Route 95 offering bus riders a quick route to Port Aransas through September (2024)

A ride aboard the Port Aransas Express is a great way to skip the ferry lines while still enjoying the benefits of traveling from coast to coast in South Texas.

Known as Route 95, the seasonal service offered by the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority runs from May through September, giving commuters a quick way to get from Corpus Christi to Ingleside, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas during the busy summer months.

Route 95 offering bus riders a quick route to Port Aransas through September (1)

The coastal travel service leaves each day of the week from Staples Street Station in downtown Corpus Christi, making stops at the HEB stores in Ingleside and Aransas Pass before boarding an Aransas Pass ferry operated by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Passengers arrive in Port Aransas and alight at 11th Street at Sandcastle Drive. The bus then retraces its route, returning to Staples Station at about 12:15 p.m. Schedules run in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Riders receive free Wi-Fi and priority boarding on the ferry, which significantly reduces travel times during peak hours or holidays. Fare is $1.25 for express trips beginning or ending in Corpus Christi and 75 cents for trips from Ingleside to Port Aransas.

Now a four-year tradition advertised in multiple newspapers and TV stations, Route 95 includes 25 stops and multiple points of interest with many riders anticipating the arrival of the sharp, red profile of the signature cutaway bus that will take them aboard a Port Aransas ferry.

"This bus is the best thing going," said "CC" Jackson, a seven-year resident of Aransas Pass, who said she has ridden on the Port Aransas Express twice a week for the last several years.

"I just get on the bus and ride around and come back to Aransas Pass because it's such a pleasant thing to do," she said. "I look for dolphins while on the ferry. One day, I was out by the railing, and there was a dolphin riding the waves by the ferry, and as soon as my hand hit the rail, the dolphin's tail had the exact same cadence."

This year, the Port Aransas Express started May 3 and will continue through Sept. 29. Buses run past midnight, ensuring tourists and residents in the port city, as well as current or potential workers employed at restaurants and businesses there, have the flexibility and time to reach their destinations at later hours.

The express accommodates members of the service workforce who need transportation during the peak tourism season though it's designed for anyone to ride, said Rita Patrick, managing director of public relations at CCRTA.

"You don't have to be a tourist or a worker. You can be a regular person who wants to go on a day trip," she said. "Even if you do have a car, you can park at the transfer station visitors parking lot and jump on the bus."

Route 95 offering bus riders a quick route to Port Aransas through September (2)

The extended hours will be a gamechanger for Port Aransas businesses, which rely on visitors to support the local economy, said Brett Stawar, president of the Port Aransas Tourism Bureau and Chamber of Commerce.

The city had 3,446 residents in 2023 with 26% of those 16 years or older who were in the labor force working in retail or hospitality entertainment or food service, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2022 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

The city welcomed more than $1.86 million people by ferry, according to December 2023 data from TXDOT published in the tourism bureau's 2023 Annual Report.

"There are more visitors than residents in Port Aransas, and getting to the island can be challenging, especially from the ferry side," Stawar said. "This transit allows people to come on the express by the ferry and also later into the night during the height of tourism season. A lot of shifts don't get off during the summer until 11 p.m., so we are thrilled to have this route available for our workforce living outside of Port Aransas as well as visitors and tourists who are staying in town."

He said the need for the express has grown substantially in the last five years, with people who work in Port Aransas commuting from North Padre Island to Corpus Christi, San Patricio County and Aransas County.

"It's about workforce development and ties into the visitor experience of what we want to achieve so that visitors can have a great time here in Port Aransas on vacation," he said.

Originally a pilot program, the Port Aransas Express became a permanent seasonal fixed route in 2022 following discussions between senior leadership at CCRTA business owners and city leaders, including the mayor, on how to help people who lacked transportation and needed to travel to Port Aransas, many of whom also lacked affordable housing after Hurricane Harvey.

Among the business owners who were engaged in the discussion was Chris Collins, director of operations for three restaurants in Port Aransas — MacDaddy's Family Kitchen, Tortuga's Saltwater Grill and FINS Grill and Icehouse, along with several other associated businesses.

Route 95 offering bus riders a quick route to Port Aransas through September (3)

He said there's been a big struggle over the years in hiring people who want to work in Port Aransas but have no transportation.

"The challenge is getting workers to and from work," Collins said. "Most of our workers come from outlying areas including Aransas Pass and Ingleside. We'll lose employees because they don't have reliable transportation from those places.

"I'm hoping this will draw a lot more of the workforce local to Ingleside and Aransas Pass to pull more workers in. It helps that the bus stops at the HEB Ingleside and HEB in Aransas Pass and takes you directly to Port Aransas. Plus it skips the ferry line so people don't have to wait in line."

As an incentive for people who work for his company to take the Port Aransas Express, Collins said he offers to pay for bus passes to provide them with a route to and from work.

A second route is also available to people who want to get to Port Aransas by way of Highway 361.

Route 65, the Padre Island Connection, departs from the Southside Transfer Station and drops travelers off in Port Aransas where they can transfer to the Route 94 Port Aransas Shuttle, which costs 25 cents per boarding and stops anywhere there is a clearly defined bus stop, making it easy to get around town to do some shopping, eat at a restaurant or visit the beach.

In Port Aransas, riders can also take Route 90 Flexi-B and Seasonal Route 95.

More: New bus stop facilities designed to shield riders from the heat, improve accessibility

More: Your guide to Port Aransas' Texas SandFest

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Route 95 offers bus riders quick route to Port Aransas

Route 95 offering bus riders a quick route to Port Aransas through September (2024)
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