McKinney Urban Transit District holds first public meeting

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The McKinney Urban Transit District held its first meeting Tuesday to discuss potential options for public transit within the McKinney Urbanized Area, which consists of McKinney, Celina, Princeton, Melissa and Lowry Crossing.

The MUTD board includes all members of McKinney City Council and representatives from the other four cities.

“This is not a discussion regarding whether we have public transit or not; it’s more of a discussion looking at who we contract with and what those levels of transit look like,” McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller said.

MUTD officials said they will work quickly to determine when public transit would be instated, which cities would choose to be included and which service provider would be selected. MUTD officials also said they would consider how much in funding each entity is willing to contribute for service.

No decision was made Tuesday, but officials said more information would be available at the next meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. April 5 at McKinney City Hall, 222 N. Tennessee St., McKinney.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments, the area’s regional planning organization, gave a presentation discussing available federal funding for the McKinney Urbanized Area and how that funding works.

NCTCOG officials said federal funding flows from Congress to the Federal Transit Authority and then to McKinney, pending the city’s request to be the direct recipient of those funds. State funding would flow directly from the Texas Department of Transportation to the city of McKinney.

In 2016, roughly $2.6 million in federal funds was set aside for the small McKinney Urbanized Area. NCTCOG officials said federal funds will pay a portion of operating expenses but require local matching funds. Officials urged the MUTD to be mindful during their planning stages that federal funding cycles are slow with each funding step potentially taking a month or longer.

DART, DCTA present options

Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Denton County Transportation Authority officials were both on hand to give presentations covering potential services and funding required.

Todd Plesko, DART’s vice president of planning and development, said the MUTD has three options with DART. The first includes joining giving the city’s 1 percent sales tax to DART, which would require the city to take the funding it currently provides to the McKinney Community Development Corp. and the McKinney Economic Development Corp. City leaders have consistently voiced concern about this option.

The second option includes joining via DART’s local government corporation dedication, which includes providing funding less than the 1 percent sales tax revenue. The third option includes simply contracting with DART’s local government corporation on a contract basis.

City officials said they frequently hear from residents asking whether contracting with DART would eventually provide the city with DART’s rail service.

DART Chief Financial Officer David Leininger said if the MUTD was able to afford DART rail service it would still be six to eight years before DART could get rail to McKinney. Right now, the rail lines are not equipped to run DART’s rail service and significant construction would be required prior to any service.

At this time, it is unclear when or if that would be a viable option for the MUTD.

DART officials said MUTD should implement a demand response-style service eligible for seniors and persons with disabilities as a first step in providing public transportation.

DCTA officials agreed.

DCTA offers bus routes, commuter rail, paratransit services, demand-response services and commuter vanpools. DCTA officials said they offer a limited service in Frisco, where roughly 20 percent of its rides include trips from Frisco to McKinney.

Services offered in Frisco cost $325,000 per year and include on-demand service specific to Frisco residents for seniors and the disabled as well as medical trips for the general public. DCTA officials said McKinney needs to start with a base service similar to what is offered in Frisco but customized to the MUTD’s needs.

All of these options will be considered within the next few weeks as officials prep for the April meeting.

The city of McKinney has been working to find viable public transit options since its former provider, Texoma Area Paratranist System, ceased operations in November 2015. Learn more about TAPS here. See the steps McKinney has taken thus far here and here.

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Marthe has reported on education, business, city and county news since 2010. She wrote for the McKinney Courier Gazette and later joined Community Impact Newspapers as McKinney Editor. Marthe covers transportation, development, city, county and education news in McKinney including McKinney ISD and Collin College.
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