A New Life
Post was updated on 11/25/2018.
Please see the bottom of this post for the updated information.
Many transit agencies go through vehicle replenishment on a regular basis. Here in the United States, most transit vehicles operate anywhere from 10 to 15 years before it’s time for the agency to bid farewell and retire them. Some agencies however will keep buses on the road longer if the need is there – like if a new bus order is delayed or additional demand arises, while others may part ways earlier than planned if the vehicles are no longer needed – many instances due to shrinking budgets and service reductions.
In Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT)’s case, the past few years of undergoing service tweaks and reductions have resulted in more buses in the fleet than what the agency needs. SCAT’s cross-county express routes, originally launched in 2013, have suffered very low overall ridership – despite many past efforts to try and enhance service with new branches and destinations. At one time, there were three express routes in operation – the 80X, the 90X, and the 100X. All three routes originated at either Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport or the Downtown Sarasota Terminal, and traveled southward to North Port. The 80X and 100X primarily used Interstate 75 while the 90X deviated through Venice.
During the past year or so, SCAT has trimmed down the number of express trips and axed the 80X and 90X. While I have reason to believe that the 100X will survive through the end of 2018, I have a strong feeling that the route will reach the end of the line for good in 2019 – especially now that the suburban coach style buses from 2011 and 2012 are leaving the fleet. Just this past July, SCAT expressed its intent to divest itself of the eight buses – numbered 1101X through 1106X for the six 2011 models, and 1201X and 1202X for the two 2012 models. While I’m not sure how many area transit agencies expressed interest in buying them, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) was the agency that ultimately purchased them. HART is currently struggling to maintain a sturdy bus fleet – with its 2005 and 2006 fleet reaching the end of their useful lives. HART intends to use the express coaches for its 60LX and 275LX (Limited Express) routes – which serve Tampa International Airport. While the timeframe for the start of revenue service under HART’s umbrella is not yet definitively known at the moment – the agency is looking to have them in service by January of 2019. While it does take time for the transfer process to occur – including decommissioning of the buses by SCAT, it is currently not known if the buses will be donning temporary wrapping and placed into service as soon as October, 2018, or if the buses will be sent off-site for repainting beforehand.
As part of my broader website updating efforts, both the SCAT and HART fleet pages will be redesigned and will also reflect the transfer. In fact, I’ve already designed a draft post behind the scenes to reflect the addition of the coach buses to the HART fleet. On the SCAT page, the placeholder for the coach buses will remain intact – along with photos of the buses while they were in service with them, but I will also be directing my readers to visit the HART fleet page to see new photos of the buses in action with the latter.
Information used to put this post together was compiled from the following:
Since this post was published, SCAT has announced that it is proposing to eliminate Route 100X entirely sometime in Summer of 2019. This does not surprise me, given the route’s low ridership. As soon as it was announced that the suburban buses were leaving the agency, I knew that the 100X would not survive much longer.