Parking THE Bus May Be Parking Our Future
Hernando TodayLast Tuesday, a discussion took place relative to "parking THE Bus." Hernando County commissioners asked County Administrator David Hamilton to come back at a later date with information that would help commissioners decide whether to cease the current bus service.
Published: February 1, 2009
Published: February 1, 2009
By all accounts, ridership indicates only a small portion of the county's residents use THE Bus. However, 84 percent of those who use it are considered transit-dependent people. That number equates to less than .01 percent of our population.
The question remains: How do we provide mobility for a segment of our population that needs this service? Surely, some of the ridership can be transferred to the system operated by Mid Florida Community Services, which does an excellent job transporting people. But that will still not cure 100 percent of the problem.
There are larger issues that loom in the future and one of them is TBARTA. The authority is charged with developing a regional transportation system that may include inter-county express bus service and, perhaps in the future, a light-rail service connecting areas of the Tampa Bay region.
There is no way Hernando County could hope to participate if we abandon our bus service at this point in time. There is no commuter rail system that doesn't depend on some sort of bus feeder system to bring riders to the train stations.
We can look at the experience of south Florida that eventually became the first regional transportation authority that started with Tri-Rail - a commuter rail system connecting Miami to Palm Beach County. Ridership grew because of refinements made to the feeder bus system that accommodated the commuters.
Transportation, particularly mass transit, issues are not easy questions and whether or not a system makes money is a fallacious argument. No public system in the U.S., or for that matter the world, makes money. However, what would happen in New York City if 500,000 commuters started to drive into the city from Long Island? Same for the Boston area, Chicago, Atlanta and The Bay area in California.
The point is there are always tradeoffs that have to be considered. There has to be some brainstorming to develop new ideas and sources of money to help cover the cost of THE Bus system. The county has begun a program to get advertisement money from the business sector and that is a start. Perhaps the businesses that are mostly the beneficiaries of THE Bus could be asked to contribute money to defray some of the operating cost for the system. After all, if THE Bus is bringing customers to their stores, a reasonable contribution could help keep THE Bus running while at the same time reducing the burden on the taxpayer. This may have a positive effect that could decrease waiting times and induce more people to ride.
Another idea would be to offer a "guaranteed ride home" for bus pass holders in the case of an emergency. This would give a rider (especially working mothers) the security of knowing if they had an emergency they could get home quickly by using a taxi cab or if the county could offer an alternate way of getting home besides the bus during that emergency.
These are but a few of many ideas that should be discussed before county commissioners make a hasty decision to "park THE Bus." We applaud the commissioners for taking a close look at THE Bus. Even though it may have problems, surely there is a way to make it more efficient and effective because parking THE Bus may be parking our future.