County officials were encouraged Tuesday when they got a briefing on the upward ridership trends of THE Bus, Hernando County's mass transit system.
But they indicated they would like to see a greater emphasis on expanding the routes to accommodate working people and also to provide a fixed route stationed at the Pasco-Hernando Community College's Spring Hill branch and headed south into Pasco County.
Transportation Planning Coordinator Dennis Dix said during the Metropolitan Planning Organization workshop there is an "active discussion" with Pasco County transit officials about adding a route from the PHCC campus down U.S. 19 to an as-yet undetermined site.
There is also a study under way by the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority looking into the possibility for a more regional route.
"I'm encouraged," Dix said. "We're actually talking."
Bus riders have asked for years for an expanded route into Pasco County, perhaps culminating at the Gulf View Square mall, near Port Richey.
County Commissioner Nick Nicholson asked staff to explore the feasibility of adding another bus route into downtown Brooksville to accommodate workers who want to use public transit to go home.
Currently, the last bus leaves downtown Brooksville at 3:30 p.m., said Vera Mathews, general manager with McDonald Transit. Mathews said it could be possible to add a second route that would leave instead at 5:30 p.m.
Like other areas that have mass transit systems, THE Bus has been a perennial money-loser for Hernando County.
During fiscal year 2012, the system provided more than 72,000 passenger trips, according to a staff report. From July through November 2012, there was a 3 percent increase in ridership from the same period in 2011.
Mathews defined a passenger trip is any time someone steps foot on the bus.
Resident Hamilton Hansen said it would behoove the county to take a drive throughout the area and determine the best spots to put a bus route.
MPO Chairman Wayne Dukes agreed that the county could probably do a better job in route selection.
Other bus statistics presented Tuesday: