The classroom at Navarro College in Waxahachie filled as residents from across Ellis County and college students took seats to hear a presentation on the possibility of bringing public transportation to the area. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is sponsoring a transit needs assessment and planning study that evaluates transit demands and service options in the county.

“We are focusing on Ellis County this evening looking at both local and regional public transportation needs. Where and when do people need to travel? What are the gaps in the transportation network? Where and how a transit service would be most effective,” Nelson Nygaard representative Richard Weiner said. “The most important thing about this study is that it is not a long-range plan and it is focused on the next three to five years. Things like having Dart come out here or having rail come out here and projects related to roads are not a part of this study. We are looking more at short-term projects.”

Weiner said some of these short-term projects could include the possibility of bringing in bus or shuttle services.

The project began in January with conducting a very detailed demographic analysis. Some of the information collected showed that from 2000-2010 Ellis County increased in population by 150,000 residents or 34 percent compared to the regional growth of 23 percent. The analysis showed that 64 percent of the trips made to work by Ellis County residents are out of the county and 21 percent of those trips are to Dallas. The data showed that two thirds of non-work trips made to visit family, friends, go shopping or do other activities stay within the county.

Some of the factors that the study is looking at are community support, where people travel to work, cost and users of the potential transit system.

“Some of the preliminary findings are is the population groups that have limited transportation options are concentrated in south Waxahachie and in Ennis. Ennis has a poverty population of about 18 percent. Waxahachie has a large youth population, 28 percent are under 18,” Weiner said.

“For Ellis County as a whole, 11 percent are under 65 years of age and 13 percent are considered to have a disability. The population growth has occurred in the northwest section (of the county) that is close to Dallas and Fort Worth.”

Weiner said they are still collecting data but from the data the project. Following the public meetings, the input received the public and surveys the team will develop a broad list of different strategies. Those strategies will be evaluated through a screening process that will take place in April and May. The strategies that are picked will have a financial and implementation plan developed. Once complete a report will be given to NCTCOG in June.

Following Weiner’s presentation members of the public were given the chance to ask questions. Some of the concerns that were raised included how would this system would be paid for, destinations and using a park and ride system.

One of the people in attendance was Ennis resident Marie Novy and her son, Nathan.

Marie said that Weiner presented some very interesting data and some statistics that she knew and some she didn’t but there still are a lot of questions that need to be answered like how is this type of a program going to be funded. Also there needs to be more public involvement.

Nathan said if the county continues to grow at the rate it has been there needs to be an upgrade to the transit system apart from bringing in buses or a shuttle service.  

In addition to Wednesday’s public meeting there is an online survey regarding transportation choices and preferences for Ellis County residents. The brief survey on the NCTCOG website is available in English and Spanish at www.EllisSurvey.org. Individuals who complete the five-minute survey may enter to win one of three $50 VISA gift cards.

Visit www.AccessEllis.org for more information about the project or to submit questions and comments to the project team at any time.

Follow Andrew on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndrewBrancaWDL or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AndrewBrancaWNI. Contact him at andrew.branca@waxahachietx.com or 469-517-1451