Slates Public Meeting March 27
Longview Transit Director of Operations Tequita Mumphrey is preparing for an upcoming open-to-the-public forum to seek out community input on the subject of a new transfer center at Longview’s Multimodal Transportation Facility. The meeting will be held at the Longview Public Library from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on March 27. She points out that public transportation improves economic develepment and, hence, the quality of life for local residents, enabling them to pursue such American ideals as steady work, private transportation, a home and well-supported children.
Locally, public transportation has been a public service since 2003. Mumphrey outlined the concept of public transportation.
“The stigma that public transportation is [just] for the poor is unfounded,” she said. “Anyone can ride the bus. You do not have to drive your car every day.”
College students and well-heeled professionals frequently use public transportation. In fact, college students get a semester pass. The success of Longview’s public transportation system is due to multiple factors. The system employs veteran drivers, many of whom have been on the job since its inception. Technical innovations like fare boxes and cameras have also greatly benefited Longview Transit.
“We are the company to watch,” she said. “The people in the industry watch us and Tyler.”
Mumphrey also reports that use of local public transportation is on the rise, and for good reason.
“We have an amazing safety record because of our experienced and caring drivers,” she said. “The new demand is to get riders up to [the] Target store area.”
She also has no doubt that Longview Transit’s service to the city will keep growing.
“As people age and drive less we want them to know we are here for them,” she said. “Grandma can go to the doctor on the bus, and does not have to worry about not having a ride or not being able to drive.”
Along with constant technological upgrades the system also maintains guidelines that make using public transportation enjoyable. Conduct rules include:
* Limited conversation while buses are en route
* No profanity
* No eating
* No headphones for music
The mother of Longview’s Public Transit System was the late Councilwoman Sidney Willis, who spoke with others who perceived public transportation as an excellent venue to achieving a better quality of local life. This notion survived challenges from those who did not agree with Willis’ vision.
“This is one of the reasons we have gone aboveboard to be successful,” said Mumphrey. “The ridership need is there. This is an opportunity to get people from welfare to work. It creates independence.”
She described how being able to get to jobs because of public transportation has enabled many locals to buy their own cars and homes. According to Mumphrey, every dollar invested in public transportation generates about four dollars in local economic return.
Longview Transit employs what it calls Fixed Route Service in which buses travel established routes on a rigidly adhered-to schedule. The vehicles can stop anywhere along these routes (when it is safe) to pick up or drop off riders. Would-be passengers are encouraged to be on the correct sides of streets and at a safe distance from intersections when they flag down a bus. Standard bus fare is $1.25, and MSD is $.60.
There is a “Paratransit Service” in which enabling routes and schedules are structured to transport multiple passengers who have no access to the fixed routes. The Travel Training/Trip Planning option is offered to young adults, the elderly, the disabled and the general public who need to reach a wide variety of area destinations.
The last phase of the master plan to upgrade Longview’s Multi-modal Transportation Facility is the building of a Transfer Center for Longview Transit customers, Greyhound, Amtrak’s thruway bus service, and rural provider GoBus.
General Manager Scott Lewis who deals with the funds gave detailed history of the financial operations. Longview Transit applied for $1.4 million in intercity bus funding in February 2016. This financial support would be from the Texas Department of Transportation’s Coordinated Call for Projects. This economic support is intended to purchase property, construct the facility and cover any additional costs such as (but not limited to) demolition, engineering, environmental considerations, and design. On June 30 2016, the Texas Transportation Commission granted the city this sum, which will require a local cash match of $313,400. The city of Longview will be funding 7% of the project up to $100,000 while Gregg County will fund 5% up to $70,000. The Texas Department of Transportation will oversee all additional costs via transportation development credits generated by toll road usage.
This expansion of local public transportation commenced in 2010 when the city of Longview devised a master plan for a multimodal transportation facility centered around the soon-to-be-renovated Amtrak Train Depot. The overall purpose for this depot was to bring together the transportation providers Amtrak, Longview Transit, Greyhound and GoBus.
Since 2007 Longview Transit’s administration and maintenance offices have been located across from the train depot. In April 2013, federal funding enabled the city to purchase the property at the entryway of the multimodal facility. The Texas Department of Transportation FY2012 Coordinated Call for Projects provided the city of Longview $300,000 to finance Phase One of the master plan. This included bringing Greyhound Bus into the multimodal facility and to construct a driveway onto this site on Mobberly Avenue on purchased property (902 East Pacific Avenue) to open up access for arriving and departing buses, various vehicles and pedestrians. This final aspect of Phase One saw completion in May 2016.
An additional $2.8 million from state and federal sources paid for the Amtrak Depot being restored to its vintage 1939 appearance as certified by the Texas Historical Commission. Ribbon cutting for this renovated station was in May 2014. Longview is now preparing for Phase Two, which will complete the project. This will see the construction of a transfer center to provide safer passage for passengers between buses and service providers.