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Subsidized bus route canceled

Pinellas County's first business-subsidized bus route has been canceled because of low ridership. Commerce Clearing House, a Gateway area publisher, stopped its route Feb. 16. The company had been the first in the county to pay for public bus service for its employees.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) created the customized route to take teen-age employees from St. Petersburg high schools to the company's editorial and production center at 10100 M. L. King (Ninth) St. N.

"No one was riding it," said Joyce Cooper, personnel manager for Commerce Clearing House. "Most of the kids have their own cars. They don't ride the bus like they used to."

Several times in the last few weeks, no one rode the route, Cooper said.

The Commerce Clearing House route was the first of three customized routes started by the PSTA late last year. The other two routes go to Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar and the Derby Lane dog track in St. Petersburg.

The companies reimburse the PSTA for any empty seats on the buses. Commerce Clearing House paid the PSTA about $1,400 per month for the service since it began Nov. 27.

Larry C. Newman, PSTA executive director, said he was disappointed by the low ridership on the Commerce Clearing House route, but he hopes to expand the PSTA's efforts to provide customized bus routes.

"From our perspective, it was a good idea," Newman said. "Each new route has a building period. It's going to take people a while to adjust to it."

Cooper said her company probably will try a similar route later this year and may try to enlist other businesses in the Gateway area.

"We're still hopeful," Cooper said. "We haven't given up."

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