SCAT’s new Mobility on Demand service set to launch in four zones first week of June

On May 18, County Commission to conduct public hearing on bus system fares

This graphic, presented to the County Commission in October 2020, provides information about the Mobility on Demand plans. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With the first week of June targeted for the launch of its new Mobility on Demand service (MOD), Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) staff has decided to allow riders to go fare-free for the first 14 days, a county staff memo says.

The goal is to promote the service “and orient users to the operation,” the memo adds.

After that trial period, the memo notes, SCAT has proposed that the MOD fare will be $1.25 for riders ages 6 to 79, “to mirror the fare structure on the fixed routes.” Children age 5 and younger who are accompanied by “a fare-paying responsible person” will be able to ride for free, the memo continues, but they will have to be included in a trip request for the MOD service, to ensure the appropriate vehicle capacity.

“SCAT is also proposing to apply the free fare for passengers aged 80 and over, with proof of identification,” the memo points out.

On April 6, the County Commission unanimously approved a contract with River North Transit LLC of New York, a wholly owned subsidiary of Via Transportation Inc., to handle the service.

Then, on May 4, with their unanimous approval of their Consent Agenda of routine business matters, the board members authorized the scheduling of a public hearing on the proposed fare schedule that ultimately will go into effect. That hearing has been set for May 18, the staff memo says.

More facets of the MOD service

The solicitation for the new MOD service that county staff issued in September 2020 called for a vendor that could handle transit for four zones at the outset: North Port, Venice-Englewood, Longboat Key/Lido Key, and Siesta Key. An addendum to that solicitation pointed out, “It is envisioned that over the course of a few years, there will be as many as eight community-based demand-response service locations, each with specific boundaries.”

This is the Venice-Englewood zone, as shown in county documents about the MOD service. Image courtesy Sarasota County

That document further noted that the fixed-route ridership for the four initial zones was as follows:

  • Longboat Key (Routes 4 and 18) — 74,026.
  • Siesta Key (Routes 11 and 33) — 63,775.
  • North Port (Routes 9 and 28) — 84,903.
  • Venice-Englewood (Routes 13, 16 and 23) — 57,102.

The Invitation to Negotiate said the vendor would need to be able to schedule rides for future trips as well as immediate trips. It defined “immediate trip” as “a request for a pick-up time within one hour of the booking.

Each trip’s origin and destination would have to be “within the community service area boundary or to the “Mobility Hub.” From the hub, a person would be able to catch a SCAT bus for a trip beyond the zone in which the ride originated.

The Invitation to Negotiate added, “Every attempt will be made to book shared rides to maximize efficiency,” and a person would need to be picked up within 30 minutes of his or her requested time.

During an October 2020 presentation to the County Commission, SCAT Director Jane Grogg explained that a person would be able to use a mobile app, the internet or a call center to reserve a trip.

Updating the fare schedule

The resolution the board members will consider on May 18 lists the recommended fares for fixed routes as well as for the MOD service. The document says the fares would not apply to the SCAT Plus service, for persons with disabilities who need specialized transportation equipment, or the Siesta Key Breeze trolley. The latter service is free.

The fixed-route fares listed in the resolution appear to mirror the current fares, which the county website notes remain suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Regular one-way routes — $1.25
  • Reduced one-way fares for those who are 65 or older, others on Medicare and persons with disabilities — 60 cents.
  • Thirty-day pass — $40; for those 65 and older, others on Medicare; persons with disabilities; and low-income riders — $20.
  • Seven-day pass — $20; for those 65 and older, other persons on Medicare; persons with disabilities; and low-income riders — $10.
  • One-day pass — $4.
  • SCAT Plus Paratransit — $2.50 for a one-way trip.
  • Student pass, for those under 18 or others with a valid student identification — $30 per semester.

Revenue from the fares goes back into SCAT’s budget, the county staff memo says.

These are the SCAT fixed-route fares listed on the county website. Image courtesy Sarasota County