BROOKSVILLE -When Mariah Irizarry hurried out of her house Thursday morning to catch the bus to her classes at Pasco-Hernando Community College, she realized she forgot the fare.
Hurrying back inside the house, her dad called out to her not to worry. It was free bus ride day.
"I didn't even know it," said the pleased 20-year-old student.
Thursday was national "Dump the Pump Day," sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association and designed to encourage people to ride public transportation to save money, protect the environment, reduce dependence on foreign oil and improve quality of life.
To observe the event, and to increase awareness of the county's newly modified transit route system, county commissioners authorized the mass transit operator to offer free fares on THE Bus.
It was life-saver for Dan Mackey, who figures he saved about $6.
Mackey said he gave up driving awhile back because of high gas costs and now strictly uses public transportation.
He noticed there were quite a few more people riding the bus Thursday because of the promotion.
Daniel Powell takes the bus every day to get to and from his job at the new Taco Bell off State Road 50 near Mariner Boulevard.
"I think it's great," Powell said of the freebie. "I think they should do this more often."
Powell said his truck is out of commission and he has no choice.
He said paying the fare, $2.50 for a round-trip ride, is still cheaper than using his own vehicle.
People who ride public transportation can save, on average, more than $9,700 per year, based on today's gas prices, other costs of owning a car and the average unreserved parking rate, according to data from the American Public Transportation Association.
Additionally, the APTA said for every $1 invested in public transportation, about $4 is generated in economic returns.
The APTA started the event in June 2006, when gas prices were $3 per gallon. Today, they are close to $3.50.
County staffers did not have any statistics on bus ridership Thursday.
Catharyn Feldman waited at the Mariner Square depot for the bus to Brooksville. She said she would definitely like to see another Dump the Pump day.
"It saves us money," she said.