Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commission Seeks Keys for Public Buses; Transportation for Poor, Disabled Is a Snag

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commission Seeks Keys for Public Buses; Transportation for Poor, Disabled Is a Snag

Article excerpt

Byline: AMELIA A. HART

NASSAU COUNTY -- County commissioners are wrestling to salvage a proposal for a public bus system in Nassau County.

The Nassau County Council on Aging, which last year agreed to operate the state-underwritten system, now says it can't afford to do it.

Council officials say they're willing to talk with county and Florida Department of Transportation representatives to see if a solution, possibly in the form of another operator, can be found.

But they say their "Care-A-Van" system, which provides Medicaid clients rides to doctors' appointments and elsewhere, is a "distinctly different" service and should be kept separate from any public transportation proposal.

Since 1984, the Nassau County Council on Aging has operated the door-to-door transportation system Care-A-Van for Medicaid clients and others. The Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged, or CTD, contracts with the council to provide rides to Medicaid clients. Private-pay riders also can use Care-A-Van at $7.50 a ride.

Medicaid clients make up 80 percent of Care-A-Van ridership. Care-A-Van has 125 daily clients. Medicaid reimbursements provide $30,000 a month for the service. Nassau County also gives the council $11,500 a year.

In 2001, the Florida Department of Transportation offered to provide seed money for a bus system in Nassau County after a study identified a serious need for public transportation.

The state said it would give Nassau County $236,000 to run the service for three years to test public support for a bus system.

In 2004, the Council on Aging agreed to operate the buses. FDOT officials accepted the council's payment of operating expenses, such as salaries and gas, as a match to the state's seed money, so Nassau County didn't have to spend any money to operate the system.

The county did spend $108,000 to buy two mini-vans, as did the FDOT.

The four mini-vans were bought, and two routes with stops in Fernandina Beach, Callahan, Hilliard and Yulee were developed, but the bus system has not been started.

In the meantime, the Council on Aging changed executive directors and the council's former transportation director, who had been supervising the project, left. …

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