By Brandon Janes
Killeen Daily Herald
Residents and college students lacking transportation in southwest Killeen may soon be catching a ride, if the funding comes through for a new bus route.
Robert Ator, director of urban operations for the Hill Country Transit Authority, which operates the HOP, announced the plans for the potential route during a Killeen council budget workshop last week.
"The idea would be to start a new route, hopefully by the first of the year," Ator said.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lower supported funding the project, saying he thought the city should focus more of its budget on bus transportation.
"A lot of people in the neighborhood over there have to travel a lot of distance in order to get to those stops," Lower said.
After numerous phone calls from area residents, Lower said he has no doubt the buses will be filled.
"We just don't have the amount of stops over there that we need to serve all those people," Lower said. "It will be well used."
The Hill Country Transit Authority provides HOP service to nine counties in Central Texas and operates both rural and urban routes.
The authority has been working with city transportation staff to design a new route to benefit an underserved area.
The proposed route, still subject to tweaking, would encircle an area outlined by State Highway 195, State Highway 201, Clear Creek Road and Stan Schlueter Loop.
The buses would service the new campus of Texas A&M University-Central Texas — currently not serviced by the HOP — Central Texas College and Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport, with connections to other HOP bus routes.
"We tried to cover a lot of areas with one route," Ator said.
Questions such as, "Is there going to be a shelter at Texas A&M?" or "how close will buses run to local businesses?" still hang in the air, Ator added.
Nevertheless, he said, the plan is for enough buses that they can run on a one-hour cycle. "People don't ride a bus if there is not consistency."
If the budget for the project is approved, the route will be open for public comment during a public hearing at City Hall in September or October, Ator said.
The HOP operates 13 fixed routes in Killeen, including one express route.
City buses transport riders from Copperas Cove to Temple, with stops in Belton, Killeen and Harker Heights.
"If everything comes out right, we will offer some services that we haven't offered before," Ator said. "You can't generate ridership if you don't have the service."
Contact Brandon Janes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552.