The Hop bus services in Copperas Cove will likely be scaled back due to the Killeen City Council on Tuesday reaching a consensus not to contribute a dime more than last year.
Killeen council members received a second briefing from The Hop, in which urban director Darrell Burtner requested more than $455,000 from Killeen — a roughly $330,000 increase from the current year’s total. But the Killeen council placed higher priority on city affairs, including public health, public safety, road maintenance and higher wages for city employees.
The Hill Country Transit District, which operates The Hop, has held public hearings in Belton, Temple, Harker Heights, Killeen and Copperas Cove on possible service cuts as the system attempts to cover a $901,000 shortfall caused in part by less revenue from a state Medicaid contract.
Burtner said the only way to effectively meet that shortfall is to request area cities increase their annual contributions to the system.
Out of 550,000 passenger trips reported in The Hop’s urban service area in 2017, half of those trips were in Killeen.
“They misused money. Now they’re asking us to get them out of the hole,” said Councilwoman Shirley Fleming when discussing The Hop. “Let’s earmark money to move Killeen forward. Let’s don’t give them anything.”
In addition to the proposed elimination of Saturday service, nonpeak hours could also be cut for routes 35 and 65, which serve Cove. Current hours of service with the lowest volume ridership are from 6:45 to 8:45 a.m. and 4:45 to 6:45 p.m.
In Cove, the new hours of service would be from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
According to Burtner, the system is also proposing to eliminate Route 5 in west Killeen. The service would extend parts of Route 100, which operates around Interstate 14 in west Killeen, and Route 4, which primarily runs around the interstate in east Killeen, to pick up Route 5’s most popular stops, Burtner said.
Mayor Jose Segarra said the proposed cuts aren’t a total shock due to past cuts.
“We’ve felt it because we’ve gotten several calls,” Segarra said. “We still need to think about those who rely on the services.”
The cuts and route adjustments, which would eliminate a net 11.9 miles from total route coverage, are the most efficient of potential options, Burtner said.
“We’re trying to minimize negative impact on ridership,” Burtner said.
Route 5 covers around 12 miles, with a northernmost stop at the Killeen Transfer Station in downtown Killeen, in a geographic area roughly bordered by Hereford Drive to the east, Elms Road to the south and Willow Springs Road to the west.
Burtner has said in past meetings that projected cuts will take place Oct. 1 if the transit system’s deficit is not reconciled.
The Cove City Council has reached a preliminary decision to allocate $100,000 for The Hop, up from $42,165 this year. The Harker Heights City Council has not yet decided on an amount.