SCAT increases service

I promised earlier on that I would not leave out the six other counties that are covered by TBARTA. Well, I am going to commit to that promise by commenting on the increased bus service by Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT).

For quite a while now, SCAT has only ran service on weekdays and Saturdays, with most service ending in around 6pm. Some routes are so limited that one must wait 2 to 3 hours for a bus. This is especially prominent in rural areas of Sarasota County, where ridership is very low. In addition, SCAT has no express routes, creating a large void in the system.

However, ridership in the urban areas is rising, due to the rising gas prices. As a result, SCAT has recently responded by adding new evening service to some of the agency’s busier routes, and adding new service in areas where it is needed most. One of the new services is a beach trolley that runs from St. Armands, all the way to Anna Maria Island. This new service will be operated via a partnership with Manatee County Transit. The two agencies already cooperatively operate the Route 99 – Manatee/Sarasota County Connector.

In addition, there will be a new limited-express route serving several areas of south Sarasota, marking the first time that SCAT has operated such a route. The only other Bay Area transit agencies that have express routes are Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (2 routes) and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (13 routes).

Here are a few highlights from the SCAT website.

# Sunday service will now be offered on Route 6 (Beneva), operating every 90 minutes from 6:14 a.m.-11:33 p.m. Also, Route 12 (North Lockwood), which previously only had one run on Sunday, will now operate every 90 minutes from 7 a.m. – midnight.

# Route 18 (Longboat Trolley) will operate every 30 minutes Monday-Sunday from 5:30 a.m. to late at night. SCAT is partnering with MCAT to offer the trolley service from downtown Sarasota, to St. Armands Circle and Longboat Key to Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.

# Route 12 (North Lockwood) will run every 30 minutes Monday-Saturday before 7 p.m., and every 60 minutes after 7 p.m.

# Route 11 (Siesta Key), Route 17 (Trail) and Route 19 (North Port via U.S. 41) will add evening trips.

# The new Route 40 (Webber Limited) will operate 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday from the SCAT Administration Office at 5303 Pinkney Ave., Sarasota, with limited stops on McIntosh Road between Proctor Avenue and Webber Street, and on Webber between McIntosh and Tuttle Avenue. The Route 40 bus also will stop at Westfield Southgate Mall and at SCAT’s Downtown Transfer Station.

# Route 21 (Englewood Loop) will operate Monday-Friday only, from 9:18 a.m. to 3:57 p.m. Saturday service will be discontinued.

# The Route 5 (Osprey) schedule has been completely revised. The Route 5 bus will leave the Downtown Transfer Station earlier to accommodate connections between Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the Sarasota Pavilion Transfer Station.

All of these changes took effect on June 14, 2008.

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