PALMETTO -- Holy Cross Manor Apartments residents said they were delighted Monday with new bus service that carried them from their housing complex through retail areas in Palmetto.
Retiree Esther Welch, 73, said she was thrilled to be on the North County ConneXion, Manatee County Area Transit's newest offering.
"I can go wherever I want to go," said Welch, who lives in the apartment complex at 510 26th St. W. She was among the riders on the inaugural trip.
Lynda Greaney, 67, also a retiree, was equally pleased and hoped to use the bus for shopping, she said.
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Service began Monday with stops at such spots as Rubonia, Holy Cross Manor Apartments, Palmetto Station and the Walmart Supercenter.
"It's a great improvement," said Buena Dean, 52, of Bradenton, who said she had been lobbying for better service in the area for years.
"It's beautiful to see their faces," she said of the half-dozen elderly riders. "It encourages their independence. That's what it's all about."
The new route will run from 8:55 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays, officials said.
It is free to riders through Dec. 31 with the regular $1.50 fare to go into effect Jan. 2, officials said.
Operating costs will be about $60,000 a year. The route is considered a "pilot" program, said William Steele, MCAT transit division manager.
He noted a new fare structure would help offset the cost.
MCAT also offers paratransit for "feeder" trips to the Palmetto Station or Walmart in Palmetto, he said.
"Feeder trip reservations are based upon next-day scheduling where passengers can call during normal business hours the day before for a trip that is needed," Steele said.
Reservations can be made by calling 941-748-2317.
Call 941-749-7116 for general route and schedule information, or go tomymanatee.org/mcat.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.