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Citing few riders, Pasco County reduces bus service on central route

The cuts eliminate Saturday service and a route along Collier Parkway.
Pasco County plans to reduce bus service to central Pasco. The route began in May 2017. [Handout]
Published Sep. 16

Riders on the Pasco County Public Transportation bus in Land O’ Lakes had a question for county officials: Why do we go 20 minutes out of our way on Collier Parkway when nobody ever gets on or off there?

It turns out they were right. Almost.

On average, just one person a week rides Pasco’s bus system to get to the county library and recreation center on Collier Parkway. And that’s not even the rider’s final destination, said Kurt Scheible, the county’s public transportation director. The person then walks south to shop at the Publix store in Collier Commons at the corner of State Road 54 and Collier Parkway.

The miniscule ridership is why the county is altering its bus service in Land O’ Lakes and Lutz. Starting Oct. 1, the bus will remain on U.S. 41 and N. Dale Mabry Highway and skip the leg of the route on State Road 54 to Collier Parkway.

Additionally, also because of low ridership, the county will stop running buses on Saturdays on the entire Route 41, stretching 10 miles between the WalMart store in Lutz and the Pasco County Utilities building on Central Boulevard.

“Unfortunately, it’s not one of our better routes,’’ Scheible said. ''As far as the (Collier Parkway) connection, we never see anybody on it.’’

Scheible made his comments last week in New Port Richey to the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization — county commissioners and elected city officials sitting as transportation planners. The board agreed unanimously to the changes.

In June, an average of four people rode the bus each Saturday. In 2018, the entire route saw 1,932 riders, accounting for .02 percent of the countywide ridership of 825,767.

The county began the Land O’ Lakes route in 2017. But last week, two of the biggest advocates for the central Pasco bus acknowledged the inevitable service reduction.

“We wanted to make sure everybody has access to our public facilities,’’ said Commissioner Mike Moore. “But if nobody’s taking part, then we have to re-evaluate.’’

‘’Everything is flexible. If there is a demand, they’ll provide it. If there’s not a demand, and nobody’s using it, we can’t force them,’’ said Christie Zimmer of Land O’ Lakes, a former member of the citizens committee that advises the county on transportation issues.

Sandy Graves of Land O’ Lakes, a member of the advisory committee, agreed.

“Most people who live out here have cars. People take their cars. If nobody’s riding it, it doesn’t make sense to continue it,’’ she said.

Under the new schedule, the bus will run 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. between Central Boulevard and the Walmart store at the apex of U.S. 41 and N Dale Mabry Highway. The change is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, but Scheible said it may be delayed to ensure riders are aware of the new route times.

Service could be restored and Route 41 could be extended northward to State Road 52, Scheible said, after the widening projects of both SR 52 and U.S. 41 are completed.

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