BELTON — Hill Country Transit District opened the doors Friday to its new $6.8 million operations facility in Belton.
Beginning Feb. 19, the district, which operates HOP buses, now conducts operations for all urban fixed and paratransit services at the 30,000-square-foot facility about one mile west of Stillhouse Hollow Road in Belton.
Robert Ator, director of urban operations, said the district hopes the new facility will serve them through the next 25 years.
“We have really ended up with a facility that is streamlined, safe and efficient and so we are able to provide better service,” Ator said.
In 2012, the HOP fixed-route buses served 625,000 passengers, a 20 percent increase from 2011.
The new facility houses 100 of the district’s 165 employees and more than 100 buses, which serve the urban region between Copperas Cove and Temple.
“When we first opened (in the 1960s) we just wanted a parking lot to park the buses,” Ator said. “This new facility is centrally located for all our services.”
The district administrative office is in San Saba. Some of the rural paratransit buses are housed in rural areas, Ator said.
Hill Country Transit purchased the property in 2010 from Aspen Air, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company, and began construction.
When the district consolidated urban operations in February, it closed two leased properties it maintained in Temple and Killeen.
“From where we started to where we are now, it’s a big change,” said Noel Rodriguez, a district trainer.
To illustrate the upgrade, Ator showed off the new automated bus washing facility, which uses recaptured water to clean the grime off 100 buses twice a week.
“Before we moved here, we had to wash every bus by hand,” Ator said.
The district is a political subdivision of the state of Texas headed by a 14-member board of elected officials from the nine counties it serves. The district is funded primarily through federal grants.