City transit system partners with consultants for new five-year plan

News Reporter

The San Marcos Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) is expected to revamp its structure in the near future to better accommodate bus riders and residents.

CARTS staff members held multiple meetings open to the public this week to discuss potential changes for the public transit system. The San Marcos transit department is working with Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates to create a new five-year plan and a solid course of action that may be more sustainable for future growth.

The existing service route has not been changed or updated since 1996, said James Gamez, senior associate of Nelson\Nygaard. The city has grown “dramatically” over that time period, so creating a new plan is an opportunity to redesign the system to fit the community’s needs today, Gamez said.  

The consulting associates are in the “existing conditions phase” of the study, which means a plan has not yet been created, said Hazel Scher, associate planner of Nelson\Nygaard.

“We’re still trying to go through the phases of collecting data and doing community outreach,” Scher said.

Scher said officials from Nelson\Nygaard measured CARTS ridership based on each stop along the bus routes. Consultants gathered the data and stored the numbers in a database to create materials, such as graphs showing the areas of high ridership and areas where the system is underutilized, Scher said.

“The system has 11 routes, and they kind of serve a lot of different parts of the city,” Scher said. “With the city growing and looking at developing certain areas within the city or possibly new destinations, we want to take a look at where transit needs to go.”

Scott Chapman, senior associate of Nelson\Nygaard, said consultants will also conduct an environmental scan and gather public input as well as recommendations from individual stakeholders.
“It’s a public amenity, a public service, and it should serve the public,” Chapman said. “And the university is a big part of the public.”

Part of the data-gathering phase was an online survey, Scher said. The survey received many responses from Texas State students because they were able to send it out to university emails, she said.
Scher said students often ask which specific buses they should ride to get around campus and the city, and he hopes to address any concerns by educating the community about the routes offered.

“There needs to be an outreach effort,” Scher said. “We’re trying to get the people that have lived here a long time to understand that this service is offered to them.”

CARTS officials and Nelson\Nygaard consultants are considering improvements to routes and buses as well as potentially adding Saturday services if funds are available, Scher said.
Scher said officials are hoping to restructure the bus route service so that it does not stop at the transit center, since some riders may not need to stop there.

“We look at some different service alternatives, and we’re going to bring those back to the community in a couple of months,” Gamez said. “From there, (we will) make final recommendations on how the growth is over the next five years.”