THE Bus rolls out new schedule and three new vehicles

BROOKSVILLE — The county's transit operator will trot out its new schedule for THE Bus — including a shorter wait time and new stops — beginning June 4.

County commissioners approved the new routes and stops for operator McDonald Transit Associates last month. While officials had hoped to implement the service upgrades earlier, they were held up when the delivery of new vehicles was delayed, said Dennis Dix, the county's transportation coordinator.

The vehicles, three new low-floor, cut-away vans, arrived in the county last month for only the cost of driving them from Palm Beach. The vehicles had been ordered for transit improvements there, but officials canceled their plans, making the $70,000 vans available to Hernando County, Dix explained.

"We're happy,'' he said of the acquisition.

One of the new vans will be needed for the enhanced service. The others are needed as backups since the county's fleet of buses is aging and has had maintenance issues. Each van has 14 seats and two wheelchair tie-downs.

The other delay in getting started has been getting all of the bus stop signs traded out. The signs were color-coded to routes that are now going to be different, so there are 150 signs that needed to be changed or added, Dix said. Fifteen are moving to new locations, and another 15 are marking new stops.

Before the changes take effect, county officials plan a public information blitz to get the word out to current riders and others they hope to draw to the service because of the enhancements.

"It's going to be extensive,'' Dix said of the publicity campaign. "We want to make sure that the public is aware.''

The changes include shortening the wait time for buses from two hours to 75 minutes. One new route will connect Brooksville to Spring Hill without requiring a transfer. Also new is service to the State Road 50 bypass west of U.S. 41 in Brooksville and service to the Spring Hill campus of Pasco-Hernando Community College.

The enhanced service will raise the price of the annual contract with McDonald Transit Associates from $465,060 to $555,490, with the majority of that cost paid through state and federal grants.

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

THE Bus rolls out new schedule and three new vehicles 05/23/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 8:42pm]

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