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DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

LLANO — Whether just around the corner or down U.S. 281 to San Antonio, veteran Hill Country Transit District HOP driver Jan Turman looks forward to making sure Llano County residents get to where they need to go.

On July 31, Turman broke out into smiles as she got a first look at the new 18-passenger van she’ll be driving. The HOP, as it’s called, is wrapped with photographs of Llano County landmarks and features for a distinctive local feel.

“I just think it’s wonderful,” said Turman, who has worked as a transit district driver for 25 years.

The newest van ensures Turman and the Hill Country Transit District can continue to serve Llano County residents. Llano County Precinct 1 Commissioner Peter Jones, who also sits on the transit district board, said this bus replaces an older one and shows the district’s commitment to the county and its residents.

“This a really valuable service to our residents,” he said. “And this is a pretty critical upgrade.”

The HOP is available for all Llano County residents. All a person needs to do is contact the main dispatch at 1-800-791-9601 to schedule a ride. The cost is by donation for residents 65 and older and minimal for everyone else.

Turman said the HOP can take people to local stores, beauty shops or meetings, but it also provides trips for medical appointments as far as Round Rock, Temple and even San Antonio.

“We even have a contract with Medicaid to make Medicaid runs wherever the person needs to go for their appointment,” Turman said.

The Llano County HOP has nine buses and seven drivers available for service. Two of the buses are stationed in Kingsland.

“We go all over Llano County,” Turman said. “We try to help people without transportation stay as independent as possible. We’re here so they don’t have to depend on other people for rides or just stay home.”

Jones said while the service is open to all residents, he wants to make sure the older residents especiall are aware of it. The HOP also provides transportation for kids to after-school programs and functions.

“It’s an incredibly important service,” the commissioner said.

The Hill Country Transit District covers nine counties, which equates to about 9,000 square miles.

“We started out as a volunteer organization in the 1960s,” district general manager Carole Warlick said. “Now we have 185 buses and 180 employees.”

The district operates a series of fixed routes in the Killeen-Copperas Cove area but offers rural services to the counties it serves. Funding comes from state and federal sources.

But for Turman, it’s all about her passengers.

“I love this job and this company,” she said. “I look forward to each day because I know I’m helping somebody stay independent.”

Go to www.takethehop.com for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com