Distribution Center Prompts Transportation Enhancements in the Heart of Texas
As manufacturers and retailers grow their distribution presence throughout the Heart of Texas region, local officials are looking at new and innovative ways to move something else: personnel.
Distribution centers are big business here, with such players at Caterpillar Logistics Services Inc., Sherwin-Williams, Tractor Supply Co., Walmart and others on the ground. The area has proven to be such a good location, in fact, that many companies are growing: Caterpillar is building a facility that will contain more than 750,000 square feet of space, while Tractor Supply is spending $10.2 million to double its facility to more than 650,000 square feet.
“An impressive number of distribution centers have chosen the Waco region as their location for manufacturing and as a distribution point for their products,” says Gary Rushing, transportation manager for the Heart of Texas Council of Governments’ Rural Transit District. “Waco is centrally located in Texas, and Interstate 35 and freight rail are both easily accessible.”
The jobs the centers have created are good news for McLennan and surrounding counties, but they have also created a challenge worth addressing: How to get people to and from work if they prefer public transportation or don’t own a car?
“As the distribution center population grows, the need to increase the workforce grows accordingly,” Rushing says. “The Heart of Texas Council of Governments Rural Transit District provides public transportation in Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties, and one of our transportation partners is Waco Transit, the urban transportation provider that offers fixed-route bus service and ADA complementary paratransit services within the Waco urbanized area. Both the rural and urbanized transit systems work as a collaborative to link people to jobs by providing public transportation in the six-county region.”
Having that web of services available is very attractive to companies looking to move into or expand within the area, as it allows them to draw from a larger employee pool. The rural and metro services are constantly adding to their fleets in anticipation of further growth, and they also are constantly reviewing routes and ridership needs so they can continue to meet needs now and in the future, Rushing says.
“The long-term vision for the Heart of Texas is to evolve into a region of integrated and collaborative transit services whose function is to connect people with their destinations, remove barriers to mobility, and generate efficiencies by innovation and by aggregating trips and resources,” he says. “We fully expect to become a region that is client-focused, that is managing a greatly increased trip volume and expanded services, and that is providing public transportation more effectively and efficiently.”