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Solicited public comments firmly support maintaining THE Bus service

BROOKSVILLE — The County Commission's plan to cut in half the service by the fixed-route transit system known as THE Bus seems to have little support from the community.

After a mandatory public comment period, county officials found that 82 percent of those who responded want to keep THE Bus. Most of them wanted to not just keep service at its existing level but to add routes, days and extra hours.

Some of those who opposed the transit system plan were more in favor of parking THE Bus entirely rather than just cutting service.

Tuesday, the commission will hold a public hearing to consider formalizing the service reductions as a possible compromise over the controversial service.

In April, commissioners voted to cut the transit system by increasing the time between buses from one hour to two hours. The move would save $420,000 in federal, state and local dollars. The local share saved would be $142,000.

The fixed-route transit system has long been a topic for debate and that discussion has intensified as the county had to look for places to trim spending to make up for a more than $10 million shortfall in revenue for the coming budget year.

The comments received by the county include 34 supporting THE Bus and seven opposed to continuing the fixed-route system.

"I think the proposed cuts are foolhardy and ill-conceived,'' wrote Marlene Shaw of Spring Hill. "Though I have never used THE Bus myself, it is a lifeline to many citizens who have no other means of transportation.''

Shaw goes on in an e-mail writing, "since most of the funding comes from state and national grants, the amount to be saved is paltry; the consequences could be disastrous. In order to be a part of regional transportation plans, we must keep and, indeed should look to expand, not contract its services.''

Deanna Janney wrote in an e-mail, "Hernando County needs to wake up and realize THE Bus is needed and not take away from its routes but add to them. We need to applaud those persons that use it to get to a job and are willing to work even if we subsidize the cost.''

Another area resident, Karen Boos said the subsidy is small, according to the county's own annual financial report.

"It states that 24 cents, that's 24 cents out of every $100, goes to public transportation,'' she wrote.

Several regular riders of THE Bus expressed concern about the inconvenience they would face with buses running only every two hours and how the demand for door-to-door van service, a more expensive alternative than the fixed-route system, would skyrocket.

Still others suggested connecting the Hernando fixed-route bus with the Pasco transit system, adding routes on Saturdays and extending hours so working people can regularly use the service.

On the other side of the issue, Keith Ebsen telephoned in his opinion of the service.

"There is too much money being spent on THE Bus, along with a lack of ridership and inconvenience. It is a complete waste of taxpayers money,'' he said.

"Reducing THE Bus travel frequency an number of buses is not enough,'' wrote Paul Kapral in an e-mail. "The whole program needs to be eliminated. Hernando County has neither the population density nor the tax money to operate this charity.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

82 Percentage of respondents who want to keep THE Bus.

$142,000 Amount saved locally by increasing time between buses from 1 hour to 2 hours.

$420,000 Amount in federal, state and local dollars saved by increasing time between buses from 1 hour to 2 hours.

Solicited public comments firmly support maintaining THE Bus service 06/21/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 8:44pm]
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