Many Rural Areas Without Public Transportation - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

08/16/06 - Shelby County

Many Rural Areas Without Public Transportation

by Donna McCollum

Transportation studies are underway in 24 regions across the state. The Texas Legislature ordered the Texas Department of Transportation to look into duplicated services and undeserved areas.   Both problems exist throughout this area.

In Shelby County unless you have an automobile the best you can do is walk or hitch a ride. Service providers are convinced many residents would be willing to pay what it takes to ride a bus.   Family nurse practitioner Jean Diebolt said, "Perhaps it would be for the general passenger $2 to $5 to get from point A to point B, as opposed in my case my patients frequently pay $30 to have a neighbor drive them."

Something also seen by Tyson Foods, the county's largest employer. As many as 400 employees from Louisiana commute to Center. Those who own vans frequently charge hefty for a ride to work. Center Mayor John Windham knows, "It's costing a lot of money. They're trying to carpool and for a blue collar worker it's really tough because they're taking like 10% of their salary to pay to come to come to work."

But Tri County Head Start is worried about single moms or low income parents right in Center. The agency owns a fleet of buses. Education and home base coordinator Cynthia Howard Bolton said, "We're transporting on a daily basis from home to a medical facility in Lufkin, in Galveston, in Houston and most of our money is allocated to the transportation."

About six years ago Brazos Transit served Shelby County but the system failed. Some say it was a lack of local funding. Others say it's because fixed routes weren't offered. Consultants say returning to Brazos may be a good idea, but not the only option. Consultant Alan Rodenstein suggested, "The point is there are a lot of different ways to do it. If you are going to do it I think it's very important to be able to develop a consensus."

Something the community is willing to do in an effort to get where they want to go. Options include developing an independent transit service or sharing the service with neighboring counties.  

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