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Longview Transit bus system plans route to Gladewater

By Richard Yeakley
Jan. 29, 2013 at 10 p.m.

As Longview's transit system enters its 10th year, data released Tuesday showed city buses carried nearly a quarter-million passengers in 2012.

And with ridership up 20 percent from the year before, Longview Transit officials are casting an eye westward, planning to launch a new route March 1 between Longview and Gladewater.

The proposed Route 7 would loop on Marshall Avenue and Cotton Street in Longview before leaving the city on U.S. 80 heading west. The city bus would then loop through Gladewater hitting three stops before heading back to Longview via U.S. 80.

"We have a proposed start date of March 1. Longview Transit is already looking at the route, and we believe it will tie in with what we have in place right now," said Longview Transit Director of Operations Tequita Mumphrey, addressing members of the Public Transportation Advisory Committee on Tuesday.

The committee met to hear updates on Longview Transit programs including the construction of 10 new bus stop shelters, Safe Ride Home, the organization's 10-year anniversary plans, and ridership totals for 2012, as well as the latest on Route 7.

But the idea which dominated the meeting was Route 7.

Gladewater Councilman Delbert Burlison had the idea for Route 7 more than a year ago as a way to as a means to provide an opportunity for people with limited transportation in Gladewater's housing authority to be able to take advantage of jobs in Longview.

"Probably about 70 to 80 percent of our riders will be from around the housing authority area. ... I think the first goal and initiative, was providing transportation from point A, Gladewater, to point B, Longview," said Gladewater City Manager Sean Pate. "There are some limited jobs that are in Gladewater, and a mode of transportation will give those that are seeking employment a better opportunity."

Because the route would help with job access, the East Texas Council of Governments provided assistance to both cities through a Job Access and Reverse Commute Program matching grant.

A spokeswoman with ETCOG said the final cost of the route had not been finalized, but that council estimated the cost around $80,000.

If so, the JARC grant would pay for $40,000 and the other cost would be shouldered by the cities of Longview and Gladewater.

"ETCOG is prepared to put forward the JARC funds to support this route," said ETCOG Director of Transportation John Hedrick. "It goes to our executive committee next week."

The Gladewater City Council agreed to support their portion of the route in the council's Jan. 17 meeting, while city of Longview officials will address the proposed route at a council meeting in February.

The route, which will take riders down U.S. 80 will pass White Oak and Clarksville City; however, not all the cities have agreed to participate in the route. Those will not have a bus stop in their cities, Mumphrey said.

The Longview Transit bus would still stop in those towns, if flagged down, Mumphrey said, but would not necessarily stop each trip.

Local Amtrak official Griff Hubbard and member of the PTAC said he believed the cities would join and support the "area" bus route once they saw the beneficial use it served.

"I would be very surprised if a year from today not every one of these cities were full players," Hubbard said.

If accepted, Route 7 will begin operating March 1 and will run until August, giving Longview Transit officials time to gather data on the use and response to the bus route.

One bus would travel the hour-and-a-half-long round trip route five times each week day, leaving Longview at 5:20 a.m. and returning from its last route at 7:15 p.m.

"The bus is one from our overflow that is not currently in use," Mumphrey said.

Public Transportation Advisory Committee were also told about the status of Longview Transit's bus system.

In 2012, more than 220,000 passengers road Longview Transit buses, up nearly 20 percent for 2011's total.

The organization also revitalized existing bus stop shelters, and built 10 new bus stop shelters with plans to construct six more.

The newest system of shelters were constructed by Longview Transit using 2010 and 2011 Community Development Block Grant Program federal grants.

Counting previous shelters, which were repainted, there are 29 shelters across the city.

Longview Transit also began an "adopt a shelter" program where organizations or individuals could pitch in and help keep shelters clean and safe.

"These people would help keep our shelters looking good – keep them maintained. If there was a lot of suspicious activity going around, the people let us know so we can get out there and maintain them," said Damiya Pentecost, Longview Transit mobility manager.

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