Bus service ready to start in September
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
BROOKSVILLE -- After years of planning, Hernando County intends to set its buses rolling in September.
The fees are scheduled, the routes set, the vehicles ordered.
If the system only had a name.
"Staff has been looking at the issue of naming the system for, actually, several years," said Dennis Dix, the county's transportation planner.
"Quite frankly, we haven't come up with anything we think is spectacular."
He wouldn't even offer any examples of the rejects, chuckling instead as he said most were unprintable in a family newspaper.
To get good ideas, and to generate interest in the transit program, the county is turning to the general public. If you don't work for county government or the two local newspapers, you can take a shot at having your words immortalized on the buses that soon will travel Hernando County roadways.
"Not only is it something to identify the system with the locale, we need something that is brief and memorable," Dix said.
His favorite example came from Orlando, where the name Lynx adorns the transit system.
That moniker creates an identity, it's short and catchy, and it's abstract enough to create a variety of logo and design opportunities, he said. It also sounds like "links," Dix noted, which evokes the image of connecting people from one place to another, as buses are supposed to do.
Whatever name county commissioners select among the entries will help guide Hernando's buses in a similar way. It's a necessary first step before creating a logo (a future contest), making brochures and decorating the buses (another future contest), Dix said.
"The purpose (of the naming competition) is to create interest," Commissioner Betty Whitehouse said. "It's a marketing tool to get people involved in the planning, and that's going to be extremely important that we market it well."
Dix agreed that positive attention can help improve ridership. That's important, he said, because the county has committed to at least four years of service before determining its success.
"We want to give it as much visibility as is feasible to give it the best chance of succeeding," Dix said.
The public may send entries to the county Planning Department by mail at 20 N Main St., Brooksville, FL 34601, by fax at 754-4420 or by e-mail at email@example.com. People can also enter on the county Web site at www.co.hernando.fl.us. The deadline is March 15.
The winner will get a free six-month bus pass, worth $90. Commissioners are scheduled to choose the name on March 26.
In a related matter, Dix said the staff is getting close to a solution that would bring some bus service to areas off the main route, which covers Spring Hill and Brooksville.
Ridge Manor residents complained that their tax money will pay for the buses, yet they were not going to get service.
Commissioners suggested that a route might be designed to bring buses to the community at least once a week.
Dix said he is trying to devise a plan that would maximize the service area while also minimizing wait times between buses.
-- Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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