The Sarasota County commissioners today, June 15, asked County Administrator Randall Reid to check into the cost of putting LED signs at new and retrofitted bus shelters, so riders would know when to expect buses.
The request came during the commissioners’ final budget workshop of the week. Earlier, they had discussed the need for more bus shelters in the county.
Commissioner Nora Patterson said that when she first took a seat on the board, in 1998, she had asked that bus schedules be available at every stop. That still has not happened, she said.
Pointing out that the county has GPS tracking devices on all its buses, Commissioner Joe Barbetta suggested that equipment could be used to update the LED signs at the bus stops as a public service. However, he agreed with Commissioners Jon Thaxton and Patterson that the board needed to see a cost estimate before directing staff to pursue the project.
“If it’s going to cost an amount that’s going to reduce the actual number of shelters that we put up,” Thaxton said, “then that’s a different decision.”
The more important goal, Thaxton added, is to put up shelters.
Referring to riders having to wait for buses in the heat and the rain, Thaxton said, “It’s just an undignified way to travel.”
Reid pointed out that riders with smartphones could use an application to find out when to expect the next bus at a Sarasota County Area Transit stop.
“Not everybody in the whole world yet has a smartphone,” Patterson said, “especially bus riders who are there because they don’t have a whole lot of money.”
“I understand that,” Reid told her.
Then Patterson said she disagreed with the characterization that it was undignified for people to have to wait for buses without shelters. “Every large city in the world has bus stops where people wait without shelters,” she said.
She grew up in New York City, Patterson added, where she and her family “took the bus everywhere” without having shelters to use.
Still, Patterson acknowledged, people in Sarasota County could wait up to 30 minutes for a SCAT bus, while people in New York might wait no more than 10 or 15 minutes.
“Nobody’s ever talked about having bus shelters at every stop,” Thaxton said. “We have them at virtually no stops. It’s pathetic. I wouldn’t [take a bus] unless I had to, because it’s just too inconvenient.”
Thaxton said Sarasota County commissioners for the past 10 years had talked about getting more shelters erected, “and I’ve seen virtually no improvement on [the situation].”
He added, “We need more bus shelters up, and we need them up rapidly.”