Written by Sam Marsh
Megaphone Staff Writer
“Does Georgetown really need a bus system? I mean, I haven’t been all around, but it doesn’t seem all that big,” said Sophomore Kassie Juenke.
Nobody’s completely sure yet, but that is Ed Polasek and his cohorts are looking into. Meetings have been held in areas of particular interest to investigate interest and estimate possible ridership. Keith Hutchinson, the city’s Public Information Officer, told me that there was a good bit of interest shown. He directed me to Ed Polasek, “Ed’s really driving the bus on this one.”
The Georgetown City council held a meeting on Tuesday, January 22, and the first order of business was the proposed bus service to the different areas of Georgetown. There were representatives from many organizations, including the Texas Department of Transportation, (TEXDOT) and CARTS, the company that would provide the services. Mr. Polasek spoke first, speaking of growing economic activity in areas like the Wolf Creek Ranch, and said that the service was specifically targeted at “college students, senior citizens, and lower income families.” The service would also make access to hospitals and other necessary services easier.
Dave Marsh, who is the executive director of CARTS, and who has implemented similar systems in towns like San Marcos and Kileen, had a presentation showing possible routes and showing costs. He said the enthusiasm he found here was unusual. “Usually, if there are more people at the meeting than staff, we consider that a success, a few of the meetings had 50 people.”
The costs of the system will be about $733,000 a year, with most of the start up costs coming from CARTS and the city. Later, advertising and fares would probably be profitable for the city. Federal and State funding will be likely forthcoming in the future.
The system would consist of four busses, running four routes. All routes would “pulse” at the Downtown hub, meaning all busses would arrive there and allow people to go anywhere from there. The Sun City Route would go out Williams Ave, serving the Sun City area, and stopping in the Rivery shopping area before going downtown.
The East Route would go out S.H. 29, passing the University.
The Southeast Route would go through the southern part of Georgetown, servicing much of the residential area of the immediate Georgetown area. The Southwest Route would continue West of 35 on Leander Rd.
These last two would alternate going to Wolf Creek on the Shopper Shuttle Route. Possible expansions would also include connecting to bus lines that run to Austin.
The busses themselves would be medium sized busses, based on a large van platform, and running on propane. They would cost a $100,000 each, and last about five years. The busses would have bike racks, and there would be racks at the stops, allowing bikes to be locked at the shelters.
The system would help the University in many ways. In addition to easing traffic along University Ave, having access to a system like this will help many of the buildings get environmentally friendly certifications, qualifying them for grants.
Some students said they had no interest in riding. Freshman Robert Andrade said he had no problem driving to HEB. Sophomore Lindsey Knapton said, “I would ride it if it were convenient.” Though its hard to tell from the parking lots, some students don’t have anything to drive. “I don’t have a car here on campus, so I’d probably use a bus if they had it,” said Freshman Matt Wladyka.
Mr. Marsh advised not starting service until April of next year, to avoid rushing into an inferior program, so by the fall of 2009, we will be able to ride our pirate bikes to the bus stop, instead of all the way to HEB.