A new promotional song by a local artist will ring through McLennan County in coming months as area leaders work to encourage residents to use a year-old rural transportation system.

Meanwhile, McGregor residents have jumped on board with the McLennan County Rural Transit District as the highest users.

Waco Transit general manager John Hendrickson said officials hope to continue to educate residents about the service and change some minds about who uses public transportation. In July, of the 484 rides, 113, or 23 percent, stemmed from McGregor, the most of any community. Elm Mott residents trailed behind with 70 rides, or 14 percent, and West took third with 62 rides, or 13 percent of last year’s total.

The total combined fares collected over the past year reach almost $35,900.

Hendrickson said they are using about $25,000 in their advertising budget to have Holly Tucker write a song for the district, have it recorded and then to buy radio and TV ads encouraging residents to use the service.

“I thought it was a long shot with Ms. Tucker, but we pulled it off,” he said.

Tucker came to the district board meeting Thursday night to perform the song she wrote, “Home Town Heart,” for the board members, who then eagerly took pictures with her.

Tucker said she started writing the song about two months ago.

“They wanted me to do this not so much like a jingle specific to Waco Transit. They wanted it to be more of a Texas country-type feel, like a real country song,” she said.

The song is about how people from all walks of life can come together in a community, she said.

Hendrickson said he thinks district officials are headed in the right direction with the ad, and once residents hear the song they will start looking at rural public transit in a better light.

“I hope y’all enjoy the song she produced,” he said. “I was nervous about it, but once she sang it, I was amazed.”

The transit district, which launched July 1, 2015, provided 20,047 rural trips in its first year, 12,244 of which started or ended in the rural areas of McLennan County, according to district figures. More than 6,500 of the rides were general public urban routes, a new service for the district, while the remaining 1,282 trips shuttled riders between the Waco Transit office and the Waco District Parole Office.

The countywide transit program replaced another service last year that was administered by the Heart of Texas Council of Governments. Destinations for the new district include anywhere in McLennan County or adjacent counties, as long as one stop is at a rural address.

Trips can be arranged by calling the Waco Transit System at least 24 hours in advance, and a trip can be scheduled up to two weeks in advance. The fare is $3 per one-way, in-county trip and $5 for one-way trips crossing county lines. The service is available from 5:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. Saturday. The service is not available Sunday. Same-day trips are offered with limited availability for $5.

Hendrickson said during the past year the rural transit district received 27 complaints, which could include a late trip or an issue with a service not provided.

“A lot of those could be because they didn’t understand how to ride the service,” he said.

In the inaugural year for the transit district, it received about $900,000 in grants to fund the system, and there is about $1.5 million available for fiscal year 2017, he said. As funding becomes available and the service continues to grow, the district will continue to buy more vehicles for added rides, Hendrickson said.

The program started out with 12 vehicles, and several more have already been added. Hendrickson said while the original 12 are on their last legs, the program plans to continue maintenance while buying new vehicles, to add more routes and increase ridership.

McLennan County Rural Transit

How it works: Trips can be arranged by calling 24 hours in advance to 254-752-1620 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Trips can be scheduled up to two weeks in advance.

Hours: 5:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. Saturday. No service on Sundays.

Cost: $3 for an in-county, one-way trip; and $5 for an adjacent county one-way trip. Same-day trips are $5 for a one-way trip.

Service area: Destinations include anywhere in McLennan or adjacent counties, as long as the route originates from or travels to a rural address.

For more information, go to WacoTransitSystem.com.

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