A dozen Missouri City residents along with several city staff and elected officials met with Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County board members for a public hearing Jan. 28 to discuss a change in METRO’s services in the area.
METRO will be discontinuing the 364 Missouri City Flex Route and expanding the 363 Missouri City Community Connector to incorporate the coverage area of the 364 route, which extends down Hwy. 6 in Missouri City. The service change will happen in February, according to Ken Brown, METRO’s manager of service planning, who was at the hearing.
“We’re not reducing the coverage,” Brown said. “The resources that we have put into the 364, if we need to reinvest those to maintain the level of service we’re providing, we’re ready and willing to do that.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Several Missouri City officials voiced concerns to ensure key points in Missouri City are included in METRO’s service zone. City Council Member Floyd Emery said he felt all of Missouri City should be part of the coverage area since every Missouri City resident pays sales tax into METRO.
For every $1 spent in Missouri City, $0.01 goes toward funding METRO. Neighboring cities, like Sugar Land and Stafford, do not pay into METRO.
“All of Missouri City citizens pay sales tax,” Emery said. “We should provide the same service to all of those folks. They deserve it.”
Thomas Jasien, METRO’s deputy chief operating officer, said METRO’s service area covers 1,300 square miles. He said a lot of communities who pay sales tax into METRO don’t even have as many service options as Missouri City does.
“There are large parts of [Houston] and this service area that are in the area that pays taxes; They do not have the METRO lip service; They do not have any bus service or anything else,” Jasien said. “I hear you, but Missouri City is not alone. And you can't afford to cover every single thing on every single street. You just can't, not with the resources we're provided.”
The public hearing also provided the opportunity for Missouri City residents to ask questions about METRO's services. Residents in attendance inquired about the the Community Connector's service zones, ways to commute into Houston, the cost of using METRO services, and the potential to extend the Community Connector's hours of operation.
METRO officials said while this service change will be just to discontinue the 364 and expand the 363, they are open to other changes if they see a demand for them.
To ride the 363 route, people within the service zone can call and schedule a ride to any other destination within the zone, and METRO will dispatch a vehicle to them. Riders can also arrive at one of the route’s anchor stops—the Walmart on Hwy. 6, the Missouri City Park and Ride on Fondren, or after the expansion, the Missouri City Park and Ride at the Fort Bend Toll Road—and travel to any location in the zone.
The 364 service currently stops at 7 fixed points on Hwy. 6 from Cartwright Road to the Fort Bend Toll Road at set times. Once on board, riders can request to be dropped off within a half mile on either side of the route.
Brown said they decided on these service changes because of poor ridership numbers on the 364 route and confusion caused by having two separate systems.
From October 2018 to November 2019, the 363 Community Connector saw up to 150 boardings daily, while the 364 Flex Route never had more than 40 boardings a day. METRO said this low ridership number made the service unsustainable.
City Council Member Chris Preston said he wants the city’s METRO partnership to be beneficial to residents, especially those who might be on the fence about paying into METRO, while also maintaining the city’s infrastructure.
“Please do your best in making sure we are successful with this, and we're going to do what we can,” Preston said. “We want to make sure that this is a great partnership that's fair and equitable for our residents.”