BROOKSVILLE - County transportation board members agreed to spend $33,604 to hire a consultant to put together a feasibility plan on whether it makes sense to install benches at all 180 county mass transit stops.
Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn was the only member of the Metropolitan Planning Board who voted against the expenditure because she believed such a task could be performed free and in-house.
Surely the county is capable of determining where benches would be placed, Bradburn told her colleagues.
Staff could review other jurisdictions to see how they handled the benches and Hernando County could apply the same techniques, she said.
But it's not as easy as it sounds, said Dennis Dix, the county's transportation planning coordinator.
Dix said there are stringent federal laws dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act and it takes specialized expertise.
"We do not have the ability to pull this off in and of ourselves," Dix said.
Before the county can move forward with the plan, it must receive approval from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The county is expected to hear sometime this week if those agencies sign off on it and the county can hire the consultant, Tindale-Oliver & Associates Inc.
The consultant will perform a comprehensive assessment of THE Bus' stops and how they could be conformed to ADA requirements. Dix expects the plan to be done by year's end.
But even then, it could take several years before the first benches start going up along the routes. That is, if the idea is even approved in the first place.
Resident Ann Walker said the benches are desperately needed and cited an example where, because of a lack of seating, some bus patrons wait on store benches at the Seven Hills Plaza shopping center on Spring Hill Drive, across the street from the bus stop. When they see the bus coming, they race across that busy road to catch their ride.
Walker said that can be dangerous.
As a disabled man suffering from mild cerebral palsy, David Philipsen, of Weeki Wachee, relies on public transportation to get around Hernando County.
Philipsen reminded MPO members of their commitment to the mass transit system. Often, he has to stand for long periods at bus stops because there are no benches.
"I am definitely for the benches and improvements to the shelters," Philipsen said. "Anything that you can do should be done."
Dix said Tuesday it makes sense to install the benches.
"If you're going to have a transit system, you need to have it user-friendly," he said.