After almost 30 years of the same bus routes, Beaumont might be adding a few much-needed stops in portions of the city near you.
At the City Council’s meeting Tuesday, Oct. 2, officials held a work session to add two new stops to serve previously underserved areas of the city: the Social Security office and the H-E-B on Dowlen Road.
“Right now the bus systems don’t even offer service to vast sections of Beaumont,” said Councilman Mike Getz. “The routes don’t make a lot of sense.”
City officials said part of the problem is the relocation of the Social Security office to 8455 Dishman Road off North Major Drive from its previous location on the Eastex Freeway. Many on City Council have complained the federal government did not consult with the city to put the new office on an existing bus route, choosing instead to build the office in the western-most area of the city not served by city buses.
“They were supposed to contact us and find a location that was currently on a route,” said Councilman Jamie Smith. “But they did not do that so it kind of put us in a bind.”
Smith said it was important to many on council for buses to serve the office, but the federal government didn’t seem to mind.
“They didn’t just drop the ball,” Smith said. “They really just didn’t care.”
To fix the problem, City Manager Kyle Hayes said the city will be linking two key routes around Beaumont.
“Now the Pine route would be merged with the Magnolia route and the Laurel route would be modified to go out to the H-E-B (on Dowlen) and the Social Security office,” he said. “We would rename that route the Delaware route.”
Hayes said changes might have come sooner after a study of Beaumont’s bus routes by the Regional Planning Commission in 2009. The study found areas of cost savings by analyzing ridership within each route. There was no consensus on council for enacting what the commission recommended, however: eliminating night service.
“There were not four votes to make any changes to the system,” Hayes said. “The decision was made just to leave it as is. So we did.”
Although the route change will not cost the city any additional money, city officials say the federal share of Beaumont’s transit system is going down while the city’s is going up.
“We had to spend $900,000 because of a short-fall,” Getz said of this year’s transit cost to the city. “We were out of money for what we budgeted. The federal contribution has gone down several hundred thousand and is projected to continue to go down.”
Getz said he will continue to fight for additional changes in the city transit system, but if an untouched, expensive survey is any indication, Hayes said the votes may not be there to make such large-scale changes.
“That’s what the council wanted to do,” Getz said. “One of the things that makes a lot more sense is going to a grid system. ... You can go up and down the major arteries. You can essentially get to any location in Beaumont.”
Hayes said the city will hold a series of public hearings in the next few weeks before a final City Council vote on the amended routes.
CORRECTION: In the print version of this story, (The Examiner; Oct. 4, 2012; page 9A), a quote was incorrectly attributed. It was Councilman Mike Getz who said, “That’s what the council wanted to do. One of the things that makes a lot more sense is going to a grid system. ... You can go up and down the major arteries. You can essentially get to any location in Beaumont.” We regret the error.