tampabay.com

County on right road by adding bus service

By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published March 9, 2007


Who says government doesn't listen? In public workshops, surveys and focus group meetings two years ago, Pasco County residents said they wanted mass transit service on Saturdays. It was their top priority for improving the bus service known as Pasco County Public Transportation, PCPT.

Voila. Tomorrow, the county debuts its Saturday service in both east and west Pasco. No more relying on others for rides to Gulfview Square mall, Hudson Beach or other weekend destinations in west Pasco. Ditto for the downtown stops on routes in Zephyrhills and Dade City. The buses will follow the typical holiday schedules (slightly shorter hours than weekday service), which are available online at www.ridepcpt.com.

It is a significant step forward for the county bus system that drew close to 860,000 riders last year, a 56 percent increase over two years. It is a strong indication of the public's growing reliance on mass transit.

Getting to and from work is the primary reason for riders using the bus system, according to a survey of on-board passengers, but that is to be expected for a Monday through Friday service. Expanding reliable bus service to the weekends means more opportunities to shop and play.

The bus service also is expanding its weekday service on some routes to better meet the needs of the working class population. The main route along U.S. 19, for instance, will begin operating at 5 a.m., a half-hour earlier than the current start time. All three routes in east Pasco will run an hour earlier in the morning, beginning at 6 a.m., and continue until 7 p.m., an addition of two hours at the end of the day.

Still to come in the next two years are proposals to add a bus route to serve Moon Lake between State Road 52 and Ridge Road, and a cross-county connector on State Road 54 to link the north-south routes running on each side of the county.

Public transportation has notable goals of protecting the environment, conserving energy and promoting highway safety by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Those benefits need not be exclusive to weekdays. The county is smart to expand its bus service to Saturdays.