Manatee County officials plan bus fare increases, expanded service to Lakewood Ranch

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 19, 2014 

MANATEE -- Manatee County officials plan to propose a fare hike for riders on Manatee County Area Transit buses to pay for expanded service to Lakewood Ranch and other stops.

Cash fares would increase from $1.25 to $1.50, a day pass would increase from $3 to $4 and monthly passes would go up from $30 to $40, MCAT officials said.

The cost of weekly passes would drop from $15 to $12, and a 25-cent transfer fee would be eliminated, officials told county commissioners Tuesday during a workshop meeting at County Administrative Center.

Money generated from the fare increases would be used during next fiscal year to extend Route 6 bus service along Cortez Road east along State Road 70 to Lakewood Ranch.

The news cheered Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who said she has been hoping for bus service to East Manatee. She represents the commission district that includes Lakewood Ranch.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore was glad to hear more frequent service would be added to several bus routes.

"The islands went from 61 (riders) a day to 2,000 a day after regular service," she said. "I'll be interested

to see how big the increase is on route 3," she said of the bus line that runs along Manatee Avenue."

Also planned is a new flexible bus route through northern Manatee County, stopping at the Palmetto Station, Holy Cross Manor and the Rubonia Community Center, among other places.

The flexible bus route would start as a pilot program with a limited schedule five hours a day, three days a week, said William Steele, county transit division manager.

He said it would be a combination fixed-route and door-to-door service.

Buses would run on a fixed schedule, but could deviate to pick up riders at their residences, he said. Deviations would be scheduled the day before, he added.

Modifications to Route 16 were proposed, which called for new service to the Sarasota-Manatee International Airport along 15th Street East, officials said.

The Manatee County Commission must approve any bus service or fare changes. The proposals are still in a preliminary stage, and, assuming the county commission OKs the plan, new fares and service improvements will take effect in October.

Officials listed several workshops in March and April to discuss the plan and a public hearing in May.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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