A bus line connecting Galveston to Houston will be shut down because of low ridership and a loss of funding, city officials confirmed Monday.
The Island Express line connects Galveston to Houston via a transfer at Houston Metro’s park-and-ride in Webster. After years of planning, it began operating in September 2017, offering three daily trips to Houston and three trips back.
The weekday service averaged about five riders a day, said Rick Beverlin, Galveston’s assistant city manager for grants and public transportation.
“Our ridership has not been real strong,” Beverlin said. “It’s probably not the most cost-effective model.”
The city council is slated to vote Thursday on a resolution canceling agreements with Texas City and Houston that enabled the service.
Even if the ridership numbers had been higher, the bus line was jeopardized by a loss of funding, Beverlin said. Galveston was recently re-certified as an urban area by the U.S. Department of Transportation, he said. The grant paying for the bus line was meant for rural areas, with populations of less than 50,000 people.
Galveston’s population dropped below 50,000 after Hurricane Ike in 2008, and only last year rose above that mark, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The dividing line between urban and rural areas is a population of 50,000 people. The definition changes which types of grants a city may apply for and receive.
Galveston is no longer eligible for the grant funding the bus line, Beverlin said.
It’s the second time in less than 10 years Galveston has lost a public transit connection to Houston. In 2013, Megabus, the private bus company, ended its service between the two cities.
The Island Express service was created in the hopes of convincing a private company that regular bus service between the major city and the popular tourism destination was viable. However, the express service didn’t operate on weekends and took two hours to complete a one-way trip, making it unappealing to most people, Beverlin said.
“It’s probably not connecting to the right places at the right time,” Beverlin said.
The city is not done talking about the idea of the bus line, he said. He hoped the city could find a way to create a true express service between the two downtowns some time in the future.
But there were no immediate plans to create a more desirable service, officials said.
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