By Lora-Marie Bernard
County leaders have announced a new date to begin a pilot bus shuttle program that links the mainland to downtown Houston and Galveston. Earlier this week, METRO announced it will begin the weekday shuttle on August 28. It had been scheduled to start with a kick-off party on July 10. The Island Express will carry passengers from Galveston to Houston for $9 in cash per person one way. METRO estimates call for 20 persons to use the service each day.
The last time METRO worked with the City of Galveston to connect the island to downtown Houston was in 2013. When the route begins, the shuttle will make three rounds each weekday. The interlocal agreement between the parties calls for a mainland stop in Texas City at 5320 Texas Ave. and Bayou Road. A north county stop will be at the Bay Area Park & Ride. Both will accommodate transfer passengers. The island stop will be at 25th Street and The Strand.
In Houston, passengers arrive adjacent to the Downtown Transit Center at St. Joseph Parkway at Travis Street. METRO fixed route local buses, METRO rail, and other intercity bus carriers are nearby. The Texas Department of Transportation funds the program with additional support from Galveston County and the City of Texas City, said Rick Beverlin, the Galveston assistant city manager. “Having the ability to provide a connection to Houston is beneficial for all that are involved, and something we are excited to be able to offer through Island Transit’s partnership with METRO,” Beverlin said. “We look forward to seeing people use this service for access to all that Galveston has to offer in medicine, history, tourism, entertainment, and more.”
According to a press announcement released Monday, southbound riders will begin their trip to Galveston near METRO’s Downtown Transit Center at Milam and Jefferson. Passengers should board Park and Ride Route 249 during the morning and midday. They should board Route 246 in the evening. In Texas City and at the Bay Area Park and Ride facility, passengers transfer to Island Transit buses bearing the Island Express logo. In Galveston, passengers arrive at the Downtown Transit Terminal at 25th Street and The Strand. Transfers to Island Transit’s local bus routes are conveniently located within the terminal. Last month, transportation consultant John Carrara of The Goodman Corporation told county transportation leaders that he does not expect daily commuters to use the service.
“It’s like any inner-city bus type of activity,” he said. “No reservations are required, however, it’s important that everyone help in getting the word out about this service because there will be infrequent riders.” ?