TAPS/CCART merger would make TAPS largest agency of its kind in Texas

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SHERMAN & MCKINNEY, TEXAS -- Last week we reported that Collin County's transportation agency called CCART could be merging with TAPS.

TAPS Director Brad Underwood says that acquisition would make TAPS the largest small urban and rural transportation agency in Texas.

The leaders of both agencies are speaking on the potential merger today and what it could mean for riders.

About five years ago, TAPS nearly closed its doors for financial reasons.

Since then, the transportation agency has grown exponentially, adding routes at Texoma colleges and across the Red River.

Now, if McKinney city council members and Collin County commissioners approve it, a merger with CCART would make TAPS even stronger.

TAPS Director Brad Underwood is pushing to get the green light to merge with CCART -- Collin County's public transit system.

"It would enable us to create a more comprehensive system for the whole North Texas region," Underwood said.

Collin County commissioners will decide whether TAPS will take over the county's rural routes in May, while McKinney city council members will rule on the urban routes in April.

Underwood says this acquisition would be a move in the right direction.

"It's the idea of getting on a bus in Bryan County and being able to ride to Collin County," Underwood said.

CCART and TAPS serve similar size populations, but TAPS's annual ridership is much higher at about 284,000 riders versus CCART's 72,000.

TAPS also has 69 vehicles, costing the agency about $15 a trip, compared to CCART's fleet of 29, which costs them nearly $23 a trip.

Collin County Commissioner Chris Hill supports the merger.

"There's been a long term effort looking at improving CCART's service," Hill said.

Hill says he's become aware of mis-management at CCART, including the use of $750,000 in federal funds and more than $620,000 in grant money going unused over the past four years.

"That concerns me, as it should any of our citizens, that we want to make sure that any of our services are managed well," Hill said.

Committee on Aging Chairman Wayne Rock, who helps oversee CCART, also voices concern.

"CCART as it is today should no longer exist. It needs to be moved into a happier place, from a business perspective, from a transit perspective," Rock said.

But Rose Lee, who helps manage CCART, is against the merger.

"Nothing was ever mis-managed, it was just that it has not come to the point where they're actually doing a lot of service with the moneys that are coming in," Lee said.

If McKinney councilmembers and Collin County commissioners approve the merger, TAPS would effectively take over CCART and manage the combined organization.

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