After receiving a lot of feedback from residents about local transit transportation, the city partnered with the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning organization on what will help identify New Braunfels’ key needs.
During a regularly scheduled city council meeting Monday evening, City Engineer Garry Ford presented on the study, which officially kicked off with a meeting Tuesday.
The meeting included AAMPO’s oversight committee that will lead the project, Ford said.
“Our state of transit right now is we have a demand bus service for fiscal year 2018-19,” Ford said during the council meeting, referring to the Alamo Regional Transit or ART system. “We pay approximately $500,000 through our non-departmental budget.”
Annually, the city pays about $425,000 for demand response, and Comal County about $70,000, Ford said, which is matched 50% by VIA. ART is contracted through the Alamo Area Council of Governments.
Potential transit systems may include a fixed route bus system, or a combination fixed route-on-demand system. The study will help consider the feasibility of different options, Ford said.
“(We have to consider) the challenges in transit — the continued increase in ridership and costs — everybody knows we’re growing, so our ridership numbers are growing, and then our costs are growing and the amount we have to contribute,” Ford said.
Public input will be a large part of the study, and will consist of media relations, public meetings, online surveys and in-person interviews.
“A number of stakeholder and community meetings,” Ford said. We’ll also have in-person interviews with key folks, like example, from the chamber, with McKenna, even with city staff — those are going to be important meetings to understand really what’s needed for our community.”
Users of the ART system will be vital sources of information, Ford said.
“If we’re making changes, we definitely don’t want to change the users of the ART system, (we want to) have them fully understand what’s going on with transit,” Ford said.
The study is being funded through AAMPO with a price tag of $250,000, Ford said.
“That’s funded through the unified planning work program from planning funds that the region has,” he said.
The kick-off meeting Tuesday went very well, Ford said.
“It was kind of introductions as far as the consultant, the various staff and agency members, so we went through that,” Ford said. “Then we had kind of a discussion of our existing service, some issues and then some historical perspective on transit here in New Braunfels and then also in the region, so we had a good discussion.”
The meeting attendees hit on what kind of data will need to be gathered, on which other cities they should watch for best practices, and more.
“So it was more a workshop meeting to go over kind of the details of laying out the outreach efforts,” Ford said.
The study is expected to last about nine months to one year, and will include regular updates to press and city council, Ford said.
“Our goal is to have recommendations for city council for next fiscal year — not this fiscal year, but next fiscal year, fiscal year 2021,” Ford said. “So that’s kind of the overall goal.”
The city is very excited about the study and looks forward to putting the results of the study toward implementing a five-year organizational, operations and financial plan, Ford said.
“We don’t want a future long-range plan that sits on the shelf. We want something we can implement here and have us working in the next five years,” Ford said.