Rural Transportation Changing the Dynamics of Public Transportation in McLennan County and Surrounding Communities

By Jessica Maxwell

In July 2015, Waco Transit System assumed operations of the newly-formed McLennan County Rural Transit District (MCRTD). MCRTD offers appointment-based, door-to-door service that anyone can use to travel anywhere in McLennan and adjacent counties. The program, which replaced a former rural program operated by another agency, was created to improve the mobility of rural residents and enhance access to jobs, education, community services, healthcare and more. Public transportation was previously not an option for most people in these rural areas, due to limited service.

“By combining the urban and the rural systems to one provider, we’ve been able to maximize our efficiencies, which has allowed us to extend service hours and create Saturday service,” said Waco Transit System General Manager, Allen Hunter. “This program gives people who don’t have transportation a chance to lead independent lives – and we’re just glad to be a part of that.”

Take, for example, rural transit passenger, Jerry Kucera. Mr. Kucera is unable to drive and uses rural transportation every day during the week to get to his job in Waco at Goodwill. He lives at home with his parents in West, and his mother, Dorothy, said the service has been a “godsend” to their family.

“My husband cannot drive anymore, because he’s on oxygen 24/7, and I needed somebody to help me with the driving,” said Mrs. Kucera. “The drivers handle him [Jerry] with kid-glove care, they’re there on time, and they make sure he gets to work on time.”

Public outreach has been instrumental in generating awareness on MCRTD and educating on rural transportation’s affordability and ease of use. To help promote the program even more, MCRTD partnered with Texas country music artist, Holly Tucker, to create an eye-catching TV commercial and full-length PSA.

MCRTD has grown exponentially and continues to flourish. The service provided more than 54,000 trips in 2017 and experienced 114% growth from the previous calendar year. This year, MCRTD is projected to transport more than 63,000 passengers. Ridership has increased above expectation, and transit officials expect those numbers to rise even more as word continues to spread about the program.

Additionally, MCRTD was named the “2018 Outstanding Rural Transit System of the Year” by the Texas Transit Association. This award is given out each year to an agency in the state of Texas that displays exemplary service in the transportation industry.

“In a time when ridership has been declining in the state and in rural transportation, our ridership has actually gone up each year,” said Mr. Hunter. “We’ve worked very hard to grow this program, and we’re excited for what the future holds.”

Rural transit service is available from 5:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 6:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., on Saturday. Trips can be arranged by calling Waco Transit System at least 24 hours in advance at (254) 750-1620 or 877-875-RIDE (7433).  Fare for one-way, in-county trips is $3.00, and fare for one-way, adjacent-county trips is $5.00. Fees also apply for guests. Destinations include anywhere in McLennan or adjacent counties, as long as one leg of the scheduled trip originates from, or travels to, a rural address.

For more information about the McLennan County Rural Transportation District program, call (254) 750-1620. Additional information can also be found on the Waco Transit System website at http://www.waco-texas.com/transit/rural_transit.asp.


Jessica Maxwell is the Director of Marketing for Waco Transit System. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BA in Journalism and Communication Studies. Originally from Illinois, she moved to Texas with her husband in 2013, and they have been happily settled in Waco ever since. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and experiencing all the great outdoors has to offer. You can reach Jessica at jessicam@wacotx.gov.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

 

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