MANATEE -- A long-awaited new transit route to Lakewood Ranch will start in January, while a new route through northern Manatee County will begin next month, Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) officials said Tuesday.
The Manatee County Commission OK'd schedules and provided money for free rides for the launch of the two new bus routes.
"It's a great Christmas present," said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.
On Jan. 3, bus service will start along an extended Route 6, from the DeSoto Station east on State Road 70, which is currently without bus service.
It will link the Gulf beaches with east Manatee County and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
Free service will be offered on the new Route 6 extension through Jan. 31, 2015, said Ryan Suarez, MCAT's transit division planning manager.
County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh was excited for service to Lakewood Ranch, which she said is highly desired.
"Folks need to get to MTI," said Commissioner Betsy Benac, referring to the Manatee Technical Institute.
Another new route is slated to start Dec. 8, Suarez said.
The North County Connexion is a new fixed route/fixed schedule transit corridor along U.S. Hwy 41, connecting Palmetto to Rubonia in northwest Manatee County.
It will provide paratransit connections to those who may not be able to get to the mainline corridor.
Riders may call in and request "feeder" connections to the Wal-Mart in Palmetto or to the Palmetto transit station.
Passengers can ride free on the new route for the first few weeks, through Dec. 31, said Suarez.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.