Kyle to take another look at public transit

Ideas of public transportation in Kyle are rising once again as a Kyle city leader aims to assist disabled residents and senior citizens, this despite several failed attempts in the past.

On Aug. 28, City Council member Alex Villalobos announced his interest in solving the problem of public transportation in Kyle. Villalobos argued that it is the city’s responsibility to offer transportation around Kyle and out of Kyle that residents do not have to get permission for.

However, the city has tried multiple attempts to fulfill the public transportation needs of Kyle residents, but the cost always wins out in the end.

“They should be able to get to appointments and go shopping,” Villalobos said during the meeting. “Our residents should also be able to get around to be social. We should be able to offer it for them.”

One attempt to offer public transit utilized the Capital Area Rural Transport System (CARTS), which the city stopped providing funding to in 2010.

Residents using CARTS would call and schedule a date and time to be picked up and taken to their destination. However, CARTS allows for multiple citizens to make appointments throughout the day. For some residents, a trip to a doctor’s appointment or a grocery store could be an all-day affair.

The federal government helped Kyle pay for the CARTS service for two years, but by the third year, Kyle was paying for the majority of the service and sought help from Hays County.

“We had very few people within the Kyle city limits that were actually utilizing (CARTS),” said Jerry Hendrix, Kyle chief of staff. “But in 2010, we exceeded the population threshold that allowed for the county to help fund CARTS. Our cost was going to be $75,000 for that next year and it just didn’t make sense to keep it.”

After dropping CARTS, the city partnered with a taxi company for 6 months. The city paid for the majority of the service, leaving residents in charge of a reduced fee for each ride. Hendrix said the cost of the service still outweighed the number of people using it.

Hendrix recommends residents use ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to get around efficiently.

Villalobos and Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell are still interested in pursuing a system cheaper than ride sharing programs to specifically benefit the disabled and senior citizen populations of Kyle.

“This is Villalobos taking his shot at solving the problem,” Mitchell said. “I commend him for that because the need is definitely there, but no one has been able to fulfill it in a way that works.”

Retirement communities in Kyle own and operate their own transportation systems. They have buses with drivers who take residents to appointments, grocery stores and family gatherings.

Jenny Hayes, executive director of the Orchard Park retirement community in Kyle, said the facility’s 80 residents utilize their private transports on a regular basis with few issues. However, only a handful of those residents own and operate their own vehicles, so when the bus is full or not operating, she often seeks out assistance in getting residents around.

“We only have to ask for outside help every couple of months, but the need for transportation is there,” Hayes said.

Mitchell said he hopes the plan Villalobos intends to develop also helps members of the community who need and want to get around but cannot afford to. There is no official public transport plan in place to be decided on, currently.

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