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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Bus benches plan moving forward


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BROOKSVILLE - For many people, waits of up to 20 minutes at the county's mass transit stops are common.

Lacking a place to sit while waiting is a hardship for riders, especially seniors and disabled people.

Plans are moving forward to install benches at the stops.

Assistant County Administrator for Planning & Development Ron Pianta has submitted a revised set of specifications for the benches to purchasing department staffers, who will begin drawing up requests for proposals.

Assistant County Administrator for General Services Russ Wetherington said it be the end of the year before feedback comes in from qualified companies.

Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, who has pushed the idea for months, says the lack of benches is a problem for disabled residents.

Some people have trouble walking, let alone standing, he said.

Unlike other counties, such as Pasco, Hernando does not offer seats. Citrus County recently approved a bench program.

Nicholson and his colleagues do not know how much it will cost the county but hope advertising on the benches will more than pay for the initial cash layout.

The county also must determine which bus stops initially would get the benches, although the ultimate aim is to install them at all locations.

Pianta recently said the county will conduct an assessment of bus stops in the county and find out which ones are compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act so grant money can be used to upgrade those locations.

The ADA requires an accessible path to the bench, a sidewalk and concrete path. Also, the county has an ordinance prohibiting advertising in county right of way, so that obstacle would have to be overcome.

Finally, the county received inquiries from other companies that would like to advertise on benches. So it was determined, if the idea is approved, the county would go through the normal procurement process, Pianta said.

The county could get 100-percent grant money to fix the stops and make them ADA compliant, but before that occurs it must go through the assessment process, which could take six to nine months.

Latest county statistics show the number of bus patrons is on the rise.

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, the report shows.

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