CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — CARTS buses are scheduled to “roll” into service from a newly renovated hub converted from an historic train depot just off U.S. 281 in January, officials say.
Capital Area Rural Transit System (CARTS), based in Austin, currently operates transport vehicles twice a week in Marble Falls; loading and unloading passengers at a parking lot adjacent to Marble Falls City Hall and at Wal-Mart.
The service is known primarily for catering to disabled and elderly clientele utilizing state funding along with discounted service fees. Fares range from $2 to $6 depending on travel distance.
“This is like a home run to us because it’s a depot that has history. It has been moved and preserved,” CARTS General Manager David Marsh said. “If we have a physical presence, a store front that people can see and take note the services that we operate are there, it’s our best advertising.”
City officials struck a deal with the service in 2014 to lease the space to the public-political entity for $500 per month.
Modifications on the property included upgrades to the grounds to comply with accessibility codes for the disabled.
Along with routes within a nine-county region, the service will partner with a national company for interstate travel.
“It will be a Greyhound bus station (too) that will connect passengers to the national inner-city network,” Marsh said of the service lacking in Marble Falls for several years. “It will also allow them to ship and receive packages on the bus.”
Constructed in 1893, the historic depot was moved from its original location adjacent to the city’s rail lines to its current one just off the highway in 1976.
The building had served as the visitor’s center for the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce until a new facility was built in 2013.
“When the Chamber was there, you would go in and see the pictures of people coming home from WWII,” he said. “It just underlines what we do being a continuation of everything that has happened in the past.”
The Austin-based district serves a nine-county region with hubs in communities such as Bastrop, Round Rock and Smithville.
The local service stops in two locations in Marble Falls, the Walmart parking lot and in the parking lot adjacent to Marble Falls City Hall.
“It will be an opportunity for us to finally have a physical presence in Marble Falls,” he said. “We’re so excited and honored to be able to use that historic depot as the location where our buses will operate from, where you’ll be able to buy tickets and ship packages.”
The facility is scheduled to have staff present at least twice a week with public accessibility during scheduled routes.
The grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 13 at the historic train depot, 801 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls.
The event will include a ribbon cutting, a presentation and a tour.
Officials see opportunities for growth in the future.
“If we can build a market, we can expand service,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a fruitful continuing relationship with the city and being able to serve the public better.”