Monday was launch day for The Hop’s new routes in west-central Killeen after a series of service cutbacks, including the elimination of Route 5, went into effect.
Judging by rider response, there are still some kinks to work out.
On Aug. 23, the Hill Country Transit District, which operates The Hop, announced a series of sweeping changes to the service, including the elimination of Route 5, Saturday Service and non-peak hours in Copperas Cove and Harker Heights. Hop officials said the cuts were due to dwindling revenues from a state Medicaid pickup contract.
To offset the loss of Route 5, the system extended routes 4 and 100 to pick up the most popular stops on the eliminated route and still provide service to downtown Killeen. The new route maps include a new “transfer station” near Baldwin Loop on Old Farm-to-Market 440.
Those changes resulted in minor chaos Monday as Route 100 riders were required to transfer at a location that resembled a front yard more than a bus stop, with no sidewalk, bus signs or shaded cover. There were no visible signs on Old FM 440 designating where the bus would stop or where riders should queue for transfer.
Deonte Thomas, 45, said he had accidentally taken Route 100 outbound to reach the Baldwin Loop transfer station, turning a five-minute connection into a 40-minute round trip.
“It’s a mess, man” he said. “Now we are just left on the side of the road, and no one told us where to go.”
Another rider, Luke Grady, 52, said he and other riders were confused they had been dropped off only feet from a private driveway leading to a home on the west side of Old FM 440.
“You step off, and you’re looking in someone’s front window,” he said. “At least it’s not raining.”
Darrell Burtner, the district’s director of urban operations could not be reached by phone or email Monday. Multiple calls to The Hop’s customer service line went unanswered throughout the day.
Over the course of the last month, The Hop requested increased contributions from cities that use the service as the district prepared for a shortfall tied to dwindling revenue from a state Medicaid service contract.
In a news release Aug. 23, the district said it had to balance increased ridership with tight financial constraints in recent years.
“The system has experienced steady growth during the past four decades,” the release said. “However, due to increased costs and decreased revenues, service changes are now having to be made.”
For Killeen, the service requested more than $455,000 in fiscal year 2019 — a roughly $335,000 increase from the current fiscal year.
The Killeen City Council voted against increasing the city’s contribution Tuesday and gave the exact same amount.
Both the Cove and Heights city councils also did not meet the service’s requested contributions.
In addition to cutting Route 5, the service also eliminated Saturday service — including Americans With Disabilities Act paratransit pickup — throughout the Killeen transit zone, which includes routes in Killeen, Cove and Heights. Routes 35 and 65 in Heights and Cove, respectively, will lose nonpeak-hour service on weekdays.
For Route 35, the last service hour of the day was eliminated along with three hours between 10:35 a.m. and 1:35 p.m. Daily service will end at 6:06 p.m. at the Walmart Neighborhood Market at 960 E. Farm-to-Market 2410.
For Route 65, the last service hour of the day was eliminated, with daily service ending at 5:45 p.m. at the Walmart at 2720 E. U.S. Highway 190.
For the revised routes and hours, go to takethehop.com.
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