The population of San Marcos and the surrounding area is growing, and local officials must now find a way to meet its transportation needs.
San Marcos was designated an urbanized area in March based on the results of the 2010 U.S. Census. The designation affects funding for public transit and automatically qualifies San Marcos for federal transit money. However, an urban transit district must be established in order to qualify for state urban transit funds.
Before the census results, San Marcos met the definition of a rural transit district, with Capital Area Rural Transportation Systems (CARTS) being its rural public transportation provider. Because San Marcos is now considered an urbanized area, CARTS can no longer use funding earned after the designation. Its contract is expected to end October 12.
Local officials convened May 24 to discuss how the creation of an urban transit district could help the community address the growing need for public transportation services and regional connectivity.
During the meeting, concerns were raised about the consistency of bus routes and whether or not residents who depend on public transportation would still receive the same level of service once changes have been made.
In response, the Texas Department of Transportation approved a “bridge” service, or the continuation of fixed route and response bus services. CARTS may provide the services within the urbanized areas of Hays and Caldwell counties starting in 2013, as long as it uses funding from fiscal year 2012 and/or prior years.
Those in attendance included San Marcos City Councilmember Kim Porterfield, Joe Richmond, director of transportation services at Texas State, Hays County Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe and David Marsh, general manager of CARTS.
Porterfield said she is looking forward to making public transportation in San Marcos a more connective, fluid entity that meets the demands of the growing public.
“With the creation of an Urban Transit District, the city will be able to provide a forum and framework for new services to fill gaps created by the end of the rural transit services (CARTS) within the urbanized area,” Porterfield said. “It will also play a major role in developing a high capacity transit and commuter rail to serve the region.”
Laurie Moyer, managing director of community services for the City of San Marcos, said there are three possible ways San Marcos can handle the formation of an urban transit district.
The city could choose to create an urban transit district with a governing body consisting of the San Marcos City Council and representatives from two or more of the jurisdictions located in the urbanized area (Martindale, Hays, Caldwell and Guadalupe counties). The City Council would outline control of funding and cooperate with CARTS and Texas State.
The second option would be for the city and surrounding governing entities to let the Texas Department of Transportation handle funding with CARTS, who would be responsible for public transportation adjustments.
Lastly, the city could create a separate transportation district with its own board, which would have a large amount of control but limited funding and staff.
Marsh said he is working closely with the Texas Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration and Austin Capital Metro to find solutions that will prevent disruption of service to customers.
Moyer said the City of San Marcos does not want to alarm the public and make any drastic changes to public transportation with short notice. The public can expect to see changes in the fall of 2013.