Regional transit system proposes cuts amid funding shortfall

Posted at 2:53 PM, Aug 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-29 21:39:36-04

Cuts to the regional transit system that serves several counties in Central Texas, including Bell and Coryell counties, may be coming in October.

According to Hill Country Transit District Urban Operations Director Darrell Burtner, the nonprofit agency had been covering a shortfall of funding with reserve funds since 2014. However, he said that trend is not sustainable. 

"The revenues we receive from [Medicaid] contracts are much less. We have no choice but to pass that loss to the cities to make up that shortfall,"  Hill Country Transit District Urban Operations Director Darrell Burtner said. 

It is now requesting the cities of Killeen, Copperas Cove and Harker Heights to increase its funding to make up for the $901,402 shortfall. 

"We don't want to make any of these cuts. It's heartbreaking for us to have to consider these things. It's really driven by lack of local funds. Without the funding we can provide that type of the service," Burtner said.

If the funding is not obtained, the HOP plans to eliminate one route in Killeen, which would be covered by other routes. 

"The amounts that we are short if they could raise that amount to a 10 percent level. That is from a 3.5 percent level to a 10 percent, we wouldn't have to cut anything," Burtner said. 

In addition, the agency is proposing to cut service hours during off-peak hours in Copperas Cove and Harker Heights.

Elizabeth Fizet, a Brookview Village Apartments resident, who takes two bus routes in Copperas Cove to go to the doctor has concerns about the potential cuts to the morning service. 

"My doctor's appointments are at certain hours. You can't rearrange your doctor's appointments to suit the bus company," Fizet said.

Fizet who has four to eight doctor appointments every month said it would be expensive to pay for other forms of transportation.

"It makes me angry because a lot of us, seniors, we can't afford a car. We can't afford a taxi," Fizet said.

The potential change in hours would also apply to the door to door service for those with disabilities. Margaret Thompson who also lives at the Brookview Village Apartments uses that system for doctor's appointments and dinner outings with other residents. 

"I won't like it. I will survive it. I would have to stay home like I used to," Thompson said.

Under the proposal, Saturday service will also be discontinued in Killeen and Temple. 

Burtner said raising prices on the fare is not a possibility because the federal government will only match funding if it comes from the agency or state and local governments.

The Hill County Transit District will find out about the contributions from each city in the upcoming month. If the changes go through, they will take effect on Oct. 1. 

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