The Capital Area Rural Transportation System is holding a public meeting tonight about the newly created San Marcos urban transit district and its plan to coordinate with CART’s nine-county network.
The meeting is 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25 at the San Marcos Activity Center, 501 E. Hopkins St.
San Marcos officials had long been counting on the results of the 2010 census to confirm that its population had reached 50,000, the threshold for receiving federal funding to subsidize urban transit programs like a bonafide bus system with fixed routes and schedules. Those plans were flustered when the U.S. Census Bureau reported the city’s official 2010 population as a mere 44,894, a number that local officials say is impossibly and inexplicably low. The bureau itself had estimated that San Marcos had more than 53,000 residents in 2009.
San Marcos enlisted the city of Martindale in Caldwell County and the incorporated Redwood community in Guadalupe County to push its official headcount above 50,000. After being designated as the San Marcos Urbanized Area, the city was free to break away from CARTS — a rural transit district — and begin formation of its own network.
After looking at that possibility for a while, city leaders have decided to stick with CARTS as its public transit provider, in part, because they learned that the municipal government, under federal law, needs the Texas Department of Transportation — and, by extension, CARTS — as a conduit for receiving the federal funding.
CARTS will continue as a contractor of sorts for the city’s transit program as it develops a more aggressive public transit program. CARTS’ duties include planning a comprehensive framework for public transit to serve for anticipated population gains. Then they will begin translating that framework into reality.
The first incarnation of San Marcos’ urban transit future looks very similar to what CARTS operated in San Marcos before the urban designation — a schedule of 11 fixed bus routes with hourly stops between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. San Marcos CAT does not run on weekends.
San Marcos City Council member Kim Porterfield will sit on the CARTS board of directors as part of the arrangement spelled out in an agreement approved by the city council on March 19.