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HomeAt Home & BeyondCUTR To Develop New Transit Plan for Hernando County

CUTR To Develop New Transit Plan for Hernando County

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On May 14, Jonathan Roberson with the Center for Urban Transportation (CUTR) came before the board of county commissioners to briefly discuss the 2025-2034 Transit Development Plan. Roberson and his team from USF were hired by the county to develop this framework, which is required by the state. They had previously been tasked to develop similar proposals for Flagler and Indian River Counties.

Roberson provided a list of some of the team members working on the proposal on Tuesday:
Martin Catala – Program Director, Transit Management and Innovation, CUTR Jonathan Roberson – AICP, Research Associate, CUTR
Vicky Perk – Program Director, Transit Research Program, CUTR
Chris Cochran – Senior Transportation Planner, Madrid CPWG
Jennifer Flynn – Senior Research Associate, CUTR
Melissa De Leon – Program Planner, CUTR

A Transit Development Plan (TDP) is a ten-year roadmap “that supports the development of an effective multimodal public transportation system,” Roberson stated in his presentation. These are mandatory every five years by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and are the foundation for determining the county’s public transportation needs moving forward. According to Roberson, the TDP should display the interests of county leaders regarding what they feel public transportation should look like in the area.

“Basically, we look at the existing conditions of the county, where the county is going with population growth, development, employment in the next ten years,” said Roberson. “We talk to the public, including [the BOCC], about what is working for you in public transportation. We also look at developing some goals and objectives that are attainable for public transportation in the next five to ten years.”

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The current projects that are in the works that were briefly discussed in Roberson’s presentation include the Mermaid Route, the Transit-Specific Garage/Transfer/Administrative Facility, and the Transit Transfer Site and Route Study. The new route includes a path down 19 that stretches near various parks in the Weeki Wachee area. The facility will cost $17.5 million, but an application was put in for a federal capital grant that would look to cover most of the cost. The transfer site and route study will examine potential locations for the facility and optimal routing regarding it.

Commissioner Brian Hawkins feels this plan should reduce parking concerns at Weeki Wachee’s parks. Commissioner John Allocco agreed, but he wants to look into using buses that have “hard plastic seats” versus fabric due to the potential for high volumes of water being brought in by park-going citizens entering and exiting the buses.

When CUTR is requisitioned to create these plans, they generally start by analyzing the existing transit system. In Hernando’s case, the current system has four fixed routes that operate between Monday and Saturday. There are currently 250 bus stops in the county and, as far as Roberson is concerned, there are already providing significant connections to schools, shopping, jobs, key employers, and even Pasco County’s transit system. The county is also making an effort to construct new bus shelters along the routes at various stops.

“So, a pretty good-sized system for a county this size from my first look,” said CUTR’s research associate.

The county’s current public transportation ridership numbers have mostly rebounded since a dip during the 2020-2021 timeframe. A six-year low of 110,127 was reached in the year following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but the number of riders increased to 137,661 in 2023. That brings the count of people using public transportation in Hernando County to roughly 10,000 away from 2019’s six-year high water mark.

The county is continuing to add buses to the fleet to handle the growing demand. Roberson commended the RouteShout app for its convenience and features, such as receiving texts about when buses are set to arrive at stops.

Despite the return to near pre-Covid levels, Commissioner Allocco wondered why the numbers are still as low as they are despite the recent influx of new residents in Hernando. Allocco also questioned if a lack of places to lock up bicycles at local bus stops would impede bicyclists from using public transportation.

CUTR’s representative associate reasoned that most transit sites are only up to about “80-85 percent of their pre-Covid ridership,” but he feels Hernando has rebounded healthily. His team will continue to investigate the matter. When the team conducts projects like these, counties can also have other preferences, such as extended times for buses during evenings or on Saturday, or even Sunday service.

Roberson and company will be conducting surveys moving forward to determine the wants and needs of the citizens of Hernando County. The Transit Development Plan is due to the FDOT by December 1 with a planned approval of the TDP by the board of county commissioners on November 19.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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