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RTA buses provide a cheaper alternative to driving

RTA photo.jpg
Posted at 8:31 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 11:36:05-04

The Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority travels to the farthest corners of Nueces County, multiple times a day.

While its trolleys may not be as iconic as San Francisco's, its buses and vehicles could be the stabilizing piece of the puzzle for households struggling to comfortably afford the perpetually increasing gas prices.

On Friday, 20.104 gallons of premium gasoline at Sam's Club cost $96.48 — multiply that by two for a month's supply.

A 31-day bus pass, however, costs $30.

Rick Ramos rode two buses Friday night in order to get home. The first traveled the RTA's Route 27, which runs the length of Leopard Street.

It regularly spans the Staples Street Station, located across from Corpus Christi City Hall, to the corner of Northwest Boulevard and Wildcat Drive in the Calallen area.

He caught the bus on its way back Uptown in order to then catch a Greyhound Bus to San Antonio after being released from a local rehabilitation program.

"My truck — I used to get down here with $60 (each way)," he said. "Now I'm paying an extra $80 (both ways). It's cheaper to take the Greyhound than having someone picking me up."

While people such as Ramos can appreciate the savings, others point to the fact that the bus line is primarily used by the city's impoverished as a reason to avoid it.

"There’s homeless, there’s other types of people who live on the street who come to us as a kind of safe haven, and there are people who think: 'There are these kind of people and I don’t want to be on the bus with them,'" said RTA Marketing Director Rita Patrick.

The RTA refers to low-income riders who ride the bus out of necessity as "dependent riders." In addition to those clients, the company also looks to re-attract "choice riders" — bus users who have cars, but ride for personal reasons.

She said that it's possible that some of that population, however, avoids the bus due to misconceptions that dependent riders make the buses dangerous.

"We're working on educating the community on our service," she said. "The general public should not be afraid to ride the buses. We spend a lot of money making sure that our buses are safe."

She said bus operators — the phrase it uses for its drivers — have direct access to police assistance in the event of an emergency, be it medical or otherwise, and that the RTA also employs security of its own.

Other detractors argue that bus stop locations are inconvenient, or that riding the bus takes too long.

Patrick said the group is evaluating areas of the city in which it can improve services and routes, but also operational areas.

However, rider Alan Welch said the only inconveniences he's experienced are the occasional bus that runs late.

It's why after riding the bus on and off for 20 years, Welch said he started riding exclusively two years ago.

"(Driving) got too expensive," he said.

He lives by Ray High School, and said his doctor's office is in Parkdale Plaza on South Staples Street.

For a 2:45 p.m. doctor's appointment, he said he wouldn't have to get to the appropriate bus stop any earlier than 2 p.m.

But especially with gas prices being what they are now, he said he's sticking with the bus.

Patrick understands that not everyone is willing to trade the convenience of their personal vehicle.

"There’s going to be people who will never want to ride the bus," she said.

But for those who are, waking up a little earlier could be a sound investment.

"As gas prices (go up), it's maybe forcing people to evaluate," she said. "If they live near a bus stop, it makes them think 'Hey, maybe (I'll) try it."

For those who have never ridden the bus before, the RTA has a Trip Planner tool, which helps riders plan out the best route for where they want to go.

It also has an interactive Transloc map, so that riders can see whether their bus is running on time.