After cutting bus services Kyle set to study alternatives

The city of Kyle will study possible replacements to the bus service that ended Dec. 31

The city of Kyle will study possible replacements to the bus service that ended Dec. 31

The city of Kyle will look at possible alternatives to the public bus service it ended on Dec. 31—but only at the right price.

At its Feb. 2 meeting, Kyle City Council voted 6-1 to direct staff to find a viable replacement for the Capital Area Rural Transit System, or CARTS, which provided a bus residents could request 24 hours in advance to take them to specific destinations within the Capital Metro service area. Council also placed a $50,000 cap on how much the services could cost the city.

Council Member Diane Hervol, who requested the item be placed on the agenda, said she has heard from several of Kyle's senior residents interested in some form of public transportation service to travel to and from doctor's appointments.

"I want us to consider either reaching out to some of these different groups and/or trying to create some sort of transportation system that will meet that need," Hervol said. "We are attracting more and more seniors here."

City Council decided in October against funding CARTS for all of fiscal year 2015-16, instead funding it through the first quarter to allow for CARTS users to be notified the service was being cut. Low ridership numbers could not justify the costs associated with it, city officials said.

The city of Kyle provided $75,000 in funding to CARTS bus services in fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15. Those funds were matched annually with about $45,000 in federal funding, a city spokesperson said. But only 46 people rode the bus in fiscal year 2014-15. Of those 46 only four rode the bus on a weekly basis, city data shows.

Mayor Todd Webster said the service was not only underutilized but also abused. A city analysis of CARTS ridership found that several of the most frequent bus riders lived outside the city limits, city officials said.

"We’re at this spot where what we have tried hasn’t worked," Webster said. "How can you argue that it was appropriate for us to spend on people who don’t live in the city limits?"

Residents from The Overlook at Plum Creek, a city address from which CARTS service was used 60 times in fiscal year 2014-15, commented before council about the need for public transportation in Kyle.

In response to their comments Webster said the apartment complex for people aged 55 and older had informed the city they would be providing transportation services to residents. When reached by phone after the meeting, property manager Veronica Neiman said that is not true.

"We do not provide transportation," Neiman said. "I don’t know if in the future it may be something that might be considered, but right now no we don’t have any means of providing transportation services."

Kyle Spokesperson Kim Hilsenbeck said the city is setting up a meeting with The Overlook's property management team to discuss transportation.

"Nothing has been officially decided but the city and the property management team are working to find solutions and to assist residents who have transportation needs," Hilsenbeck said.

Madonna Hayes, an Overlook at Plum Creek resident, said to City Council that the public transportation issue affects more people than the residents at the senior apartment complex.

“This is not just a senior issue,” Hayes said. “It is all ages of Kyle that need transportation.”