The Hop regional bus system has proposed to eliminate all Saturday service systemwide due to financial turmoil, which has raised concerns among those who depend upon the public transit.
Potential cuts could come on the heels of 19 layoffs companywide, according to urban director Darrell Burtner, who said the layoffs weren’t related to potential service cuts.
The majority of the layoffs came from the district’s rural division, of which Burtner provided few details.
Debra Wood, 63, hitched a ride Aug. 17 to the Copperas Cove Police Department with her property manager at Brookview Village Apartments, a senior independent living property.
She attended a public hearing held by The Hop on behalf of disabled Brookview residents who could not attend. The hearing at 302 E. Avenue E was the last of five held in area cities.
She said one word can describe the reaction of residents when they heard The Hop could be compromised: devastation.
nonpeak hours may be cut
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.
Tightening the window on bus service means tightening the window on when residents of the property can book doctor appointments.
“There are people who need those time slots,” Wood said.
“They need to go and get back at certain times. The whole building is devastated.”
Lisa Leonard, Brookview property manager, said several disabled residents have to call in advance of doctor appointments to schedule hourlong intervals for pick-up.
Under the posible new schedule in Cove, Brookview residents would be forced to schedule doctor appointments later and finish them faster.
Leonard thinks that’s easier said than done.
“It closes the window big-time. So what happens?” Leonard said. “Some even have trouble even affording The Hop because they’re on such fixed incomes. They’re not going to be able to afford a cab.”
No sugarcoating came from the urban director Friday night.
“It’s gotten pretty rough,” Burtner said. “It’s pretty bad right now.”
Coping with a roughly $901,000 shortfall in the transit system’s fiscal year 2019 budget made for a frank Burtner before the near dozen who attended the hearing.
Services could stay the same if area cities pony up more money.
On Aug. 2, Cove councilmen planned to pitch $100,000 from general funds into The Hop, up from $42,165 last year.
Burtner attributed the shortfall to changes in its contract with the Texas Health and Human Services Department for transporting Medicaid recipients.
In 2014, the department contracted with LogistiCare Solutions to coordinate the state’s nonemergency transportation, throwing a middle-man into the equation a transportation and integrated health care program broker.
LogistiCare’s involvement has sharply decreased Hill Country Transit District’s revenue from its Medicaid contract.
Burtner said Hill Country Transit District staff thought the problem would eventually dissipate rather than snowball. For the past few years, the district has relied on reserves to stay afloat.
What was once $4.9 million in fiscal year 2014 has dissolved to a projected $1.9 million by the end of fiscal 2018.
“The cities have to decide how valuable it is,” Burtner said of the bus service.
“How valuable is it for people who need a ride to the doctor, to Walmart or the grocery store?”