Transportation needs exist in rural communities, but now there’s a new coalition in Wise County that is looking for local input to help identify and meet those needs.
That was the theme of the first meeting of the Wise County Transportation Coalition Tuesday at Decatur City Hall.
Jeff Davis, transportation solutions coordinator with TAPS (Texoma Area Paratransit System) Public Transit, chaired the meeting, which attracted 10 participants from the community. He explained the services TAPS provides Wise County residents, including clearing up the confusion about who could ride.
“I get this all the time: ‘I thought that was just for old or disabled people.'” he said. “And really, anybody can ride TAPS.”
He asked those in attendance to take note of the transportation needs of the community and share them at future meetings. Among the issues the coalition plans to look at is access for veterans, Weatherford College, workforce and medical.
Six TAPS buses currently serve Wise County, and TAPS Access will begin serving the area in September, providing non-emergency medical transportation for Medicaid recipients.
The TAPS service area includes Wise, Clay, Montague, Cooke, Grayson, Fannin and Collin counties. One common issue for Wise County residents is the need to travel to Denton or Tarrant counties – counties that have their own transportation systems.
Davis said it is possible, or will be soon, he hopes, to bring Wise County residents into those areas.
“One of the things that is really exciting about TAPS is our leadership has had conversations and introductions with DCTA (Denton County Transportation Authority) in Denton and The T (in Fort Worth),” he said. “Both entities are favorable about making some of these connections, but again, you have to be careful in how those jurisdictional areas are crossed over. We don’t want to jeopardize our funding, because it is so critical to the mission.”
Because TAPS is a not-for-profit entity, it relies on state funding and grants. That money comes with certain rules about coverage area and hours of service.
One of the major issues in making transportation to Denton or Tarrant counties a reality is locating a “park and ride” location in Decatur. Davis said he is looking for a local business or church that would be willing to give up a few parking spots to create such a location. The ideal location would be on U.S. 81/287, he said, but other locations around town could also work.
The bus would leave from the Decatur park and ride location and take riders to either the Intermodal Transfer Station in downtown Fort Worth, where riders could catch a ride on a different bus, or a new park and ride location near Alliance.
Davis said he was willing to make presentations to local businesses or groups about the services offered by TAPS.
The coalition, which is open to anyone with an interest in transportation issues, will meet again at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 14 at Decatur City Hall. Davis said he envisions the group meeting every other month or quarterly.