Re: County weighs THE Bus options | March 5 story
Best option is to keep and expand
As a five-days-a-week commuter on THE Bus, I urge the Hernando County Commission to reconsider cutting the service to four days a week. In fact, I urge them to consider increasing services rather than cutting services to THE Bus. Now that gas prices are rising, more people will have to look to public transportation.
The commission has said it doesn't want to make cuts that will hurt those who most need/use public transportation. Planner Dennis Dix said that cutting back to four days a week would be the "least intrusive" way of cutting services.
Any cutbacks are "intrusive." Do commissioners/planners think people work only four days a week? Do they think people can skip work one day a week? For those who drive to work, how would you cope if your car broke down one day a week?
I am lucky. I don't "need" to use public transportation. I choose to use it. I own a car, but it is an old one that is a gas-guzzler. I drive to the transfer station outside of Beall's on State Road 50 and park the car and ride THE Bus. In the evening I drive home from Beall's. I choose to ride THE Bus because gas prices are almost prohibitive, and because my vehicle is getting less use. If forced, I could drive in to Brooksville from my home in Spring Hill. But just because I can drive into Brooksville each day doesn't mean I want to drive.
Some riders have no alternative. THE Bus is their only form of transportation. For them, bicycles or taxis would be their only choice. Taxis are very expensive and bicycles are very dangerous on Hernando County's roads. Those who are disabled would need to call the paratransit vans and that costs Hernando County taxpayers, too.
Cutting back on hours would lose even more riders. They already cut the last buses on the red and blue routes, making it very inconvenient. Cutting more (probably the last bus on each route) will force me to stop riding. What better way to prove the critics right than to force people off THE Bus, then complain that nobody is riding it.
My suggestions to increase revenue would be:
• Make THE Bus service more convenient; bring back the 6 p.m. bus into Spring Hill. I ride the last bus out of Brooksville at 5:30 and I have seen so many people "stuck" at the transfer station at Beall's because the last bus from Brooksville arrives at approximately 5:45 and the last bus into Spring Hill from the transfer station (the red and blue routes) left 45 minutes earlier at 5 p.m. Those riders will probably not ride again.
• Look more closely at fares. You could save money by increasing the monthly pass rate. I pay only $15 a month. While I enjoy the discount, I think it has to be costing the county money. If I were to pay regular, daily bus fare I would be paying approximately $40 a month (based on four weeks in a month, five days a week). They could increase the monthly pass to $30 and people still would be saving money and THE Bus would be getting double for monthly passes.
• What about charging a nominal fee for transfers? Even 25 or 50 cents could increase revenue. Where else on Earth do transportation systems give free transfers?
Whatever the commissioners decide, the commuters and residents of Hernando County will have to accept it because we have no choice. But the commissioners have a choice. I hope they will take a long look before choosing, because I will be looking at their choices next time I vote.
Melinda Bullough, Spring Hill
Re: Let THE Bus help pay for itself | March 5 letter
Make the process less complicated
I agree with Duane Rieker in regard to having THE Bus pay for itself. In this day of rising gasoline prices, global warming, and deteriorating economic conditions, the Hernando County Commission should instruct the transportation staff to look into ways to increase the number of people using THE Bus, possibly increase fares, and look for alternative ways to get commercial funding.
At present, it is not easy for a senior to get a "reduced fare day pass." To start with, one has to go to a dispensing location to register to be able to buy this "Day Pass." Once there, you have to fill out an application, which is sent to THE Bus office for approval. A copy of your picture ID will be made and sent with it.
On Nov. 8 I went to the Forest Oaks Government Center and received Day Pass No. 102. On March 3, I received pass No. 103. In other words, they did not sell any of these in almost four months. Why? I am sure it is evident the process is insane bureaucracy. We are talking about a 75-cent day pass to ride a local bus, not about visiting the U.S. Mint. I can buy a airline ticket to most any city in the world and not have to do anything except show my passport when I board the plane.
To top it all, one cannot buy undated passes in advance so that there is some flexibility in when one might want to ride. The driver could date the pass when first boarding. If he suspected the person was not a senior, he could ask for picture ID. But to make seniors go thru this application process is nothing but bureaucratic nonsense. Really, do they expect someone will set up a black market in senior day passes?
In addition to making it easier for people to get passes, they need to look at educating the gas-guzzling public to look at using public transport to help save our planet.
You don't have to be a senior to ride THE Bus. At $1 per ride regular fare, it is a bargain. And if one has to walk a half mile to catch a bus, it will do you good.
Jon Knudson, Spring Hill
Re: Keeping the buses on the road is the only choice March 2 editorial
System a failure, but can succeed
Hernando County needs a viable, efficient public transportation system. Hernando County demographics requires application of unique innovations that include, but go beyond, THE Bus for a successful public transportation system. We don't need to park buses; we need to improve public transportation so as to provide a system tailored to Hernando County's needs, one that is public-friendly, usable and pays for itself.
So far, THE Bus system has been a test supported by funding with $2.5-million per year under grants from federal, state and the county's general revenue funds to:
• First, determine if Hernando County could operate a viable shuttle bus system. So far, THE Bus operation has been a failure.
• Second, determine if county residents would utilize a bus system. So far, THE Bus system has not attracted enough passengers to make THE Bus viable.
The grants eventually will end. If we had used the grants wisely, we would have a usable public transportation system. As it is, THE Bus is a miserable failure.
From information gleaned from THE Bus schedules, April 2, 2007, THE Bus is available to about 20 percent of Hernando County residents and wastes about 70 percent of passenger miles. By eliminating wasted passenger miles, without additional buses or staff, about 80 percent of residents could be provided scheduled service.
These observations are made having been assigned as motor officer of a failing transportation motor pool, which included an unusable military bus shuttle system. The shuttle buses serviced an area and population about the size of Hernando County. The failing shuttle bus system utilized seven buses, operating three separate routes, cojoined at a central stop, similar in operation to THE Bus; it also included many wasted operator and bus miles. That shuttle bus service was improved with bold innovations that improved service and absolutely eliminated all waste.
Within one month we implemented a shuttle system of five buses, operating over one basic two-hour route (with two deviations, revised bus routes and schedules, 30-minute, bidirectional intervals); extended scheduled service to 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (to ensure optimum passenger access to all community facilities); revised bus routes to begin and end at the motor pool; provided buses for recreational and chapel activities; eliminated unnecessary bus transfers; and better informed new potential passengers. The failing shuttle bus system monthly passenger boarding was about 1,500; revised, it quickly reached about 20,000.
Hernando County Commissioners, administration, planning, directing and operating staff have not shown an ability to organize and operate an effective public transportation system. I believe their lack of ability is a result of not having sufficient experience with effective public transportation systems. Hiring outside consultants has done little to improve THE Bus.
There is no need for Hernando County to continue this failed, unproductive, wasteful transit system. I have offered Hernando County my services and experience to revise THE Bus system into a worthwhile, pay-for-itself, public transportation system.
Raeburn Taylor, Brooksville