The Capital Area Rural Transportation System, which provides on-demand bus service for the City of Georgetown, will end service Aug. 30.
The rural transportation provider will no longer receive federal or state dollars after the city was labeled as part of the Austin urbanized area by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012.
The city's transportation funds are now directed to Capital Metro, the designated recipient for federal transportation dollars
At the City Council workshop May 14, council members directed staff to include $159,600 in the budget to pay for the next year's service and funding to continue additional studies. The City Council will consider the city's budget for final approval in September.
The motion was approved 5–1 with Councilmen Bill Sattler voting against and Tommy Gonzalez absent for the vote.
Through an interlocal agreement, Capital Metro can provide services or contract services outside its service territory, said Meredith Highsmith, assistant research scientist with the Texas Transportation Institute's Transit Mobility Program.
In response to the urban designation in 2012, city staff was directed by City Council to develop a budget and interlocal agreement with Capital Metro to administer the on-demand response program that could replace CARTS service, Highsmith said.
"Last year at this time we were scrambling to figure out what to do in regards to the urban area designation," Transportation Services Director Ed Polasek told City Council on May 14. "[The Texas Department of Transportation] came through with one additional year of [funding] we could continue with rural service for one additional year—this fiscal year—to give us time to work out a more practical plan to implement transit."
City staff has proposed a five-year, phased program that could continue a CARTS-type service in the 2013–14 fiscal year through an agreement with Capital Metro. The program could lead to a fixed-route bus service, Polasek said.
The plan provides estimated dollar amounts the city may have to pay to fund a fixed-route system that could be fully operational by 2019.
The public transportation plan being developed by city staff is looking at "developing a transit system that is internal to Georgetown and meeting the needs of residents," Highsmith said.
"Already, some of the numbers we've been hearing in regards to service hours have increased since CARTS began running service in the city," Highsmith told the City Council. "You guys have considerable demand for transportation within the city itself."
Following the timeline set up in the plan, capital purchases could be made in 2015 and 2016 and routes could begin to be implemented in 2016.
In 2008, the city completed a public transportation plan that included six fixed bus routes. Highsmith said the city could roll out those same routes based on demand and where the greatest need was over a period of time.
The final memorandum of understanding and interlocal agreements with Capital Metro would also be brought back to council for final approval at a later date.