DADE CITY — Pasco County could double its bus ridership in the next decade under an ambitious plan that would add Saturday service, more frequent pick-ups and drop-offs as well as later hours.
But it would take an estimated $14 million more than the county is currently spending on public transportation.
Bill Ball, a consultant hired to update the county's 10-year plan, which is required every five years to qualify for federal money, told members of Pasco's Metropolitan Planning Organization last week that the plan was a response to surveys of riders as well as other county residents.
The bus system had 500,000 riders a year in 2003. It reached 1 million by 2008.
Ball said the county could double that by 2023 if it was willing to invest the money. He also came up with an alternate plan that relies on current funding levels called "the cost-feasible plan."
"I like (the cost-feasible) plan," County Commissioner Jack Mariano said at last week's presentation, which comes as county officials consider increasing the property tax rate amid tight revenues.
Under the less expensive plan, park-and-ride lots and free Wi-Fi on buses would be offered. An express bus would take commuters from Wesley Chapel to the University of South Florida area, while another bus would connect riders to Pasco-Hernando Community College in Spring Hill. By 2018, Moon Lake would get local service.
"That's been in the plan for some time," Ball said of the Moon Lake routes, but so far there hasn't been enough money to make it happen.
The more expensive plan would move up Moon Lake service to 2015. Service along the State Road 54 corridor would be hourly as opposed to every two hours and include Saturday service. Weekday evening routes would also be extended by three hours starting in 2016.
The report also recommends that the bus system, called PCPT for Pasco County Public Transportation, be rebranded.
Commission Chairman Ted Schrader drew some inspiration from the name of Ball's presentation called "Access Pasco."
"That 'Access Pasco' is pretty catchy," he said.
The public will have until the end of the month to comment on the plan, which will be brought back to the MPO and then to the County Commission for a final vote.
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.