Over the past several years, Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) has seen a steady increase in ridership. Some areas in fact, are warranting the need to new bus service, and SCAT would like to be able to service new areas where the demand for transit is needed. However, in this day and age where keeping a sound budget is more important than ever before, and external funding sources are very limited, bringing in new transit service now often means sacrificing existing services in order to balance out an agency’s budget.
Although pulling back under-performing services and routes is nothing new, it is something that must be faced even more often than ever before due to the recent recession. SCAT’s late-night service, which has some routes running past 10:00pm has not seen the ridership levels that it had hoped for when such services were first introduced a few years ago. At the same time, demand along the University Pkwy corridor has grown, especially the area towards Lakewood Ranch. SCAT would like to bring forth new services to the northeastern side of Sarasota County, but has had no funds to be able to do so.
Now, SCAT has been granted with federal grant of $529,021 dollars to help start the new University Loop service, to be given the route number of 30. This new route is aimed at relieving congestion along University Pkwy, while providing a direct connection between Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. Route 30 would operate from 6:00am until 10:00pm, Monday through Saturday, with 60-minute headways.
Here’s the catch, like most federal grants, a local match amount is required. With SCAT not wanting to dip into reserve funds, it instead examined eliminating under-performing routes and trips. With the cuts; four bus routes that currently run until 12-midnight will have their end-times rolled back to roughly 10:00pm. Additionally, five under-utilized trips along Route 90X, and one under-utilized trip along Route 100X will be eliminated. Both Routes 90X and 100X connect North Port to downtown Sarasota, with Route 90X making a deviation to Venice, while Route 100X does not.
All of the above changes will take effect in July of 2014.