Scattered throughout McKinney are remnants of a time when the city offered public transportation for all of its residents.
Six closed bus stops are all that remain of the daily bus service that abruptly pulled out of town in 2015 over financial troubles. While those buses are gone, the desire for public transit to serve the city’s growing population is still strong.
Limited services were revived in 2017 with a taxi voucher program for people with disabilities and those 65 years and older. The program has since been expanded to serve low-income residents. The city also recently purchased a third bus to join its two-bus fleet that helps with voucher requests.
But there is still more to be done.
The city has been a key player in a commuter bus service proposal, called Route 70, that would travel along SH 121 between McKinney and Lewisville. A funding source for the service has not been determined. McKinney and several surrounding cities will also participate in a regional study on transit.
But the days of public transit for everyone in McKinney are still a long way off.
“We are still collecting data,” McKinney Mayor George Fuller said. “We have no specific plan [for public transportation]yet.”
McKinney residents were without public transportation for nearly two years before the McKinney Urban Transit District, or MUTD, implemented the taxi voucher program in 2017.
The MUTD, in partnership with the Denton County Transportation Authority, or DCTA, launched a service called Collin County Transit.
The program serves residents in McKinney, Celina, Lowery Crossing, Princeton and Melissa who have disabilities or are age 65 or older.
The program has been successful with 372 participants and more than 6,000 rides provided between June 2017 and November 2018, said Anthony Cao, transit director for the city of McKinney.
In January the MUTD board added residents who qualify as low income to the list of eligible riders.
According to Cao, changes were made to the transit service after a pilot program began in April 2018 for 100 low-income residents. The idea was to evaluate travel patterns and determine where people frequently traveled, especially in regards to employment.
According to ridership data, many residents from Towne Creek Apartments, located at 506 S. Graves St., were using the service to visit grocery stores. In December the city started offering bus trips from Towne Creek to Walmart.
The city is also looking at transportation needs at other apartments and facilities to see if more places need a shuttle service as well, Cao said.
However, the MUTD board believes fixed bus routes, similar to what was offered prior to 2015, may not be the best option for McKinney at this time, Cao said.
“When we’ve had fixed routes in the past, it just proved to be too expensive; it wasn’t sustainable,” MUTD chairman and former McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller said.
In an effort to provide more transportation options, McKinney and several surrounding cities have requested help from the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The NCTCOG plans to start engaging with stakeholders in February or March to identify the best solution for the region’s public transportation needs.
“[The NCTCOG is] working on issuing a request for proposals, or an RFP, later this summer for a large study to be done … to determine and identify internal and regional connections, focus on strategic implementation and see what we can do now and in the next 10 years,” said Shannon Stevenson, program manager of NCTCOG transit operations.
The scope of the study would include Tarrant, Dallas and Collin counties and is estimated to cost more than $2 million.
As McKinney’s population continues to increase, the number of households without vehicles is increasing as well.
In the two years with no buses, McKinney’s population increased by nearly 15,000 people. At the same time, nearly 100 more households reported having no vehicles. This leaves about 1,937 McKinney households without vehicles, according to the 2017 American Community Survey.
While data shows a need for transportation among certain demographics in McKinney, the desire also exists among some of the remaining 96 percent of residents who do have vehicles.
Some residents who do not qualify for the Collin County Transit program have expressed an interest in a potential bus route or expansion of the existing transit service, Cao said. But the city is still assessing the best plan of action.
“McKinney desperately needs a bus system,” resident Ken Branch said. “I used to ride [the Collin County Area Regional Transit]. I was amazed at the number of students riding to [Collin College], handicapped persons and other seniors like myself.”