gets more sales tax money regardless of how many riders use the system.
In this regard, it appears to be little more than a government-employment agency.
Despite the fiscal and ridership failures, taxpayer subsidies continue to flow into the agency without reform. After all, there is little incentive to improve performance, or cut costs, since the agency gets taxpayer money regardless of how many riders use the system. Keep in mind the sales taxes paid by member cities could be used on local roads, public safety, property tax relief, or other core services.
DCTA isn’t just wasteful and losing ridership, it’s also failing on its public “accountability” commitment. Their website reads, “The DCTA Board and employees hold themselves accountable to their constituents and are committed to being exemplary stewards of public resources.”
A concerned taxpayer told Texas Scorecard that, despite attending every DCTA board meeting over the last year, the agency’s board only allows him to speak once a year in August, for three minutes. DCTA representatives have so far declined his offer to present his findings at their public meeting. It’s unclear at this time what the member cities, and their respective councils, know about DCTA’s failures.
We’ve previously reported on how government-run passenger trains in Texas simply don’t work. When compared to buses, they’re costly, inefficient, inflexible, and largely unaccountable to the officials providing oversight, and to taxpayers who foot the bill.
Denton County residents concerned about holding DCTA accountable can contact the board on their website. At the very least, the board should hear from taxpayers who not only pay for the agency, but also take time to attend the meetings. The current board members are:
Skip Kalb (small cities):, Connie White (small cities):, Richard Huckaby (Secretary, Denton):, Diane Costa (Highland Village):, Charles Emery Chairman, Lewisville):, Tom Winterburn (Corinth):, Mark Miller (Flower Mound):, Carter Wilson (Frisco):, Allen Harris (The Colony):, George. A Campbell (Denton County):, Don Hartman (Denton County):, Dave Kovatch (Treasurer, Denton County):
*1 of 14 board seats is currently vacant, according to DCTA’s website.

Ross Kecseg

Ross Kecseg was the president of Texas Scorecard. He passed away in 2020. A native North Texan, he was raised in Denton County. Ross studied Economics at Arizona State University with an emphasis on Public Policy and U.S. Constitutional history. Ross was an avid golfer, automotive enthusiast, and movie/music junkie. He was a loving husband and father.