By ALLEY COWGILL
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
The Economic Development Corporation (EDC) held a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss several significant matters. However, social media was in an uproar over one specific agenda item – the discussion and potential action to consider a service agreement from the City of South Padre Island for the WAVE.
The City of South Padre Island requested $50,000 from the City of Port Isabel to aid in operational costs such as service fees and fuel costs of Island Metro (WAVE). Treasurer Gary Snyder asked the looming question, “Would we lose funding if we charged?”
Transportation Director Jesse Arriaga explained, “The administrative cost of charging would be close to $100,000 and ridership would significantly decrease if there was charge.” Arriaga further reveals that, “There are actually more Port Isabel riders. About 59 percent are from Port Isabel or Laguna Heights.”
He further disclosed that the Island Metro currently has about 640,000 riders, which is the second highest ridership, behind Galveston. “And Galveston charges.” Snyder stated.
Snyder reasoned that 640,000 riders multiplied by 50 cents of bus fare each would cover the administrative cost, with a surplus. The City of South Padre Island receives around $2 million in funds for the Island Metro, Arriaga explained, “We are already ahead of the game. We don’t have to charge.”
Rumors of Island Metro being completely defunded and the possibility of charging riders infuriated numerous residents. Clara Cerrato, the operations manager at Suites at Sunchase was one of the many who spoke out, “ I ride the WAVE six days a week. I start in Brownsville on Metro and transfer in Port Isabel.” Cerrato explained to the EDC on Tuesday, “ The everyday cost to ride is unfeasible to a lot of the riders. In the high season most people making minimum wage bring home around $200 after taxes and in the slow season they are lucky if they bring home $150. The people can barely afford rent,” she said.
Commissioner Jeffery Martinez described the Island Metro as a “wonderful asset to the community” and made a motion to approve the budget, which was seconded by Freedman. Snyder abstained. Jimmy Vela was absent.
After the meeting the PRESS spoke with Martinez who spoke passionately about the wave stating, “Many individuals have mixed emotions when it comes to ‘free’ transportation. What most do not understand is that numbers show 59 percent of riders are picked up in Port Isabel. Whether they are heading to work, shopping errands, etc. Money is being spent in Port Isabel, which allocates tax revenue,” he said.
“As city commissioners, we are voted into office for the well-being of the citizens and the community. The Island Metro is a part of some individuals’ every day lives. It is how some can manage to maintain a livelihood for their families and loved ones. The Island Metro is here to stay!”
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