Those who live and work in Missouri City may soon need to adjust to an upcoming change in public transportation.
During a public hearing Jan. 28, residents went before METRO’s board of directors to provide feedback before METRO implements a service change in the city that will take effect later this month. METRO spokesperson Laura Whitley said the regional transit authority is proposing the discontinuation of Route 364 in Missouri City and expansion of the current zone for Route 363 – the Missouri City Community Connector – to cover the area previously served by Route 364, which extends down Highway 6.
The 364 route service currently has seven stops along Highway 6 from Cartwright Road all the way to the Fort Bend Toll Road at fixed intervals. Riders can then ask for a drop-off within half a mile on either side of the route, according to METRO.
METRO officials said during the meeting that the change is meant to consolidate resources as METRO attempts to better serve riders in Missouri City.
“We’re going to serve the same areas we’re serving right now,” METRO Manager of Service Planning Kenneth
Brown said at the meeting. “But instead of having two different service types, we’ll simply reduce it to one. We will maintain coverage within the area.”
Missouri City and the METRO board initially approved the community connector concept in April 2018 under former Mayor Allen Owen.
METRO implemented Route 363 in Phase 1 of the service in August of that same year, to serve a specific community connector in the city. In October, METRO put in Phase 2 of the plan with Route 364, a deviated route which served the entirety of Missouri City.
Roughly a year later, the METRO board decided to consolidate and deploy all resources into the 363 route. According to Brown, the latest change in service came on the heels of evaluating the comparatively poor ridership on the 364 route.
METRO officials noted that the 364 route has yet to exceed 40 passenger boardings in a day since inception in 2018. Meanwhile, the 363 Community Connector has reached more than 160 boardings in a day, more than 140 on multiple occasions and seen about 150 daily in recent months, according to a presentation during the public hearing.
“This experience with the 364 route has not been well-received. Some levels just don’t have the area of demand,” METRO Vice President of Service Planning Kurt Luhrsen said. “If we need to make some adjustments down the road, we’re certainly open to input.”
Residents within the on-demand 363 Route service zone can essentially reserve a spot in advance by calling for a vehicle, which METRO will dispatch. They can also go to some of the route’s existing stops such as the Walmart on Highway 6 and the Missouri City Park and Ride and ride to any spot within the existing service zone.
Officials have yet to release an official map detailing what areas the modified route will service, and residents and city officials raised concerns regarding the route such as potential breadth of coverage and future expansion of service to accommodate the city’s burgeoning growth in areas such as Sienna Plantation.
“A little more detail, I think, would be of much service,” Missouri City Councilman Floyd Emery told the board. “…I think we need to take a closer look at where our true growth is as well.”
However, METRO attempted to reassure residents that their concerns will be taken into account.
“We’re just going to be taking over what we do with the deviated fix route, because it’s confusing (to residents) and we’re not seeing the demand,” Brown said. “We’re not reducing the coverage. The resources that we’ve put into the 364, we need to reinvest those to maintain the level of service we’re providing – and we’re ready and willing to do that.”
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