Officials with the Grand Central Station — Dining Car Soup Kitchen are currently exploring the feasibility of starting a new regular TAPS Public Transit bus route to bring people to and from the soup kitchen. The soup kitchen announced it is exploring these options last week via its Facebook page.
“We are in the process of obtaining information to see about the viability of establishing a regular TAPS route to assist people with getting to and from the Dining Car,” the soup kitchen said in a Facebook post. “In order to do this, we need anyone who has transportation issues, meaning anyone who doesn’t have a car and currently walks, rides a bike, or catches a ride, to fill out a short survey.”
Karen Bray, executive director of Grand Central Station, cautioned that these are simply preliminary studies aimed at seeing if a route would be possible or feasible and that no definitive plans have been made.
“Basically, right now we are just exploring the transportation needs of our clients and indigenous population through a survey,” she said.
The idea of proposing the fixed bus route came through discussions with the soup kitchen’s board of directors regarding how to meet the needs of the community. Through these conversations, Bray said, transportation was highlighted as a major need.
On an average weekday, the soup kitchen provides meals for about 100 to 150 individuals. On Saturdays, the soup kitchen will provide bagged lunches for between 150 and 175 people.
Bray said a few of the soup kitchen’s customers already use TAPS to go to and from the kitchen, while others will often catch a ride, walk or use a bicycle. Bray added that it is difficult to tell how many customers have their own transportation.
Bray said the surveys just started, but initial responses to the idea have been positive. She added that the survey efforts will be ongoing for the next month.
Bray said it was too soon to say what the route would look like, or any details related to the final route. However, she said, both the kitchen and TAPS officials are looking at possible grants to fund the project.
Similarly, TAPS officials said the discussions on the route are very preliminary and no firm details were ready to be announced.
“I was recently invited to meet with Grand Central Station to meet with reps there regarding a potential unmet transportation need,” Transdev General Manager Josh Walker, who oversees TAPS operations, said last week in an email. “At this point, we are looking at studying this need via a survey. This will aid both entities to identify the extent of the need and allow identification of best possible options to proceed.”
With regard to funding, Walker said any state funds that TAPS receives for this or other transit services it provides must be backed by a match of local funds.
“I feel like as time progresses, we will have more information that may lead us to determine future steps and any open avenues to support this,” Walker said.
If a bus route to the kitchen was established, Bray said it could increase the reach and clientele for the kitchen. Bray said she did not expect this to negatively impact its services, as the lunches are served in shifts.
“We have been looking at expanding our facility here anyway,” she said.