It was eight days before a deployment that I interviewed Denton County Transportation Authority President Jim Cline. His current assignment was taking him to a deployment in Afghanistan for about a year.
“I was commissioned in May of 1984 as a second lieutenant in the Corp. Division of Engineers,” Cline says. “I’ve been in the whole time, over 26 years experience.
“My most recent assignment was to command an engineer battalion, the 386 engineers in Corpus Christi.”
It was by chance that Cline got in to transportation. “I was talking to my undergraduate advisor and he asked, ‘What’s your specialty?’ and I said, ‘General.’
“He said, ‘I’ll give you six hours of military science and technical elective if you just say you’re a traffic guy and I said, ‘I’m your boy.’ So that’s really how it started.”
His undergraduate specialty is in transportation and his master’s degree in civil engineering with a transportation focus; his master’s thesis on light rail transit grade crossing.
After he got his master’s, he worked for a private firm, Kenley Horne and Associates, then worked for the city of Beaumont, Texas, and then the city of Irving in August of 1998.
Working for the city of Irving, he did a variety of things and worked on a lot of big projects. “The Orange Line was one thing we were responsible for coordinating with DART on and everything to do with funding and right-of-way, everything we had to do to champion that project,” Cline says. “I got a chance to do a lot of different things outside of transportation, including public works, working with solid waste, utilities, a pretty broad spectrum.
“When you look at, just as an example, water utilities, the water utilities department is a separate fund, so it’s a lot like running an agency.” He explains, “You have to deal with all of the bonding and all of the finances and everything that goes with that. That part, outside of the engineering, really prepared me to do budgeting for an agency.”
Cline says he talked to some folks about what might be a good opportunity and then he went in, applied for the job, and then was the president of the Denton County Transportation Authority.
Cline had been responsible for the transit system for his eight years in Beaumont and now works with a lot of the same people he worked with while in Irving. Those include people from DART, TEXDOT and the regional council of governments. “That really helped out a lot. I’ve been able to use that experience I had working with those folks to help get things started here at DCTA.”
Denton County is located in Texas, in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and according to the 2007 census, has a higher than 612,000 population in the 958-square-mile area. Denton’s a university town, with the University of Texas having a major campus there and also the Texas Woman’s University and a growing traditional downtown area.
DCTA is looking at how it can best bring those areas together and work closely with DART and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), to have a regional fare system so from a passenger’s perspective, it’s transparent; you buy one pass and go all over the area.
Keeping the Momentum Going
“We talk a lot about our railroad but last year, we exceeded 2 million bus riders on our system and we’re on track to go up to 2.3 million,” Cline emphasizes. “We’re seeing record ridership. We’re serving a lot of students in Denton, but we’re also serving a lot of the public and we’ve done some changes to our routing.
“The staff here did some changes to how the routes work and it has just really paid off in both Lewisville and Denton, in terms of our connect fixed-route bus service.” He adds, “We couldn’t be more pleased with that.”
Cline says, “It’s a lot of excitement, a lot of glitz with the rail, but we want to make sure we don’t lose ground with our bus service and we’ve had good support for that.”