(Photo by Kristin Gordon)
BELTON (March 8, 2013)—The Hill County Transit District, or HOP for short, has moved into a larger $6.8 million facility on 15 acres at 4515 West U.S. 190 in Belton.
Three of those acres are to be used to accommodate expansion if needed.
The system moved to Belton from facilities it leased in Killeen and Temple, neither of which was large enough to handle HOP’s growth.
"We did not have room at either facility," said Robert Ator, HOP director of urban operations.
"If we put them both together, we still didn't have enough room. We had just outgrown them so much."
The transit district was created almost two decades ago, providing fixed route service, along with ADA compliant para-transit service in Killeen, Temple, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and Belton.
Repairs were done at the facility in Killeen.
"We had 2,400 square feet of shop and when one bus came in for repair, it took up the whole space," Ator said.
The new shop has 12,500 square feet of space.
"There was a time when we had to store parts in rented pods," Ator said.
"We no longer do that. This is the way transit should be."
The maintenance shop has six service bays, eight acres is devoted to parking and movement of vehicles and there are 40 extra spaces for buses in case expansion is needed.
HOP currently houses 100 buses at the facility.
The main building houses offices for para-tranist dispatchers, management staff, scheduling and training.
A third building was built on the grounds to hold a fuel-pumping station, bus-washing system and a central dispatch office.
The HOP operates out of nine counties, providing rural service in all but Bell County.
In the rural areas, two or three buses remain in that location so they can transport passengers to doctors’ appointments.
Ator says the HOP has created an identity which is very important.
"We are the HOP and people know us as the HOP," he said.
"We still get a lot of first time riders regularly so it’s nice to see that kind of growth," said Ator.
"Public transit is just a big part of any growing community."