For the past couple months, Carol Muntz has had to prioritize which trips she could afford on Manatee County’s Handy Bus with the $2 fares.
“If this goes up to that $3, it is going to be tricky,” the Palmetto resident said. “I’m not going to be able to do it.”
But for at least another year, the paratransit rates will remain at $2 each way instead of the proposed increase in fares to $3 each way. County commission voted Tuesday to use approximately $90,000 out of a reserve fund this year instead of increasing the fares.
The commission also approved additional changes to the Manatee County Area Transit system, including eliminating bus service to Lakewood Ranch and increasing the frequency of Route 6 and Route 3 to every 30 minutes.
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Staff had requested the fare increase in order to maintain the level of service and hire two operators.
“This is the most vulnerable of all our ridership,” Commissioner Carol Whitmore said.
A more long-term solution is needed, Commissioner Betsy Benac said.
“I do think that this is something that we need to continue to talk about because we are going to continue to see more increases,” she said of ridership.
If the fares increased, Handy Bus rider Valerie Matice, who is a kidney dialysis patient, said she would have to choose between whether she takes her medications or buys food.
“Money becomes very tight,” she said. “When you talk about the Handy Bus taking a 50 percent increase, that does make us choose.”
Also on Tuesday, the commission:
▪ Approved reducing more than 50 types of Manatee County building fees by as much as 20 percent.
▪ Approved an Economic Development Incentive Grant and a Transportation Impact Fee Grant for Project CARDINAL, which will expand a headquarters facility in the county. The company is projected to create 30 quality jobs over five years.
▪ Approved an Economic Development Incentive Grant for Project YODA, which will expand a manufacturing facility in the county. The company is projected to create 305 quality jobs over five years.
▪ Approved allowing staff to move forward with a Small Dollar Concession agreement at G.T. Bray’s softball complex and recreation center aquatics.
▪ Approved an interlocal agreement regarding wetland mitigation activities with Sarasota County. A proposed Whole Foods in Sarasota County, which has proposed wetland impacts, has necessitated the proposed wetland mitigation to occur on approximately 40 acres adjacent to Rye Preserve.