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Nature Coast Transit expands bus service

By Lou Elliott Jones

Nature Coast Transit wants to help Levy County residents get back to work. And if work is not where you live, even if it is in Gainesville, Trenton, or points in between, NCT can help workers and prospective workers get there with federal help.

Desiree Painter, general manager of Nature Coast Transit, won the Levy County Board of Commissioners approval for grant applications to support the Job Access Reverse Commute program (JARC) which provides transportation for workers without adequate transportation and who need it to obtain job training, apply for jobs, get to job interviews, and to get to work.

While the program focuses on providing transportation for the elderly, disabled and impoverished — those living at 125 percent of poverty level income — the transportation is available for anyone who does not have transportation to get them to work.

“We want to serve whoever needs us,” Painter said.

Painter said the program is relatively new for rural counties, having been expanded in the past year beyond urban transportation areas.

The federal grant must be matched by the county dollar for dollar, which means the $187,500 program only received $93,750 in federal money and will make up the rest through cost-sharing of the service. That means if a ride is calculated to cost $20, the federal government will pay for $10 of the cost. Trips are calculated on cost plus mileage at $1.27 per mile.

The cost to the individual would be $1 each way, Painter said.

Painter said the program requires filling out an application that is available at the transit system office at 970 East Hathaway Avenue (U.S. Highway 27A) in Bronson or by calling 352-486-3845.

“They can get this even if they have a car,” Painter said. “They just have to need a way to get to work.”

She said elderly residents over 60 years old qualify, as to disabled individuals and individuals and families earning 125 percent of poverty level.

Although the program is not due to start for six weeks, she said the transit system will not be turning down anyone.

The county's transit manager said the service is already being provided to folks who need a means to get to work, but it does not have the federal cost matching money. “And as soon as I get the signed documents back, which I expect to be about 10 days, we can get this started,” she said.

Painter also said the transit system, which normally operates during daytime hours, is looking to expand its hours to accommodate workers' evening hours. But she stressed that the system cannot have one driver on call for just one nighttime worker. She said the program would need more than one worker for expanded service.

And Painter said she is looking forward to receiving four new transit vehicles to add to the growing fleet of 20. The four busses, which cost $80,000 each, are in Tallahassee awaiting inspection before hitting the road. She said two of the busses will replace two vehicles and the other two will be an expansion of the fleet.

Painter said 17 vehicles are plying the region's roads on a daily basis with the other three getting maintenance.

The grant applications approved by the commission include:

• A Section 5311 request for $400,000, that is a 50-50 match, to provide operating funds

• An application for $70,529, with the state and county each providing 10 percent, to purchase a backup generator system for the office and a commuter van. The 12-passenger wagon would cost $31,889 and the 45-kilowatt propane powered generator would cost $38,640.

• An application for $350,000 for the JARC program with the county matching $138,592 and the state matching $9,101. The grant includes $80,519 for a 26-foot diesel bus with a lift and associated GPS/communication equipment and a sign for $10,500.

See related article "Private bus service to start" 

Lou Elliott Jones can be reached at editor@chieflandcitizen.com