BROOKSVILLE — The wait time for THE Bus will soon be 75 minutes rather than two hours, and the fixed-route buses will be making some new stops.
The Hernando County Commission approved the enhancements to the county's public transit system Tuesday on a 4-1 vote, with commission Chairman Wayne Dukes casting the sole no vote.
The improved service will include buses running to the Spring Hill campus of Pasco-Hernando Community College, a route stretching along the State Road 50 truck route west of U.S. 41 in Brooksville and a route that will connect Brooksville and Spring Hill without a transfer.
The changes are targeted to take effect April 30.
In recent years, the transit service has been criticized by those pushing to shrink government. The improvements, however, will cost the county only about $11,000; federal and state grants will cover the remaining 75 percent.
"We do think that this is going to increase ridership,'' and that would reduce potentially the county's match to finance the service, said Ron Pianta, interim county administrator.
More than half a dozen regular bus riders came to the microphone during Tuesday's meeting to tell commissioners how important the service is in providing mobility in their lives.
"THE Bus has made me a more independent citizen,'' said disabled Weeki Wachee resident David Philipsen.
"I need a ride. I need a ride to the doctor. I need a ride to shop. I need a ride to get a cup of coffee,'' said Jay Walter, a resident of the Forest Oaks area of Spring Hill who urged commissioners not to do away with his nearby stop.
Pianta told Forest Oaks residents that the initial plan to do away with stops in the neighborhood had been scrapped after a number of neighbors who use the service came forward.
Spring Hill resident Lucille Marano just wanted assurance that the County Commission was serious about making improvements.
"Are we making a commitment to keep THE Bus?'' she asked.
Pianta responded that if the commission voted for the changes, "I think it's demonstrating a commitment to transit, a commitment to THE Bus."
Anthony Palmieri, a former Hernando planning commissioner, urged the commission to go even further and find a way to add yet another bus route, one connecting residents with the commercial and industrial areas along Spring Hill Drive.
That route has been proposed by the operator of THE Bus, McDonald Transit Associates, Pianta said. But it would have to come later because there is not sufficient money in the budget at this time.
A connection to the Pasco transit system also might come in the future at the community college site in Spring Hill, he told another bus supporter, Tanya Marsh.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.