The Capital Area Rural Transportation System will not renew its contract for demand-response services in Round Rock once the current agreement expires in September, said Tom Word, chief of public works operations for the city.
"They have indicated to us that they will not be renewing our contract for our demand-response service for this coming year," Word said.
Since Round Rock lost its rural designation—defined as cities with fewer than 50,000 citizens—after the 2000 census, the city has been contracting with CARTS to provide transportation services on a reservation system.
CARTS is restricted in its uses and funding. The bus service receives funding for service in rural areas, but not to operate in areas as populous as Round rock.
At the time of the initial contract, city and CARTS officials viewed the agreement as a stop-gap measure until the city was able to establish its own transportation system.
"We thought we were doing a bridge service 'til the city decided how they wanted to address transportation in more comprehensive service," said Dave Marsh, CARTS general manager.
According to reports the city issues on CARTS ridership in Round Rock, elderly and disabled riders make up 70 percent to 75 percent of customers monthly. CARTS' Round Rock service provides approximately 1,200–1,400 rides per month.
"That's been our safety net that we've provided to our citizens," Word said.
CARTS officials have previously expressed discomfort with the service they provided in Round Rock, both because of the strained demands on the service with what they said were inadequate resources, and because of the lack of differentiation between their Round Rock service and typical, rural CARTS services.
"We're trying to carry as many people as we possibly can ... the demand far exceeds the resources," said Lyle Nelson, chief operations officer for CARTS, in March in response to criticisms on CARTS' services in the city.
CARTS has recently come under fire in Round Rock from riders who expressed displeasure with long wait times and unreliable service.
Word and the council examined several possible short-term solutions, including discontinuing the service, contracting with a third party, a taxi voucher service and contracting with Capital Metro. Word said city staff recommended contracting with a third party, likely bundling it with
Word estimated contracting with a third party would cost about $510,000 a year, and contracting with Capital Metro would cost more than that. The city currently pays $300,000 a year for CARTS' services.
None of the options seemed to please the council.
"When are you going to get to the good news? That's what I want to know," Mayor Alan McGraw said.
October 30 will be the final day of CARTS service in Round Rock.