INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Indian River County Senior Resource Association is seeking more than $2 million to be used for equipment and operating costs for the county’s mass transit system, Community Coach.
Phil Matson, the county’s staff director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, presented the funding request, asking the Board of County Commissioners to approve a $1.78 million grant application be made to the federal government. If approved, the county would be required to allocate $425,000 in matching dollars.
Matson said that the county’s ridership has increased by 7,000 over last year.
“It just keeps going up,” Matson said of the ridership.
And ridership could go up even more as gas prices begin to climb, he added, explaining that there are predictions that gas could once again hit $4 a gallon later this year.
“It’s a great alternative to single occupant travel,” Matson said of the mass transit system through the county, which consists of 14 routes and 200 bus stops. “It goes where you’re going.”
The county’s portion of the grant funding is budgeted through the county’s general fund. That $425,000 would be added to a state allotment of $410,000, according to Matson.
But the lion’s share would come from the federal government’s grant, he said.
“This always a good deal for the county,” Matson said. “For every dollar we put in we get $3 matching funds from the federal and state governments.”
Due to the large amount of federal funding, the county’s transit system undergoes numerous reviews and oversights to be sure the system is running appropriately, he said.
Commissioners unanimously supported the federal grant application – with one caveat. That caveat being that Indian River Transit work with the residents of Original Town to relocate a bus stop.
Original Town Association President Linda Hillman spoke before the commissioners, voicing concern over a stop at the end of the neighborhood that, she said, has become a major bus station.
“This has been a big problem for us,” Hillman told commissioners.
She said that there are no bus stops within the neighborhood, and instead, the bus drivers are using Original Town as a cut through.
Hillman said that the buses make it difficult for her to get out of her driveway, when four or five buses get backed up.
“Parents are concerned,” she added, explaining that there are no sidewalks in the area and many children walk the roads.
After Hillman expressed her community’s concerns, Matson said that the county is aware of the issue and is working to resolve it.
He added that there are industrial corridors in the area that the buses could use instead of going through Original Town.
“I think we can come up with a win-win here,” Matson said, adding that the county would like to keep a bus stop at Original Town to serve the residents but a bus hub would not be necessary.