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Hernando commissioners approve faster bus service, new stops

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 behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

In other business

The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday:

• Agreed to consider changes to the recently approved ordinance regarding secondary metal recyclers. The ordinance was crafted to curb the recent rash of copper thefts in the area, but local coin collectors complained Tuesday that they too would be forced to fingerprint and collect detailed information about their customers.

• Approved a new use for State Housing Initiative Partnership funds. A portion of the money will now be dedicated to help low-income homeowners who cannot afford to repair or replace their roofs and whose insurance carriers have told them they will not renew policies without roof repairs. No-interest loans would be paid back when the property changes hands and will be administered by the Hernando County Housing Authority.

• Listened to complaints by representatives of the Disabled American Veterans that they were maligned by county employees when they recently made an offer to take over veteran services functions for the county. Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes assured them that nothing negative toward the group was intended. He noted that if the county ever decides to seek another provider for the services, all groups would be invited to make proposals.

Hernando commissioners approve faster bus service, new stops 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 10:11pm]
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