More than $1 million will be spent on local public transit this year, and residents attending an input session Thursday wondered why more options aren’t available in New Braunfels.
“There’s 80,000 people living in town and there’s not Greyhound station or any method of public transport services available — other than people using their personal vehicles,” said one man during the session at Westside Community Center.
The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is funding a $250,000 feasibility study on fixed-route public transit services in the city and extending into other area cities within the next two to five years.
Bennett Powell, project manager with San Antonio-based KFH Group, said the study will blend input from three community meetings and online surveys of residents and businesses, into developing recommendations it will present to the MPO and city next year.
The study will review existing services as part of a needs analysis reviewing demographics, trip generators, unmet service needs and other data. Powell said Alamo Regional Transport provides transports that are linked with human services sites, such as the Comal County Senior Center and hospitals and other medical treatment facilities.
“They want you to have a reason — not just to go drink at Scores — and it has to be for medical services and arranged days in advance,” one man said.
Several years ago, Amtrak passenger train and intercity bus services were available in New Braunfels. Now, the closest stops for both are in San Marcos and San Antonio.
“I don’t like driving a night,” one woman said. “While I do appreciate ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, there needs to be a bus system here. I sent letters to the city wondering why there isn’t they said there just doesn’t seem to be much interest for it here.”
Another woman said, “The problem with New Braunfels is that everything is focused on the tourists, and nothing is for the residents.”
Garry Ford, city engineer, said the study is the first step toward correcting that.
“This study is focused on them,” he said. “While we’re maintaining the shuttle component for the (river) outfitters and Wurstfest, there is a need to provide transit services for everyday residents.”
Ford said the city and Comal County combined in funding nearly $525,000 last year for ART. Federal funding, distributed through the AAMPO and VIA Metropolitan Transit, matched that total to provide nearly $1.050 million toward local public transit.
Fixed-route transportation systems employ vehicles operating on predetermined routes and schedules. Bus services, similar to VIA’s in San Antonio, would have both, with door-to door service for those with disabilities.
Without light rail, most residents on Thursday agreed ground-based transit is the only available option. They said Seguin, which operates basic local bus service, serves as a good start for what could be available here in New Braunfels.
“Most transit users would use it to get to the grocery store, the drug store or for school – and for that we need regularly scheduled services,” one man said.
“The roads in town can’t handle the traffic on it now, much less buses that would tie traffic and congest everything even more,” said another man said.
Public outreach sessions were held Oct. 26 at New Braunfels Farmers Market and Oct. 30 at Freiheit Village Farmers Market. Online surveys of residents and businesses will be accepted at www.nbtexas.org/transit through Monday, Nov. 18.
Jennifer Hernandez, WCC outreach coordinator, said maps and surveys presented during Thursday’s meeting will remain available to visiting residents at 2932 Interstate 35 South Frontage Road in New Braunfels.
“This will provide us with a short-term transit plan for the city of New Braunfels, which is anticipated to be delivered by the middle of next year,” Ford said. “We encourage residents to participate in the online survey. Once we get the results we’ll share that information with the public and city council, which will determine the next steps.”