By Titus Gilner Staff Reporter
Though not traditionally thought of as a city with model public transportation, Amarillo has been making changes in the public transportation department. New City of Amarillo Transit Director Marita Wellage – Reiley has ushered in changes, some of which directly affect Amarillo College students, faculty and staff.
Back in August, the city unveiled a program that allowed anyone with a valid AC ID to ride the public buses for free.
This initial partnership was brokered by the city, AC and Amarillo National Bank. Details included a $25,000 donation on behalf of Amarillo National Bank and a guaranteed year of free transportation for AC ID-holders.
Free access to public transportation for AC is showing promising numbers, according to a news release from city officials. “As of Nov. 23 there have been 2,382 bus trips taken by AC students and staff since the program began Aug. 15,” the release said. In addition to the funding that resulted from the original collaboration, the Kresge Foundation gave the partnership a $75,000 grant.
One person who rides the bus frequently is Carley Tucker, an AC adult education student. She rides the bus home and has her sister drop her off at 8 a.m. for her morning class.
“I use it,” she said, “but a lot of people have cars. This is really for low income people. It’s really hard to make it out here.”
Tucker said she does not mind riding the bus, although she does take some precautions. Since a large number of the riders are homeless or low income, Tucker said she worries about her safety sometimes. She also said she thinks that making the bus stops better would really increase AC student ridership.
As she put it, “I think a lot of people don’t want to stand out here. I think if the stops were maybe covered, especially during the wintertime with rain and snow, I think maybe a lot of people would ride the bus. Because what are you going to do if it rains? Get soaked? Most people just wouldn’t come.”
Other recent changes to the public transportation include the first fare increase in 25 years and a citywide ID plan.
Until recently, the bus fares have been the same since 1994. The bus fares were raised because the city was no longer bringing in enough money from bus rides to continue funding and improving the bus system. Starting Oct. 21, 2019, the new fares went into effect, including new additions like day passes in lieu of transfer passes and monthly passes for frequent riders.
People who meet the requirements for reduced-fares (such as AC students) are required to provide proper identification in order to receive reduced-fare services. In order to help standardize these forms of identification for people like vets, AC students or staff or folks with special needs, the Transit Department is rolling out a bus ID card plan. Eligible passengers can obtain bus ID cards at the Transit Departments office located at 801 SE 23 St.
For more information on routes, stops and times, visit amarillo.gov or call the public transportation hotline at 806-378-3095.