In April the township decided to take the service in-house, which was estimated to cost an additional $13,567 per year. The service provides free trolley rides on a 4.1-mile route through the Town Center area, which includes The Woodlands Mall, Market Street, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and Hughes Landing.
The total cost of the program is $1.1 million, but after reimbursements from the Federal Transit Administration and hotel occupancy tax contributions, the net cost to the township is $555,002, township officials said in April.
The township took over ownership from the Brazos Transit District, and nine full-time employees will become township employees, according to the April agenda and Oct. 21 news release.
In April, township projections stated that Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds could potentially be used to cover any shortfall that might occur due to lower hotel taxes during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Considering the CARES Act will provide 100% funding for a period of time, it is recommended to move forward with the transfer of the BTD assets and trolley operations,” according to the April 22 agenda. “This will provide the Township the best option to have full control of the operation, maximize federal funding, and allow time for Township staff to evaluate the program first-hand.”
Benefits of bringing the operation in-house discussed in April included control over the assets, vehicles and property, although cons listed included additional management and liability.
Board of directors Chair Gordy Bunch said in a statement the service will continue to operate under safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we move into the holidays, we hope our residents and visitors will take advantage of being able to park their car in one location and use the trolley to get to other locations in the Town Center,” he said. “Most importantly, though, we want our visitors and guests know that we’re operating with very strong safety protocols.”
The township has also launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #SitSafe to reinforce the need for sanitization, personal protective equipment and social distancing on transit. According to the release, trolleys are cleaned regularly; face coverings are required for passengers and drivers; and passenger capacity is limited to allow for distancing.