In front of a group of around 30 disgruntled residents, the urban director for The Hop regional bus system laid out proposed cuts to the service Monday and the financial realities behind them.
The facts weren’t pretty.
Monday marked the only public hearing in Killeen on proposed changes to the system as the Hill Country Transit District, which operates The Hop, projects a roughly $901,000 shortfall in its fiscal 2019 budget.
According to director Darrell Burtner, the system is proposing to eliminate Route 5 in west Killeen, eliminate Saturday service systemwide, and cut non-peak hour service in Heights and Cove. 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.
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.
Residents were concerned that cutting Saturday service would prevent people from reaching weekend appointments or jobs.
Sami Thomas, 65, who rides Route 2 in north Killeen, said she frequently takes the bus to grocery shop on Saturday.
“It’s just one more obstacle,” she said. “They already cut a route that I used last year. So I’m just trying to figure out a solution.”
Burtner told the residents that the service was asking three cities on its system — Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove — to increase their annual contributions to the system to meet the projected shortfall.
For Killeen, the system is asking for $455,749 in fiscal 2019 — a roughly $330,000 increase from the current year. If the service does not received the requested contributions, some or all of the projected cuts would take effect Oct. 1, Burtner said.
Former Killeen Councilman Brockley Moore said that if the service continued to eye cuts in west Killeen, it would be behind the eight ball as the area’s population continues to grow and public transportation grows increasingly scarce.
“You’ll be back in this dog fight in six to nine months because the Willow Springs area is where the population is growing,” he said.
The service has three more hearings scheduled as area cities piece together their own budgets:
Harker Heights — 5 to 6 p.m. today at the Harker Heights Activity Center, 400 Indian Trail.
Temple — 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Temple Public Library, third floor, 100 W. Adams Ave.
Copperas Cove — 5 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Copperas Cove Police Department, 302 E. Avenue E.