City Council Approves Grant to prevent transit fee increases

Tyler City Council approves grant for Tyler Transit with no rate increases, Saturday service to continue

Over the recent years, Tyler Transit has been faced with several operational costs and has combatted this issue during the Fiscal Year 2024 budget process.


The community was able to voice their opinions against the rate increase through three public hearings earlier this year and was successfully recognized by the city of Tyler.


Para-transit riders at the East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind are breathing in a sigh of relief after being informed about the grant. Community relations administrator for the non-profit Craig Ellis is a para-transit user himself and was vocal with the city about his concerns for his community and other people with disabilities. 


“This situation is proof that when you want to stand up for something (you) stand up for it,” Ellis said. “Because you never know when you’re going to be able to make a difference. The city offered three different town hall meetings. That’s unheard of, you don’t have three town halls over one issue so we’re thankful to them for coming up with the solutions.”


The transit manager for the city Russ Jackson has been personally listening and reporting these concerns from residents to the council.


“A 25% increase was what we were originally going to be proposing and we tabled that,” Jackson said. “Because of the of the final version with ETCOG. We’re thankful for ETCOG and for all the residents who voiced their concerns and suggestions. We heard our customers and found the best solutions for everyone.”


Jackson said after the first public hearing the organization started conversations with the city to help find a better solution, and then ultimately, they provided the $150,000 grant.


In a statement from ETCOG’s executive director David Cleveland, he said they said, “The collaborative spirit among transit agencies in our region strengthens East Texas’ overall resilience and ensures that we can collectively overcome common challenges. This funding support for the City of Tyler’s Transit Services is an effort to contribute to the well-being and sustainability of our entire regional transit system. It underscores our steadfast commitment to responding to the diverse needs of our residents who depend on accessible transit services. This strategic initiative with the City of Tyler is consistent with ETCOG’s vision and mission of providing leadership, education, and financial resources to help our members’ jurisdictions throughout our 14-county region reach their goals. By doing so, we intend to elevate the overall quality of life for every citizen.”


“I appreciate everyone taking the time, listening to the people that gave them their input, and coming up with a better solution than any of us could have ever hoped for,” Ellis said.


To combat the higher operating costs, Tyler Transit will shift their underutilized routes to a micro-transit model allowing for riders to schedule a pickup from a bus stop and ensure buses start traveling to destinations with the most riders. 


“One of our first evaluations after we get everything online, get the software connected, is to look at our south Tyler route that comes down from Donnybrook and goes down to Cumberland,” Jackson said. “That’s the most underutilized route.”


Ellis said this is a major win for his community and that it makes him proud to be a citizen of Tyler, a city he said looks after their residents. 


“Tyler’s a great city and we just can’t afford to go backward in any facet because the town is moving forward,” Ellis said.


Jackson mentioned that he hopes the new microtransit software will help riders communicate with their system through a phone app. The city hopes this will create a new way for them to schedule rides and that they are hopeful of launching this program within the next six to eight weeks.


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