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Pasco bus riders urge commissioners not to cut service

DADE CITY — Pasco bus Route 33 has the lowest number of riders, which is why county transit officials propose cutting it to save money.

But for the people who do ride it, Route 33 is a lifeline: to work, to shopping, to doctor's appointments.

"I have no family," Deborah Yankin of Zephyrhills told county commissioners on Tuesday. "I solely rely on public transit."

About 50 people attended Tuesday's hearing, one of the first required before the county can cut the bus service.

The proposed transit cut is one of the ways that officials have been dealing with a $35 million budget deficit.

To save almost $48,000, Pasco transit officials recommend getting rid of Route 33 in Zephyr­hills. Other cost-saving measures include getting rid of Saturday ($127,509) and holiday ($37,647) services and extending the wait time between U.S. 19 buses to 45 minutes from 30 minutes ($43,580).

Officials say they targeted Route 33 because it has the lowest ridership, about 53 trips a day. That's compared with a countywide average of about 385 trips per route. U.S. 19, the busiest route, has about 1,100 trips per day.

"The recommendation is based on trying to get the biggest bang for the buck," said Dan Johnson, the assistant county administrator.

Tommytown community organizers helped dozens of children — some of them carrying signs saying things like "First you give then you take away" — show up at the meeting to make their pleas for the bus.

Some of those in attendance had mistakenly thought two other, more heavily used east Pasco routes were on the chopping block. But organizers said the other proposed cuts would hurt, too: Many people in the community work on Saturdays and need the bus, and children use it to get to the library.

One woman, Tamara Fields, who is visually impaired and can't drive, said she needs the Route 33 bus to get to work at Publix. Without it, she said, "I will have no way to get to work."

Cheryl Leet takes Route 33 to get from her home in Zephyr­hills to work in the deli at Sweetbay Supermarket. The walk would be more than 30 minutes long. "Then I have to stand on my feet all day," she said.

Commissioners expressed some sympathy for those affected by the potential elimination of the services and suggested the commission may decide to use some of the $12 million in unencumbered funds to "buy back" some of the proposed cuts.

The bus hearing was last on Tuesday's long agenda, but commissioners moved it up after hearing that some of the speakers needed to catch the 7 p.m. bus to get home.

Sure enough, after the hearing, Leet and Yankin shuffled out into the sunlight and headed to their stop.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

IF YOU GO

Hearing on cuts

The second hearing on the proposed cuts to Pasco County Public Transportation is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at the West Pasco Government Center, 7530 Little Road in New Port Richey.

Pasco bus riders urge commissioners not to cut service 08/11/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 8:21pm]
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