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Public hearing planned for proposed bus route

If you want to put in your two cents worth about proposed public bus service for East Lake, your chance will come Wednesday.

But you'll get no more than three minutes to talk.

Discussion of a proposed bus route for East Lake _ the first to that area _ is the first item on the agenda at Wednesday's meeting of the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at PSTA headquarters, 14840 49th St. N in Clearwater.

The board will conduct a public hearing on a proposal to begin bus service on a route from Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg north to the Shoppes of Boot Ranch in East Lake. A shuttle service from there to other parts of East Lake also has been proposed.

The main line would be designated as Route 62. Stops along the 26-mile route would include Countryside and Clearwater malls.

This will be the first airing of the proposal before the 11-member board. Two public workshops earlier this month were conducted by PSTA staff.

Anyone interested in getting their suggestions to the board can submit written material, but speakers at the hearing will be limited to three minutes each, said Marie Naylor, administrative assistant for the PSTA.

Those who want information about the public hearing may call 530-9921.

Meanwhile, people in the community are beginning to debate the merits of public bus service in East Lake.

Lloyd Van Schoyck, publicity director for the Citizens Action League, has endorsed the proposed East Lake route as a step in the right direction. Still, he said, "a lot more needs to be done." The CAL has long complained that residents of East Lake pay taxes for public transportation but have no public bus service.

Under the PSTA plan, Van Schoyck said, a telephone-dispatched shuttle service would ferry East Lake residents from their homes to the Route 62 terminus at the Shoppes of Boot Ranch. But he said the PSTA has not said how a passenger, returning north on Route 62, can get home from Boot Ranch.

Also, he said, there are no provisions for using the shuttle buses to get from one place to another within East Lake.

"It's very encouraging that the needs of the most neglected part of the county are being recognized by PSTA," Van Schoyck said, "and we are light years ahead of where we were, but a lot more needs to be fleshed out."

Van Schoyck disagreed with Don Flynn, vice chairman of East Lake 2000, who last week opposed extending bus service up East Lake Road beyond Boot Ranch until after construction work on the road is completed in early 1998. East Lake 2000 is the community's unofficial chamber of commerce.

"We have a lousy, lousy road system in this area," Van Schoyck said. "But is that a reason to reject public transportation? I think not. Such a view is woefully shortsighted."