RTS routes will remain unchanged

Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 3:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 3:00 p.m.

Gainesville Regional Transit System bus routes facing drastic service changes in east Gainesville were saved recently by the Gainesville City Commission's unanimous decision to fund a $120,000 budget gap created when the Alachua County Commission slashed its RTS budget.

This means bus service will remain unchanged for Route 2, Route 7, Route 11, Route 13 and Route 24.

City Commissioner Todd Chase made the successful motion to fund RTS $120,000 each year for a minimum of two years to maintain bus service in east Gainesville. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Thomas Hawkins.

Chip Skinner, RTS marketing and communications supervisor, said the funding will come from the city's discretionary fund. For the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, Skinner said Alachua County slashed $120,000 in RTS funding, which in turn, would have resulted in cuts to bus service outside the city limits, except for those routes funded by Santa Fe College, the University of Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation.

City Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls said she didn't want the city to bear the burden of paying for county residents to get bus service, but she didn't want them to be left without service either.

Mayor Craig Lowe said that by slashing the RTS budget, the county demonstrated disregard for its citizens.

"The city is willing to step out to help our neighbors when their representatives don't," said Lowe at a Nov. 1 regular meeting. "We're stepping to the plate because the county failed in their responsibility for their citizens," Lowe said.

The bus routes that would have been impacted — if the City Commission had not stepped in to replace the funding — provided the following percentage of service outside of the city limits:

Route 2: Runs from the Rosa Parks Downtown Station to the Walmart Supercenter. This route operates 9.8 percent outside the city limits.

Route 7: Runs from Rosa Parks to the Alachua County Health Department and Eastwood Meadows. This route operates 42.9 percent outside the city limits.

Route 11: Runs from Rosa Parks to the Walmart Supercenter and Eastwood Meadows. This route operates 17.7 percent outside the city limits.

Route 13: Runs from Beaty Towers at the University of Florida to FloridaWorks. This route operates outside 31.6 percent outside the city limits.

Route 24: Runs from Rosa Parks to Lewis Place and the Gainesville Job Corps Center. This route operates 10.3 percent outside of the city limits.

Skinner said the RTS budget for fiscal year 2012 was $21.88 million, with bus fares and passes only accounting for 5 percent. The remainder of the funding came from partnerships with UF, Santa Fe, FDOT, the Federal Transit Administration, Alachua County, the city of Gainesville and advertising revenue.

"People rely on us for transportation," said Doug Richardson, chief RTS planner. "They're saying these resources are critical." Richardson said surveys conducted by RTS showed "people overwhelmingly didn't want to see changes to Route 2 and Route 7, which were the most impacted."

RTS recently released figures showing an increase in ridership of 10,744,448 passengers for fiscal year 2011-12 from Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012. The previous record set in 2010-11 was 10,021,824 passengers.

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