Return of fixed-route services? TAPS polls public about future transit options

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
TAPS Public Transit is exploring the demand and need for a return of fixed route transportation services six years after they ended.

After six years of absence, fixed-route transportation services may soon return to TAPS Public Transit. The transportation agency, in coordination with the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization, is currently survey the public to determine if the region needs the service again.

The possible return of fixed-route services comes nearly six years after TAPS discontinued the service in 2015 amid widespread financial difficulties within the organization. However, officials with the agency said that the service would be better sized to fit the region and demand.

"We may not have one coming every 30 minutes, but that is what this study is for — to tell us what our need is," TAPS General Manager Shellie White said.

The new survey, which is running through Oct. 8, is a part of a greater survey being done by the SDMPO in order to determine transportation needs for the region. The agency is required to conduct this public transit survey every five years, since the region receives funds through the Federal Transit Administration. 

This year's iteration of the study will include specific questions regarding fixed-route needs.

A TAPS Public Transit bus crosses the Lamberth Street overpass over U.S Highway 75 in 2016. The Transit agency recently relocated from its long-time home on Texoma Parkway to smaller officers on Skyline Drive in a cost savings initiative. [Herald Democrat]

SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett said the questions related to fixed-route services come following a small-scale study last year regarding market demand. 

The study's findings were inconclusive and necessitated further study, which led to the ongoing survey.

"We are trying to determine folks' needs; For example, where they travel from, where they travel to, times travel," Barnett said.

Barnett said he is uncertain what the service could look like, as fixed route services and needs can vary from large metropolises to communities smaller than Sherman-Denison.

"It really goes back to the need," he said. "In some communities, everybody is of the ability to go out and buy a car, buy insurance and buy gas. In some communities even smaller than us, that really isn't an option for their workforce. In those situations, fixed route is their only real avenue."

Meanwhile, the survey comes as a part of TAPS' own studies on the topic. White said the transit provider is working to survey and get input from as many riders as possible.

"We do have that out on our website, on our Facebook page, and we have it on our buses trying to get feedback from our customers and members of the community," she said.

The need for fixed-route services has grown over the past two years, with employment and shopping as the two largest reasons for travel. White has spoken to several large employers in the region who have all requested the service.

TAPS buses sit at the depot in 2019.

By using fixed-route services at certain times of day, White said TAPS could free up resources in other portions of the agency for additional trips and service. She noted that currently need and demand surpasses TAPS capacity.

"In our paratransit system, we try to get them first. So, some of those who are trying to get to their job may not be able to get a ride."

White said the scope of the service could be honed down to where it is only running at certain high-demand times in the day.

With regard to the previous iteration of fixed-route service, White said the revival would be smaller in scale. In 2015, TAPS was running fixed route trips not only in Sherman-Denison but also in Collin County and all the way to Durant.

"TAPS was going into Oklahoma, McKinney. ..Just from my understanding of it, they tried to grow too quickly."

For more information or to provide feedback for the study, please visit the survey at www.sdmpo.org.