City transit plan could lead to fixed-route bus system


Click here to view original web page at impactnews.com
City transit plan could lead to fixed-route bus system
This summer City Council is expected to be presented with a plan that could implement a fixed-route bus system throughout the city.

Through an interlocal agreement between the city of Georgetown and Capital Metro—the Austin Urbanized Area designated recipient of federal transit funding—the two organizations have been developing the Transit Development Plan Study since November, said Michelle Meaux, Capital Metro regional coordination planner.

The city was included in the Austin Urbanized Area as a result of the 2010 census. Because of the designation, transit planning and funding is completed through Capital Metro, she said.

The study will help define service plan needs for a future fixed-route bus system in the city, including routes, service hours, frequency and boundaries, and will help determine appropriate services and requirements for providing bus service in Georgetown, city Transportation Services Director Ed Polasek said.

Meaux said a transit study completed by the city in 2008 was used as a starting point.

“The first step [in the process] is the transit plan [study] and that is why we are updating the 2008 plan now,” Meaux said, adding that the city and Capital Metro began looking at the city’s demographic changes since 2008 as well as population needs to create specific plans for each area.

Currently the city has an on-demand bus service through a contract between Capital Metro and the Capital Area Rural Transportation System.

Fixed-route bus system

In April 2014, Capital Metro updated a policy that would allow nonmember jurisdictions, such as the city of Georgetown, to get a fixed-route bus service without joining Capital Metro and paying a 1 cent sales tax into the Capital Metro system, Meaux said.

“Georgetown will be the first city under the new service expansion policy,” she said.

Along with input from CARTS, Meaux said a big part of the plan was developed using community input gathered from people working in transportation in Georgetown as well as from the school district and nonprofit organizations including the United Way of Williamson County and Drive a Senior in Georgetown.

That input led to the development of the proposed routes, she said.

“The routes are somewhat similar to routes developed in 2008,” Meaux said, adding that some priorities had shifted.

According to the study, bus service destinations could include Southwestern University, Wolf Ranch Town Center, H-E-B on University Avenue and the Square as well as the convention center currently under construction in The Summit at Rivery Park development.

Along with the four proposed routes that travel north and south as well as east and west, the plan includes a future special events route could be implemented during large events.

“At the heart [of the study] are four main routes,” Meaux said. “We also saw the library as a good place for a transit center. … A place for everything to meet up.”

The study also includes recommendations to connect the system to high-capacity services being studied in the Project Connect North Corridor Study, Polasek said.

Next step

Once presented to City Council this summer, council members will determine whether to adopt the plan and move forward with implementation of the routes, which Meaux said could be done in phases.

Meaux said a financing plan is expected to be presented to City Council with the study.

If the plan is approved, Capital Metro and the city of Georgetown will finalize a budget based on council priorities and begin determining bus stop and the transit center locations; service plan options, such as service hours and days of operation as well as frequency and a fare structure; and set an implementation date and who will operate the service, Meaux said.

“It is a possibility that CARTS will run the service,” she said.

The city’s allocation of Federal Transit Administration funds is capped at $251,098 each year, which can change based on population and density as the city grows, Meaux said. How much the city must match those funds will be determined based on what parts of the plan are implemented, she said.

The plan must also be updated each year by the city to include performance measures, goals achieved, and revisions of strategies and policies as well as any changes for the upcoming year to continue to receive federal funding, she said.